NAKURU, Kenya May 7- Since he took over reigns as the Ulinzi Stars chairman in June 2011, Col JS Mwinyikai’s hunger has been to see the team lift the SportPesa Premier League title.
That season, they came close finishing behind Tusker FC who won the title by just a point, the seasons that followed were a huge cry off their previous bests, finishing 6th in 2012, eighth in 2013, fourth in 2014 and second last season.
Mwinyikai has now urged the team to follow the example of the junior side and move on to win the 2016 league title, something that he says will make him satisfied.
“Since the first time I came here, my hunger has been to see this team win the league. I have seen them win only two titles both in the East Africa Military Games. The juniors have finally delivered a domestic title and now, I want to throw the challenge to the senior team. Bring a trophy home this season,” Mwinyikai said.
Robert Matano’s men are fourth on the standings on19 points, five behind leaders Tusker FC and a match in hand.
They travel to Thika United on Sunday and a win will see them bridge the gap to two points.
“I know they have the ability and they only need to work harder and I trust they will deliver,” he added.
Ulinzi are still in the running for the KPL Top Eight Cup after qualifying to the semi-final with a 3-2 win over AFC Leopards and they will be facing Muhoroni Youth in the last eight.
Mwinyikai was speaking on Saturday afternoon as he hosted the triumphant Ulinzi Stars junior team which won the KPL Under-20 title with a 3-1 win over Kakamega Homeboyz on post-match penalties.
Mwinyikai has confirmed that captain Ibrahim Shambi and his assistant Vincent Ochieng will be signed by the senior side while the rest who finished High School last year will be absorbed into the side’s second string side, Ulinzi Warriors.
Defender Dennis Owino and Peter Owuori are some of the players who will be absorbed into the Ulinzi Warriors side.
The rest of the players who are still in school will be absorbed into the team as soon as they have cleared.
“We want to retain this team because as much as I am not coach, there is a saying I know that says…don’t change a winning team. If anything, maybe we add just one or two more players to strengthen. But as far as I am concerned, we are maintaining this team,” Mwinyikai stated.
The ceremony conducted at Ulinzi’s training base at the 23 OCC in Lanet Barracks was also attended by teachers from the St. Anthony’s Boys High School which provided Ulinzi with ten players for the Under-20 tourney.
Mwinyikai said as a way of appreciating the different schools who provided them with players, they will offer support to them in terms of equipment, balls and uniform.
He added the team will stick to the routine of grooming players from school and not necessarily bring in ready-made talent.
“Football is all about the youth and we have seen that this strategy works. If you look at our team now, the average age of players is not more than 25 and it is working well for us. We will continue working with different schools to produce and promote talent,” the chairman added.
As a personal gift, Mwinyikai gave each of the 23 players a pair of boots and souvenir Ulinzi kits. They also divided amongst themselves the Sh500, 000 prize money.
The team’s management urged the players to maintain their discipline as well as work hard in school, promising the team will support them all through.
“I want to thank the Ulinzi management because of this gesture and when they came, I told them I will be giving them winners. I am happy you have not disappointed,” St Anthony Boys’ games master Peter Mayoyo said as he addressed the boys at the luncheon.
Coach Fred Ogot admitted it will be a tough challenge defending the title in August, but remains upbeat he will have a squad strong enough to bag the title for a second time.