NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12- The Kenyan Premier League management has disqualified 77 players across the 16 teams set to participate in the August KPL Under-20 tournament as it moves to curb the vice of age cheating.
An array of reasons have been given for their disqualification ranging from falsification, forged documents, fake birth certificates and conflicting data provided.
The organizers have said any team found to field overage or ineligible players during the tournament will be disqualified and banned from the next tourney as they move in fast to address the age cheating that rocked the April edition.
“In the course of the verification, it came out clear that age-cheating is a vice which continues to blight Kenyan football and as result, the verification process will still go on during the tournament,” KPL said in its statement after the primary verification process carried out alongside Football Kenya Federation officials.
Teams have been given until Friday to forward names of replacements for those axed.
Last year’s finalists Kakamega Homeboyz and 2013 champions Western Stima are the only clubs who have been cleared with all their players registered pending submission of school documents and birth certificates.
Gor Mahia and Sofapaka have the highest number of players kicked out, each at 11. Gor who reached the semi in April have four players out of the 11 disqualified for forged birth certificates while the rest are out for lack of tallying documents.
Most of the Sofapaka players have been disqualified for providing conflicting information in their birth certificates and school documents.
AFC Leopards has five disqualified, two of them having featured in the April tournament. The two, Mathew Kono and Marcelo Imbutienje provided conflicting documents from the ones used in April.
The side has however included two players from the senior team, striker Jack Bruno whose performance in April earned him a slot in the senior team as well as goalkeeper Edwin Mukolwe.
Mukolwe has found playing time difficult to come by in the senior team with the experience of Ian Otieno and Lucas Indeche pushing him aside.
Defending champions Ulinzi Warriors have six of their players disqualified, three of them because of falsification of documents.
The side has however maintained a huge chunk of their first team squad that won in April with the exception of David Owino who joined Chemelil Sugar, Peter Owuor who joined Muhoroni Youth and Vincent Ochieng who was promoted to the Ulinzi senior team.
Head coach Fred Ogot is optimistic his squad will do enough to defend the title and they will once again be looking on the leadership of midfielder Ibrahim Shambi.
“We know it will be tough because every team will give their best against us because we are the defending champions. But we are well prepared and the best thing is that most of the players we had in April are still with us and it gives us some motivation,” The former Ulinzi Stars assistant coach offered.
Ulinzi are in Group D alongside Chemelil Sugar, AFC Leopards and Sofapaka and will begin their campaign on Sunday against Chemelil.
Elsewhere, April losing finalists Homeboyz who are in Group A alongside Posta Rangers, Thika United and Tusker hope to go one better and lift the title this year.
Head coach Gilbert Selebwa has maintained 13 players from the title winning side.
Speaking to Capital Sport, Selebwa believes he has picked a fine side to complement the equally strong squad he had in April.
‘We have picked five players from Kakamega, two from Chavakali and another couple from Mukumu and I am convinced we have a very strong team. It will be a tough tournament but our intention is to improve from our performance last year,” Selebwa said.
KPL U20 Groups
Group A: Kakamega Homeboyz, Posta Rangers, Thika United, Tusker
Group B: Mathare United, Bandari, Western Stima, City Stars, Western Stima
Group C: Gor Mahia, Ushuru, Sony Sugar, Muhoroni Youth
Group D: Ulinzi Stars Chemelil Sugar, AFC Leopards, Sofapaka
Saturday: Kakamega Homeboyz v Posta Rangers (8am), Mathare United v Bandari (10:15am), Western Stima v City Stars (4:15pm)- Ruaraka, Thika United v Tusker (12:30pm- Machakos).
Sunday: Gor Mahia v Ushuru (8am), Ulinzi Warriors v Chemelil Sugar (10:15am), Sony Sugar v Muhoroni Youth (2pm), AFC Leopards v Sofapaka FC (4:15pm) – Camp Toyoyo.