NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 4 – Ulinzi Stars have gone for five years without a domestic title.
The last time they dined and wined as champions was in 2011 when they won the inaugural Kenyan Premier League Top Eight title with a 2-1 victory over Western Stima, coming just a year after their fourth Premier League title.
Since then, they have only decorated their trophy cabinet at their Lanet 3KR base with two East African Military Games titles, their strength and might at home, slowly dwindling.
But five years since they lifted their last trophy at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, the soldiers can dare dream again after reaching the final of the GOtv Shield for only the second time in their history, the first and last being 21 years ago in 1995.
Their emphatic 4-1 mauling of Kariobangi Sharks last weekend in the semi-finals was testament enough of their ambitions.
“We had a chance last year and faltered losing in the quarters. This time, we have gotten everything right, save for a few moments here and there. We are in the final, and we now believe we have what it takes to battle down against Tusker and win,” stand-in coach Benjamin Nyangweso told Capital Sport.
Ulinzi face Premier League title-chasing Tusker in the final on October 20, with the brewers also angling for a season double.
Ulinzi though will not let their ambitions drop down the drain and have vowed to fight to not only quench their title thirst, but do it for their coach Robert Matano who hasn’t been with the team for the past two months, battling a kidney ailment.
Striker John Mark Makwatta who has netted in all but one of Ulinzi’s five past Shield matches, raking up eight goals, believes they need to reward Matano who kicked off the journey with them.
“It is the best reward we can give him, because that is what he wanted this team to achieve,” Makwatta said after banging in a hatrick in Ulinzi’s 4-1 weekend win.
Having never won any title in his top flight career before, this is more of a personal mission for the 23-year old.
“What drives us is the desire to play in continental football next season. We put an aim at the beginning of the season that we want to win a trophy. The Shield is close to us now and we intend to give in 100pc and ensure there is something for us,” the former City Stars forward added.
Ulinzi are placed sixth on the Premier League standings with 37 points. A massive 11 off league leaders Tusker and their hunt for the league title seems all but over.
Their only point of solace now, is the Shield.