NAIROBI, Kenya, June 22 –Stephen Waruru’s remarkable display in April has been rewarded after the Ulinzi Stars forward bagged the SportPesa/Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) Player of the Month for April.
The 26 year-old won the award ahead of Posta Rangers custodian Patrick Matasi in a run-off vote to become the soldiers second ever recipient of the gong after John Mark Makwata who won in 2015.
Waruru dedicated the award to his wife, technical bench, teammates and all the Kenya Defence Forces soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect Kenya.
“I came back to the team in April. I played my first game against Tusker and my first touch was a goal and that’s how my journey started this season. I’m impressed by that performance and hope to keep scoring,” Waruru said.
“Four goals in April alone and now eight in total. Hopefully I will contest for golden boot come end of the season. I have targets which are personal but I’m working towards them.”
Having stayed out for close to two seasons after leaving the team to head to a peace keeping mission, Waruru returned to the Kenyan Premier League this season with a bang, netting eight goals in 11 matches to lead the top scorer chart.
The pint-sized striker opened his account in their match against defending champions Tusker FC when he came on as a substitute and barely 20 seconds on the pitch, he scored in the 77th minute before Hassan Abdalla equalized for the Brewers to see the match end 1-1.
Waruru proved that he was missed by Ulinzi when he levelled scores two minutes after Western Stima had gone ahead to salvage a point for his side in the match that ended 1-1.
He crowned his moments in their match against Mathare United where he found the back of the net twice as the military side drubbed the Francis Kimanzi team 5-1.
The splendid performance saw Waruru recalled to the national football team Harambee Stars for the first time under First Coach Stanley Okumbi.
The award saw Waruru rewarded with Sh100, 000 and 49-inch television set from South Korean manufacturing conglomerate LG Electronics while the rest of Ulinzi platoon share Sh50, 000 separately awarded to teammates of winning players.
After coasting through initial list of nominated players, Waruru slipped into an inseparable shortlist of four that entailed Posta Rangers duo Jockins Atudo and Matasi and the free scoring AFC Leopards forward Gilbert Fiamenyo.
Statistics of the quartet in final shortlist failed to produce a clear winner prompting a vote by the SJAK Football Commission. The initial poll still failed to separate the players as Matasi and Waruru tied on 21 points while Fiamenyo and Atudo fell by the wayside.
Waruru then edged Kenya’s reigning golden glove winner by a single vote in the run-off to claim 2017’s second gong.