NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 7 – On October 20, 2018, three-time Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Shield champions Sofapaka were less than seven minutes away from picking their fourth crown leading Kariobangi Sharks 2-1 in the final, but a series of defensive bloopers saw Sharks score two late goals to win.
Batoto ba Mungu should have even forced the game to extra time after winning a late penalty 3-2 down, but Kevin Kimani skied the effort to hand the William Muluya coached side their first ever major title.
Though the memory is distant, the hurt still weighs on in the heart of head coach John Baraza who has vowed to ensure they right the wrongs this time round and go all the way to lift the crown.
“For sure it was a painful way to lose and we had worked so hard to get there. That is in the past and we have learnt from our mistakes. This time, we want to ensure we do better because this is a golden opportunity for us to pay continental football,” said Baraza who won all three titles with the club as a player.
Sofapaka start their campaign this season away to Bungoma Super Stars on March 16 and Baraza expects a tough game despite facing a lower division side.
“Cup tournaments are always very tricky. You can never underrate an opponent. We have a very big squad of good players and this is a chance for us to show our depth and give other players a chance. I have confidence that we can move step by step and get to the final,” Baraza opined.
Sofapaka is one of only eight Kenyan Premier League teams who have confirmed participation in the tournament Only 32 teams have registered this year as opposed to the 60 that took part in last year’s cup.
The route to the final is shorter this time, with the winner of the round of 32 heading to the round of 16, quarters, semis and final, meaning a team only plays five games all the way to the final.
Meanwhile, Baraza will be looking on to finish the first leg of the Kenyan Premier League with a minimum of 30 points as the team heads out to Chemelil Sugar for their round 17 match on Saturday in Awasi.
Batoto ba Mungu are fourth in the standings with 27 points and Baraza will be looking for all three in the sugar belt to move into the magic 30.
“Chemelil is a very tough team especially playing at their backyard and this is not an easy game for us. Our focus is on those three points and we will fight for them. We won last week against KCB and that has give us a bit of motivation so hopefully we can keep that run,” the youthful tactician opined.
The team will be without mercurial defender Mousa Omar who has been a cog at the backline with the Burundian suspended after accumulating five yellow cards.
Also out of the trip to Awasi is midfielder Mike Oduor who picked up a knock on his knee during a midweek friendly against third tier side Naivas while midfielder Dennis Odhiambo is yet to hit the fitness levels required.
However, defender George Maelo returns after missing last weekend’s game against KCB.