By CHARLES NYENDE
Nakuru All Stars, Feisal, Luo-Union, Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Tusker, Utalii, Oserian Fastac...err Thika United.
A keen football follower in the country will be quick to notice that all the above clubs have won the top league in the country. All, that is, except Medisca Thika United.
But it may not be long before the Thika-based club have their name etched onto this special select list.
The club, lying second to Tusker in Group "A", is playing some great football, and has announced to all and sundry that the league title is very much in its agenda.
Their vociferous fans have been quick to get behind the team. Playing at the Thika Municipal Stadium has become a daunting contest for even the seasoned clubs.
Thika United showed what quality they had recently when, against the odds, they snatched a 1-0 win against Tusker away at Ruaraka.
This was despite losing the influential Jean-Paul Yontcha early in the first half after he was sent off for rough play.
They were also lacking the services of midfield organiser, Nicholas Muyoti, who was out with a foot injury.
Daniel Bikoi gave them the all-important goal in the 35th minute. The side then showed organisational qualities to defend the slim lead and come away with three huge points from Ruaraka.
Interestingly, the terraces at Ruaraka were filled to near capacity by a loud band of travelling Thika United fans. Thika town is some 35 km away from Nairobi.
"This league is ours," screamed one fan after the match.
"Vinnio, you are great," bellowed another in open adoration of Vincent Onyango one of the leading young strikers in the Thika United team and an apparent crowd favourite.
"We are going to crush all other teams," still another shouted.
Others have taken notice
Thika United’s 2-1 result versus Pan Paper in their opening league match may not have been a crushing win but they got that crucial first win to settle psychologically as a team.
The results that have made all to pause and take notice is of course the 1-0 win against highly fancied Tusker, a 1-0 triumph over reigning league champions AC Nakuru and a brilliant 2-1 defeat of heavily favoured Mathare United.
Not wanting to put any pressure on the team, coach Micky Weche said, "Our main objective is to avoid relegation this season. Winning the league would be a bonus."
"We just want to survive in the top league this season," a top official added.
Weche, a former Harambee Stars defender observed: "We are fighting hard for our results."
Since a new management took over in 2001, the club has had a big change of fortunes from last season when they just missed relegation in their debut Premier League participation.
To put everything in perspective, the team of last season and this year’s team are not exactly the same.
One, Thika United are currently under Weche, who is an assistant Harambee Stars coach.
West African connection
Two, a trio of Cameroon recruits Yontcha, Jean-Paul Nyangouo and Bikoi has brought in a deadly cosmopolitan touch to Thika Municipal Stadium.
The West Africans showed their mettle when they stepped up big to score in crucial matches.
Yontcha put in one each in the Mathare and AC Nakuru matches while Bikoi was on the mark against Tusker. All were matches that featured large on the calendar of club followers.
Thirdly, fortuitously though, Thika United were grateful beneficiaries of a mass player exodus from troubled AFC Leopards at the end of last season.
They acquired overlapping left fullback Ezekiel Akwana and Harambee Stars in form-midfielder Muyoti. A foot injury to Muyoti may mean some adjusting for Weche to do.
Muyoti, playing as captain was instrumental in Harambee Stars' triumph in the recent Castle Lager Cup, and has been a big asset at Thika. He is likely to be out until February.
"Medisca have a good set up and can survive without me. And the addition of the Cameroons has really boosted the team," Muyoti observed.
Finally, Medisca have maintained the unit that successfully battled through the Nationwide League last year to gain promotion to top flight soccer.
This includes striker Onyango, recently called up to the national under-23 side, Harambee Stars midfielder Anthony Mathenge, goalkeeper Joseph Ruto, defender Kennedy Kidagwa, midfielders George Sakwa and Lawrence Njoroge and striker Joseph Mwangi.
Mathenge is the team captain and his stints with the national team have undoubtedly served the side well.
"Our good run in the league so far has been due to a strong desire by this team to succeed and the excellent team work amongst the players," Weche said.
After the first leg programme Thika United are lying second with 22 points from 11 matches played.
They have scored 14 goals and let in nine, the second lowest in Group "A".
The team's only bleep this season is the surprise 1-3 loss to Sony Sugar last weekend. Six wins, four draws and one loss is their record before the recess.
While many self-supporting sides struggle to remain in business, Thika United appear to be firmly on their feet, at least for now.
Sponsors and partners Medisca Farmaceutici, an Italian pharmaceutical manufacturer, brings a guaranteed period of investment and stability.
Additional support from Kappa, the renowned Italian sports goods manufacturers, has Medisca turning out in neat Kappa-labelled blue kit.
Thika are looking ahead with their organised youth development.
The club has a partnership with Chania High School where the team trains weekly with the school lads.
An under-12 side, Medisca Juniors, consisting of boys from the Majengo slums in Thika benefited last season from kit donation by English Premiership outfit Everton. This is to encourage more youngsters to engage in sports in Thika.
The Thika United management offers the players a salary and win bonuses.
With specialist training and links to Europe it is hoped that some of the players can realise their football dreams.
Thus, it is not surprising that the club has acquired a huge following in Thika town that is reminiscent of the heady days of KTM in the 1980s. Can the club go one further and bring in the big medals?
An excerpt from the club’s official Website mediscafc.com reads "Medisca's ultimate objectives are to attain the highest accolade of African and Kenyan Football and be crowned Premier League champions within five years and represent Kenya in the CAF Champions League".
So far so good.