Today I walk very tall in the streets of Mombasa with my head held high and my heart full of joy after our beloved Bandari’s exploits on the continental stage.
Bandari treated us to high octane continental football. Their good run ended with an aggregate 5-2 loss to the experienced and battle-hardened Horoya from Guinea who beat us 4-2 in Conakry, came to Nairobi and won by a solitary goal ending our fairy tale run.
Remember, this was just Bandari’s second time on the continental stage yet we went shoulder to shoulder with some of Africa's finest. I can confidently say this is a launch pad for better things to come in the future.
Bandari was not the only club to bid farewell to continental competition. Representatives from all the seven East African countries exited from their respective tournaments on a day referred to as bloody Sunday.
If we are to compare Bandari with our regional rivals, then we have even better reasons to celebrate since all the other teams have competed at this stage several times before while it was only our second attempt. During Bandari’s first bid, the team was knocked out in the first round.
Simba Sports Club, our immediate neighbours and seasoned campaigners from Tanzania, were, for example, were knocked out in the formative stages of the competition, while Yanga and Azam were also bundled out in the second round.
In Uganda, KCCA and Proline football clubs were also kicked out in the early stages. Not forgetting the soldiers of APR from Rwanda and our noisy neighbours Gor Mahia who exited at the play-offs stage. It is with sheer joy that we celebrate Bandari’s outstanding achievement.
Against all odds, I can say Bandari started the season brilliantly on the continental scene and were eliminated a game away to the group stage of the Caf Confederations Cup.
Credit goes to the management of the Kenya Ports Authority and Managing Director Daniel Manduku in particular for the tireless support to the team in all aspects.
Manduku, who is also the team patron, accorded Bandari one of the best preparation a team has ever received in Kenya, preparations.
The preparations included trips to Zanzibar and South Africa. This helped boost the team’s morale a great deal. The young talented players were out to prove the Doubting Thomas wrong.
I cannot forget tactician Bernard Mwalala, born and bred locally. He did a brilliant job. Some top-flight clubs in the region spent a huge chunk of their limited budget to lure foreign coaches.
Perhaps, this is good reason for local football clubs to give domestic talent a chance instead of over-reliance on foreign coaches - the majority of who are half-baked. Mwalala, a retired player of international repute, is slowly but surely growing his profile.
He is one of the gifted coaches in this part of the world after enjoying his third straight season of success and should he continue, I am worried we will find it difficult to retain his services.
All said and done, it’s time to assess the squad and find out where we went wrong and plan for better tidings come next season. As things stand, we can only grow from better to better.