Competitive second-tier league will build KPL teams

Wednesday May 22 2019

Shabana players celebrate their first goal during their National Super League match against Ushuru at Gusii Stadium on April 13, 2019. PHOTO | BENSON AYIENDA |

Shabana players celebrate their first goal during their National Super League match against Ushuru at Gusii Stadium on April 13, 2019. PHOTO | BENSON AYIENDA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

NICK OLUOCH
By NICK OLUOCH
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Watching Migori Youth run leaders Wazito rugged at Camp Toyoyo grounds in Nairobi in a National Super League (NSL) game a fortnight ago, one could not help but marvel at the depth of football talent Kenya has.

For all of Wazito’s experience and big names, having fielded no less than seven former Kenyan Premier League players, they simply had no answer for Migori Youth’s pure talent and youthful energy.

Samuel Siro, fresh from sitting his Form Four examination at Mangu last year, took care of every situation thrown at him. Clifford Ouma, another Form Four leaver, run Wazito’s defence rugged before scoring the lone goal that condemned Wazito to only their third loss of the season.

For all their raw talent, Migori Youth find themselves 18th on the log and four points away from the safety Zone. Going by the current player recruitment trends in Kenya, players like Siro and Ouma might never realise their ambitions of playing in the KPL, let alone turning professionals.

Which begs the question: Why aren’t KPL teams looking at the skilled and cheaper talents in NSL when bolstering their teams? Barely four years ago, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli was turning out for MK Dons in the English League 1, the equivalent of Kenya’s FKF Division One League. Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy played at Conference team Fleetwood town, the equivalent of County League.

Today, the two are England internationals, fresh from taking England to the World Cup semi-finals last year. That the two are very talented players is in no doubt. But they may not have made it to the Premiership had the teams not been willing to send scouts to the lower leagues, and give players there a chance to demonstrate their talents.

And the path of the young players to the KPL has been made even more difficult by the collapse of the KPL Under-19 league which used to bring together youngsters from all the teams playing in the top league.

According to former Sony Sugar Under-19 coach Wilson Aol, the collapse of the tournament three years ago means NSL remains the only avenue for younger players keen on making it to the top leaguel. In his view, NSL has to be supported because it offers the only avenue for young players to get experience.

It would also be prudent for Kenya U-21 coaches to give players from the league a chance instead of picking the whole team from the KPL.

The Migori Youth head coach says lack of finance still remains the main hindrance to talent nurturing at the NSL. “Several times when we play in Mombasa, the team has had to make the over 900km trip for almost 18 hours, then get directly to the pitch to play and take the next bus to Migori,” Aol said.

Those who watch NSL matches will agree that there are talented players in the second-tier league who can walk straight into teams like Kibera All Stars and FC Talanta squads. The players are talented, cost less money and also come with an element of surprise as they are generally unknown.

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