Grateful sleeping giants Shabana seek to restore glory days

When Fred ‘Malouda’ Nyakundi smashed in the winning goal against AFC Leopards at the Gusii Stadium during their Mashujaa Day clash last Wednesday, it served as the perfect tee-up for the cascade of blessings that was to visit Tore Bobe as the Kisii-based club is affectionately known in Gusiiland.

Barely twenty-four hours after those delirious scenes at the Gusii Stadium, coach Vincent Nyaberi led his markedly more reserved yet equally ecstatic charges at the official residence of the Kisii county commissioner, where a jovial President Uhuru Kenyatta was on hand to gift them a 64-seater bus and Ksh5 million. Also present were former PM Raila Odinga, who topped up the president’s gift with a Ksh1 million donation of his own, and Sports CS Amina Mohammed.

 

For coach Nyaberi, however, the euphoria of the past week doesn’t represent the rewards for hard work in a team that most definitely has seen better days. Rather, he is convinced that the best is yet to come, and he expects the windfall which has blown Shabana’s way will serve as a launching pad for getting the glamor boys to where he believes they rightly belong.

“Shabana used to be a force to reckon with in the past and we are ready to fight to earn promotion back to the top league.” Nyaberi, speaking at the function, said. “Our aim is to rekindle the memories of the past whenever we hosted Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.”

Indeed, it has been fourteen years since the club with the third-largest fan base in the country regularly locked horns with the cream of Kenyan football. Most of the 14 years since their relegation from the KPL has been spent in the second tier National Super League (NSL), where they placed a massive 29 points behind NSL leaders Nairobi City Stars before the Covid-19 restrictions wiped out the season.

 

Most people associated with the club; players, coaches, ex-players and coaches and fans alike, believe, with some justification, that poor management, which inevitably resulted in the club’s long-term atrocious financial circumstances, have been largely responsible for the steep decline Tore Bobe has experienced over the years. With this in mind, Coach Nyaberi believes that their burst of good fortune should go a long way towards a reorganization of the club, with focus on local talent not only on the player ranks, but on local coaches as well.

“It gives me great pleasure to see how despite our circumstances, young people are still passionate about local football in the grassroots here in Kisii.” He says, while applauding the commitment of local leadership to football in general and Shabana in particular. He is especially grateful to President Kenyatta, PM Odinga and Kisii governor James Ongwae for their support.

 

Nyaberi’s sentiments are echoed by Denis Ayusa, Shabana’s towering, Ugali and riruma (chicken)-loving, dependable shot stopper and club captain.

Denis Ayusa(c) in action

“Covid has been really bad for football, but it has forced us to diversify our revenue streams so it hasn’t altogether been a disaster.” He quips philosophically.

 

In the past Shabana had gained the unenviable reputation of a walk over team due to the sheer number of fixtures they had failed to honor because they simply did not have the means to travel, and Ayusa is very excited about the bus gift from the president.

 

“Now that our transport needs have been taken care of, we can play all games and show the rest of Kenya what we are made of.” He says.

 

Ayusa also hopes the money from the president and former prime minister should go towards settling salary arrears for players. “Take care of us,” he says, “and we will have no excuse for not playing in the Kenya Premier League next season.”

  

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