On Thursday 22nd July 2021, Imran Otieno put up an article – Debunking Ambani’s Mythical 26 Goal Record on Mozzart Sport website.
By Kenyatta Otieno
I took a break from writing sports a while back but the tone and confidence in that article rattled my letters buds. I couldn’t rest easy until I decided to dig into the 2006 season for my eye view. The season falls right in the middle of what I have christened the “lost decade” of Kenyan football, between 1999 and 2009.
My main problem with MozzartSport’s story was their confidence in a country and league where credible data is as foreign as truth itself. Where the data is kept, it is for some selfish interest and rarely for posterity. If you extrapolate it to Kenyan football, then data is presented to suit a pre-told story.
We have never agreed or established if Victor Mugubi ever played for AFC Leopards, so why the push that Boniface Ambani scored 21 and not 26 goals?
This was the first season to come under the management of KPL Limited with a young Jack Oguda as CEO. Imran quotes the KPL Technical Report from where ax to grind Boniface Ambani’s “mythical” record comes from. If you look at the whole 2005-06 season, that report looks plagiarized from another league. It is so organized and detailed in-depth and breadth that it doesn’t look Kenyan. Still, I was not convinced.
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A player scores goals over a season, for this case from September 2005 to July 2006, a whole ten months. The goals are added every weekend, out in the playing field under our tropical sun. No goal is scored at night but you cannot rule out this in Kenya especially the 2005-06 season. Why had nobody come up to dispute Ambani’s claim to 26 goals that season until now? When I looked at that season, if I am asked to give it a title, then I will call it “confusion”. The only consolation is that confusion is the second name of Kenyan football so there is nothing new.
I will bring a two-series look at the season and why I think we should spare Boniface Ambani some slack. I will begin with good news. It was the first season managed by KPL Ltd. A limited company “owned” by KPL clubs. KPL immediately made contact with South African Premier Soccer League (PSL). This partnership brought Supersport, a subsidiary of pay-TV firm DSTV to sponsor the league a few years later. Kamukunji High School prodigy Patrick Oboya broke into KPL by scoring some good goals from the wing for AFC Leopards.
The season began with Ochilo Ayacko as Minister for Gender, Sports and Culture. National Rainbow Coalition had come into power in 2003 on a platform of reforms. The country was also preparing for the “Orange-Banana” referendum in an attempt to promulgate a new constitution but the Orange NO camp won. Ochillo Ayacko tried to bring some sanity but he realized that Kenyan football is a different ballgame. Our myopic and selfish soccer administrators were shuttling between Zurich and NSSF House to box each other out of the table with their eyes off the ball.
At the beginning of the season, Kenya Football Federation (KFF) was being headed by the current Webuye East Member of Parliament Hon. Alfred Sambu. He had assured the football fraternity on May 18th, 2004 that KFF- PL Ltd (KFF – Premier League Limited) will be in charge of the league in the 2005 season. He later tasked Audit Firm KPMG to hire the Secretary-General for KFF and Prof. Moni Wekesa was picked. A rare occurrence in Kenyan football but soon that attempt would fall on its face.
The league was supposed to begin earlier in August but was put off due to wrangles. FIFA then ordered that the league should commence on 27th August. Several matches were played under KPL Ltd fixtures. KPL Ltd was in Alfred Sambu’s camp which enjoyed FIFA’s recognition. On the same day, the league was to begin, KFF held a Special General Meeting in Nakuru against the orders of FIFA. The government-backed wing led by Mohammed Hatimy went ahead and met and Alfred Sambu was disposed of as chairman. They appointed Dan Omino as the Secretary-General. The circus began.
FIFA met on 31st August in Morocco to discuss errant KFF officials who had sacked Alfred Sambu then met again in September. Sam Nyamweya, who has been the chairman of wrangles-ridden Shaban FC attended the meeting. Another monkey in the circus that followed the season. Commissioner of Sports Gordon Oluoch tried to bar Sambu’s team at JKIA from going to Morrocco but the team eventually left allegedly after Nyamweya’s intervention. FIFA gave KFF three months to put its house in order. In mid-December, they added KFF another two weeks.
Meanwhile, Boniface Ambani was moved from Kenya Pipeline to Tusker, Evans Nyambaro and Alfred Chege left Mathare United for Kisii-based Shabana. The big news was that Gor Mahia had finished the two group 2004-05 season at the top of the three relegated clubs in Group A. So K’Ogalo was supposed to play Securicor FC who were also at the tenth position in Group B in a playoff to determine who will stay in the unified league. Gor did not show up in Nakuru, Securicor was awarded a walkover and waited for the second leg, it was never played. In the following days, Kenya Pipeline FC and Nzoia FC were disbanded. They created space for the two clubs and Gor stayed in the top flight.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Minister Ochilo Ayacko had earlier issued an order that all government-backed clubs should not feature in the KPL Ltd. managed league. That was about eight clubs out of twenty. This order led to icing on the confusion that marred the season between Sony Sugar and Shabana. On Saturday 3rd September 2005, KPL Ltd. under the leadership of Mathare United Chairman Bob Munro held a meeting at Riadha House. Embattled Alfred Sambu addressed the meeting via telephone link from his hospital bed.
On the same day, KPL Ltd allied clubs were meeting at Riadha House, Kenya was playing Tunisia behind closed doors at Kasarani Stadium. FIFA had banned fans following a stampede at Nyayo Stadium earlier in June where a fan died. Kenya, under the tutelage of veteran Mohammed Kheri, lost 2-0 where a young and promising Denis Oliech snubbed the call up for Mombasa sandy beaches. Ochilo Ayacko later claimed that the match was fixed by Alfred Sambu led KFF.
When FIFA ordered that the league begin on the 27th of August 2005, one of the first matches on the fixture was between Sony Sugar and Shabana FC at Gusii Stadium. Sony Sugar did not show up in Kisii citing the order by Minister for Sports barring government-backed clubs from participating in the league. Mumias Sugar FC would ignore this order and play Sher Agencies on 11th September. Only three out of the scheduled seven matches kicked off.
On 13th September, Ochilo Ayacko hosted KPL club Chairmen for a meeting in his office. His first instruction was asking Bob Munro to leave. He blamed him for the wrangles while Munro claimed he was singled out yet he was the voice of collective responsibility. The meeting agreed on the name KPL Ltd and not KPL as it was then called, the name was used as a bargaining chip by the wrangling camps. He allowed government-backed clubs to play in the league. Meanwhile, Mombasa-based Mohammed Hatimy and his Nairobi-based protégé Titus Kasuve announced that the league will begin afresh on September 17th.
On the 8th of October, Sam Nyamweya arrives with other Shabana FC officials in Chemelil for a pre-match meeting with Agro Chemical only to find another faction had arrived earlier with club bus. Lucky for him, he had a court order against the opposing faction. In the same month, Tusker played Coast Stars in President’s Cup semifinal in Nairobi where they won 2-0, Nicholas Ochieng and Patrick Osiako scored for the brewers. They then fail to turn up in Mombasa for the return leg. FIFA-backed KFF announces Tusker as winners, while government-backed KFF’s Dan Omino declares Coast Stars as the winners. Coast Stars goes to court to block the final between Tusker and World Hope.
Coast Stars turned up in Nairobi to face World Hope but the final was being played in another venue. World Hope beat Tusker 2-1 to clinch the trophy where Charles Okwemba scored the consolation goal for Tusker. The story behind this is that the FA Cup was being played from the previous season. Nzoia Sugar had beaten Coast Stars in the quarter-finals but was later disbanded. Coast Stars thought they had the right to proceed to the semis. Someone must have tipped Tusker that they should have gotten a walkover in the semi-finals.
On 10th October, Dan Omino calls all clubs to a meeting and nullifies all the fixtures. On 20th October, Gor Mahia played AFC leopards at City Stadium. It was a KPL derby match as well as the Kenyatta Day Cup match. FKF or whoever was concerned did not bring the trophy. Jimmy Bageya scored the lone goal for Gor Mahia. Later in November, KFF, CAF, and FIFA representatives meet in Nairobi and agreed to adopt KFF Premier League Limited as the official name. Apparently, it is rumored that Gor Chairman Erastus Okul had already registered KPL Ltd.
On the 25th of November, Harambee Stars failed to travel to Kigali for CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup due to unpaid allowances. Just like the current COVID-19, there was an outbreak of Bird Flu that threatened the Kenyan football circus. The football world was put on alert but it did not spread to Africa. Kenya later sent a squad made up of juniors and rookies to Malawi and lost 3-0.
In January 2006, KFF held an SGM and Alfred Sambu was confirmed as Chairman and Dan Omino as Secretary-General. Ulinzi had won the 2004-05 league but failed to pay a fine imposed on them by CAF so Tusker represented Kenya in their place. Just like this year, they played a club from Djibouti then met Al Ahly of Egypt who bundled them out of the CAF Champions League.
On the 11th of March 2006, Gor Mahia fans assaulted the referee during their match with Kangemi United. Gor were suspended from the league and fined Ksh. 31,000. They could not raise the fine so they rushed to court. They missed three matches and KPL disqualified them from the league so they stood relegated. Later an official of a KPL club anonymously paid the fine for Gor Mahia before they were allowed to rejoin the league. New Minister for Sports Maina Kamanda later issued orders that no club will be relegated from KPL that season.
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Meanwhile, on the 15th of July, Tusker played what was supposed to be their last match of the season against Shabana which they won 3-2. Independent Disciplinary and Appeals Committee (IDAC) was yet to decided on the match between Shaban and SONY Sugar that was not played on the first day of the league. Tusker and Sony were tied on 74 points but Tusker had a superior goal difference. Tusker was to play Gor Mahia in one of the many rescheduled matches for Gor on the 13th of August. Tusker knew the league was out of their hands, Shabana had nothing to lose as they had already been relegated. They failed to show up and Gor was awarded a walkover.
Actually, if Gor Mahia had won all their rescheduled matches, the league would not only have delayed for 12 weeks they would have won it. They were going to amass 77 points and only Sony had a chance of beating them to the title if they beat Shabana in the yet to be decided match. Gor did not play all the matches. The league was decided on the 3rd of September when Sony Sugar drew 1-1 with Shabana in Nakuru and clinched the league on 75 points.
In a season like this played sixteen years ago, I wouldn’t hang on any data even with a gun to my head.
To Be Continued…