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Joy as Shabana returns to NSL

Shabana FC players celebrate a goal during a match between them and Agrochemicals FC at Awendo Green Stadium in Migori county on May 24,2015. The KPL organized match saw Shabana beat their opponents 2-0 where Dumonde scored one of the goals. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard]

Kisii-based community club Shabana will feature in the country’s second-tier National Super League next season.

This comes after they beat Taita Taveta-based Mwatate United in a playoff match last weekend at Kasarani Stadium.

Their return to the league did not come easy - the game had to be decided on penalties. Shabana pulled a thin 7-6 win on penalties after a 1-1 stalemate against Mwatate United in regular time.

Head coach Andrew Kanuli reveals why they emerged champions: “One team had to emerge the winner. So we spent much time training on how to take corner kicks, free-kicks and penalties. I’m happy that my boys stuck to my instructions,” he said.
The win meant a lot for the Kisii community who have always wanted Shabana to play in the country’s Premier League.

And you could see this by the nature of people and dignitaries who turned up to watch the game. Notable Kisii leaders including the deputy governor Joash Maangi, officials of the Sports ministry, Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, nominated Senator Millicent Omanga, the patron Gerald Nivaton among others were present to witness the team play .

The feeling can only take us back to the days when Shabana was one of the giants in topflight football. To be precise, the days when it dined on the same table with Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.

Shabana club national fans chairman Boniface Ntabo says they are ready to support the team.

“We are ready to cheer our boys to victory anytime, and we’re sure that we will always win our matches. This is just the beginning,” he told The Nairobian.

The club was formed in 1980 by Kisii-based businessman and Indian Dogo Khan together with his relative Akbar Khan who served as the head coach.  In 1985, the club, under their slogan Tore Bobe — which literally means ‘we’re the best,’ was hungry for victory and power. They were promoted to the Premier League that year and finished tenth. Two years later, they were already at number three, with all eyes on the throne and serving as the biggest threat to K’Ogalo and Ingwe in the country.

They had a formidable squad, fully packed with quality goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers. That’s when the country tasted the best of legendary Henry Motego, Mike Okoth Origi, Richard Otambo, Willis Owegi, Alfred ‘Fwaya’ Oloo, Sylvester Mageni, Evans Ombuna, Issa Masese, Vincent Abuga (dead), Henry Nyandoro (dead) among others.

Shabana represented Kenya in the Africa Champions Cup in 1988 beating Zambia’s Kabwe Warriors at home before crashing out in the second leg. The club also featured in the 2000 Caf Cup against Hay Al Arab of Sudan.

In 2006, the club was relegated to second tier league after a 21-year stay at the top. As a result, the club refused to participate in the second tier insisting they belonged to the Premier League.

Their journey to get back to the top football started from scratch in 2008 and has been thorny for many years due to bad leadership, lack of financial support and general goodwill.

In 2014, with former FKF President Sam Nyamweya as their patron, they won the National Division title and were promoted to the FKF Premier League — a parallel league constituted by the federation to rival Kenyan Premier League.

In 2016, FKF, under Nick Mwendwa, relegated Shabana to lower Division One league as they failed to honour games in the FKF Premier League in 2015. They persevered in the lower league for two seasons, and now they are back to the second tier with a new energy. They have a new office with new officials who, according to secretary-general Kerubo Momanyi, have done their best to ensure Shabana brings back the Kisii pride. All they are aiming at now is a return to the Kenyan Premier League in the 2019/2020 season.

“The current management has ensured that all stakeholders are engaged more vigorously than the previous office, and we’ve seen the fruits,” she told The Nairobian.

Coach Kanuli says the club management has to be ready to part with ‘enough’ money if they need to climb the ladder to the Kenyan Premier League.