- Round of 32 stage begins Saturday, with nine matches on the cards countrywide
Nine matches to be played on Saturday at various venues countrywide will usher in the round of 32 stage of Betway Cup, Kenya’s domestic cup competition.
With an opportunity to represent Kenya in next season’s Caf Confederation Cup up for grabs and a Sh2 million top prize for the winner to boot, one would expect all Kenyan Premier League teams to register for the competition and field their best players.
However, apart from a few mentions, the prestige and honour attached to the tournament by teams seems to be waning. A number of top-tier league teams have for years shunned the tournament. Former Harambee Stars coach James Nandwa attributes this to the general decline of Kenyan football.
“Generally, the standard of our football has really gone down due to a number of problems. I think it has become very expensive to run a football team without proper and sustainable funding system. Sponsors are avoiding football, and it is hurting the clubs.
“It is not easy to even honour a single game and I think there is need to have incentives across all levels of the tournament to make it easier for the teams and encourage them to participate,” Nandwa told Nation Sport Friday.
“The lack of basic facilities like stadiums is also hurting the game. For instance in Nairobi, it was very easy and affordable for fans to attend matches at Nyayo National Stadium and City Stadium but the facilities are now closed.
Most games are played in Machakos with very few fans attending due to travel logistics.
Most football fans live in informal settlements like Kibra, Kawangware and Nairobi’s Eastlands and they cannot to attend matches in Machakos every weekend. We need to bring football closer to fans and that can only happen if Nyayo and City stadiums are re-opened,” he added.
Former AFC Leopards and Harambee Stars tactician Mickey Weche echoed Nandwa’s sentiments, adding that there is need to properly market the games.
“Nowadays we just see a poster on social media a day or a few hours before the games. A Majority of the real football fans don’t even have access to social media or don’t spend a lot of time online.
“We need to use all available platforms to reach out to them in good time. If we are consistent in marketing the games then the glory and hype will definitely come back,” he said.
“The late President Moi had passion for the domestic cup and adopted it as his own hence the popularity. He also attended the games. The leaders today also need to show love to the game and adopt some of these teams. They command huge following and this can be converted into football,” he added.
Lower-tier league side Jericho Revelation will play National Super League (NSL) team Bidco United at Camp Toyoyo, Nairobi, in one of the nine matches lined up for the day.
Jericho eliminated Nation FC in the preliminary round and are eager to continue their fine run by edging Bidco, who knocked out Muranga Seal to advance.
Jericho drew 1-1 against AFC Leopards in a build-up match and coach Jairo Willis is confident his boys will carry on with the fine run.
“This is a knockout competition and it really doesn’t matter which level our opponents play — my boys are very ready,” he said.
Bidco coach Anthony Akhulia says his side is eager to do well in the domestic cup and will therefore treat the match with the seriousness it deserves.
“This is a very important game for us and we have prepared very well for it. I have no major injury worries and will actually use some of the players that haven’t played regularly this season. It is a good platform for them to get in shape and also push the club to the next stage of the competition,” he said.
Jericho Revelation v Bidco United (Camp Toyoyo, 11am)
Tandaza v Posta Rangers (Camp Toyoyo, 1:30pm)
Balaji EPZ v Sofapaka (Camp Toyoyo, 4pm)
Zetech Titans v FC Talanta (Ruiru Grounds, 3pm)
SS Assad v Fortune Sacco (Ukunda Show Ground, 3pm)
Nyabururu Sportiff v Kisumu Allstars (Gusii Stadium, 3pm)
Egerton v Wazito (Afraha Stadium, 3pm)
Flamingo v Migori Youth (Flamingo Grounds, Naivasha, 3pm)
Transfoc v Ushuru (Kenyatta Stadium, Kitale, 3pm)
KSG Ogopa v Bandari (Machakos, 3pm)
Naivas v Gor Mahia (Kasarani, 3:30pm)
Kenpoly v Kariobangi Sharks (Kasarani, 1pm)
Keroka Technical v Vihiga United (Gusii Stadium, 1pm)
Zoo Youth v KCB (Gusii Stadium, 3:30pm)
Elim v AFC Leopards (Kenyatta Stadium, Kitale, 3pm)
Luanda Villa v Ulinzi Stars (Mumias Complex, 3pm)