Various playing grounds in Nyanza are set to host a number of football competitions following the launch of regional and county leagues, raising hopes of restoring the lost glory in the region.
Currently, a dark cloud hangs over football in Nyanza since the region lacks a team in the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) top tier despite the place being home to some of the best talents in the country. FKFPL side Western Stima, who host their matches at Moi Stadium in Kisumu, are considered a Kakamega side owing to their earlier affiliation.
However, the region is represented by four teams in the second tier, the National Super League, among them former KPL heavyweights Shabana FC, cane cutters Sony Sugar, Kisumu Hotstars and Kisumu All Stars.
The new leagues are sponsored by betting company Odibets after they signed a multi-million sponsorship deal with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to help develop grassroots football. The deal saw all county leagues named Odi Mtaani.
Each team taking part in the county league countrywide has since received two sets of uniforms and six balls.
Kenyan football has been on its deathbed for a while now. On Sunday, FKF officials launched the regional league barely a fortnight after the start of county leagues in Kisii and Nyamira counties.
The exercise that was staged at Ekerenyo playing ground in Nyamira saw 36 teams drawn from six counties (Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu and Siaya) flagged off to take part in the regional league with each county producing six teams.
The exercise was officiated by National Executive Committee (NEC) member representing Nyanza region Joseph Andere and 10 FKF chairmen from various counties.
The league is divided into three zones with each zone having 12 teams. Zone A (Kisii), Zone B (Nyamia, Migori, Homa Bay) and Zone C (Kisumu and Siaya).
“We are determined to take football to the grass root. We want to tap as many talents as possible,” said Andere.
In the opening match, Ichuni FC from Kisii thrashed Ekerenyo FC representing Nyamira 4-2 in a six goal thriller.
Kisii were the first to launch the county league that consists of 34 teams followed by Nyamira where 40 teams are taking part.
According to the branch chairman Jezreel Mbegera, the 34 teams were pooled into four groups, where Group A and C, have ten teams, Group B nine, and Group D featuring five teams.
“Sports has become a very lucrative industry. Sportsmen and women are among the highest paid people in the world today and we must invest and develop talent,” noted Mbegera.
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“We are focused on improving football standards in this region.”
His Nyamira counterpart Luthers Mokua has since raised concerns over the poor state of playing grounds in the region.
He regretted that they are forced to use school playing grounds which at times are unavailable due to strict rules from school managements.
“I am calling upon the county government to renovate public grounds where we can comfortably host our matches. The county has turned a blind eye on sporting activities,” he said.
Before FKF leadership was devolved in 2019, Kisii and Nyamira counties were under the Nyanza South branch that was headed by Yobes Mose who also covered some parts in Rachuonyo, Homa Bay County. Mose lost to Mbegera during last year’s elections.
Winners from county competitions will bag Sh100,000 each and seal promotion to the regional league. Regional champions will be promoted to Division 2.