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City Stars: Relegation to promotion candidates

Monday, February 24th, 2020 07:16 | By
Nairobi City Stars midfielder Anthony Kimani shields the ball as team-mates Ezekiel Odera (left) and Salim Abdallah watch during a training session at Camp Yoyoyo last Friday. INSET: City stars coach Sanjin Alagić watches on. PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

When Nairobi City Stars were relegated from the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) in 2016, they thought they would bounce back immediately.

However, they found the going tough, flirting with relegation, at times needing the last match of the season to escape going down to the third tier.

Based on that form, challenging for promotion was the last thing on anyone’s mind but as it is now, City Stars are top of the 19-team Betika Super League table with 55 points, four ahead of second-placed Bidco United and with a match in hand.

City Stars’ renaissance began when they were taken over by the Jonathan Jackson Foundation in March 2019.

“We wanted a community team in Nairobi since the foundation is about helping the underprivileged in society. We also wanted a team where we can have 100 per cent ownership so that we make all decisions. We tried Kibera Black Stars and did not succeed before we settled on City Stars,” says Samson Otieno, the club’s sports coordinator.

“Building a team bottom up would have taken us about six years which is expensive so we decided taking over an established side would suit our ambition,” adds Otieno, when asked whey they did not build a team from scratch.

With the club acquired, the foundation went about searching for new managers and settled on Patrick Korir as CEO who then put together a team of managers to oversee the club’s affairs.

“It was not easy even after we took over. The team was not posting good results and we decided to bring in a new coach. We wanted a foreign tactician because with them, there would be no favoritism as they only look at talent,” says Otieno.

That is how 42-year-old Bosnian Sanjin Alagic ended up at the club last July, having coached Slovakian Second League side FC ŠTK 1914 Šamorín and his country’s Under-21 team as an assistant.

Alagic was then backed heavily in the transfer market as the club brought in players with top flight experience such as EX-AFC Leopards stars Ezekiel Odera, Salim Abdallah, Aziz Okaka and Peter “Pinchez” Opiyo, John Kamau (Tusker), Wesley Onguso (Gor Mahia), Wycliffe Otieno (Kariobangi Sharks), Anthony Kimani (Bandari) and Mathare United stalwart Noach Abich.

That, added to host of promising youngsters like Vincent Otieno and Elvis Ojiambo has seen City Stars rise to heights hitherto unknown to them.

“Organisation and approach has been crucial to the turn-around. We do not have problems like other clubs since the players, coaches and management know their job. We also plan ahead. Like now, we know the players we need next season and we’re working on getting them. I plan for three years even if I might be here for three matches,” says Alagic. 

NAIROBI CITY STARS RENAISSANCE

  2018/9 Season: After 38 games -Position 14th with 39 points 

  Last season’s form: Won 8, Drew 15, Lost 15

  2019/20 season: After 24 games -Position 1 with 55 points

  This season’s form: Won 17, Drew 4, Lost 2

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