Heart break for Queens, Tusker
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League champions in both men and women categories have officially been excluded from this year’s Confederation of African Football (CAF)-organised competitions.
In essence, this means that Tusker who won the men’s league as well as Vihiga Queens who reigned supreme in the women category will sit out in an unprecedented move which was least surprising considering that Kenya is serving a suspension from world governing body Fifa over government’s interference in football.
The latest development comes in the wake of Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed disbanding Football Kenya Federation (FKF) last November after implicating it of massive embezzlement of funds and especially those donated by the government towards football development.
Fifa suspended Kenya in February this year and set conditions to lift the embargo including the ministry reinstating FKF led by Nick Mwendwa and scrapping the Caretaker Committee formed by Amina on an interim basis to govern the sport pending fresh elections. Besides
Tusker and Vihiga Queens being barred from international events, others affected are national teams in both the World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic qualifiers.
Kenya’s problems with the global football body started early in the year when Mwendwa was arrested and arraigned in Court even as the country’s Fifa rankings stagnated at 102.
Kenya’s last engagement in FIFA accredited football was on November 15, 2021 when Harambee Stars beat neighbors Rwanda 2-1 in a World Cup Qualifier held in Nairobi.
At the same time, Tusker and Gor Mahia were last in action in 2021 in the CAF Cup and Africa Champions League against Al Ahly Merowe of Sudan and Zamalek respectively.
While Tusker were bundled out by Zamalek, Al Ahly Merowe were only able to honour the first leg played at a neutral venue in Egypt before withdrawing for the second leg due to financial challenges. Gor had won 1-0 in the first leg.
As for Vihiga Queens who won their fourth title a month ago, their last assignment was in the maiden CAF Women’s Champions League in November 2021 in the Group stages where they fell 4-0 to River Angels of Nigeria in a Group B duel.
The team that was formed only eight years ago also had the bulk of their players in Harambee Starlets team who were replaced by Uganda Crested Cranes in the CAF-Womens’ Cup of Nations held in Morocco last month.
If you stand still in the Premier League you go backwards, and as the new boys without a major signing to strengthen them, Bournemouth could face a very tough year.
It’s been a pro-active one for Brentford but it’s not without its significant downsides - arguably most of all losing Christian Eriksen to Manchester United when his contract expired.
The Dane joined on a six-month contract last term and was influential to keeping the team in the top flight.
That being said, the Bees have a habit of recruiting smartly and the capture of Keane Lewis-Potter from Hull as an attacking outlet looks a smart piece of business as does the arrival of Aaron Hickey to hopefully plug an ongoing issue at full-back.
Brentford finished 13th last season, and considering they were big favourites to go straight back down into the Championship it was a marvellous achievement.
Matching that though will be tough and second season syndrome in recent seasons has seen Sheffield United relegated a year after making a European charge, while Leeds United were also close to dropping back down last term.
Staying up again will be the target but if the new signings gel into the team there is no reason why they cannot at least consolidate another mid-table finish.
That Sheffield United season that ended with their relegation last year. The Blades went from being a tough side to beat to whipping boys overnight.
Thomas Frank’s side look a little more organised but it must be remembered that the Bees were already in a steep decline before Eriksen started playing last season when they took just four points from 11 games following a bright start to the campaign.
The acid test really is can they cope without their star Danish playmaker?
The man in charge: Thomas Frank
Masterminded an unlikely promotion and then built on that by delivering probably the best Premier League season any Brentford supporter could have wished for.
His reputation at the club is already cemented in a positive light but the Premier League can bring ruthless decisions and if the Bees go into another tailspin like they did late last winter, Frank’s position could be under threat regardless of his popularity with supporters.
The key man: Ivan Toney
Fired in a respective 14 goals across all competitions last term and his performances were enough to attract interest from Premier League rivals this summer - including Manchester United.
If Toney goes along with Eriksen then the Bees will be at a severe disadvantage this term with the loss of major stars.
Maintaining last season’s momentum could be tough having arguably become weaker over the summer and staying up will again be a huge achievement.
It’s not been an ideal one for Graham Potter’s men, who have arguably become a weaker outfit during the transfer window having lost key star Yves Bissouma to Tottenham.
Moises Caicedo does return from a loan spell out in Belgium though having signed last summer and he could plug the gap left behind by the midfielder.
Of their two new arrivals, one has immediately gone out on loan in Adingra and the other in Enciso is just 18-years-old and, while a highly promising talent is unlikely to be called upon to carry the burden of the team, the forward could even be sent out on loan too.
Success would be...
It’s actually difficult to see how Brighton can improve this season. Ninth last term was already a sensational effort and the best in the club’s history and it came following a few years of fending off battles against Premier League relegation.
Another top 10 finish with such little resources compared to other rivals in the division would be a sensational effort.
Goals were a problem last season and that was down to poor finishing rather than a lack of creativity and that’s an easier problem to solve - providing Graham Potter can bag himself a proven goal scorer before the transfer window closes.
Disaster would look like...
Even given their success since earning Premier League promotion in 2017, avoiding relegation will once again be the main aim for the Seagulls.
Arguably a bigger disaster could hit them during the campaign though when various teams naturally start to underperform and look towards a new manager.
Potter’s work down at the Amex Stadium has drawn huge admirers and if he moves on then Brighton have a huge crisis in trying to find his successor.
The man in charge: Graham Potter
Pound for pound, is there a better manager in the Premier League right now? He is certainly up there given he has Brighton punching well above their weight and it’s down to forging a team spirit and not a reliance on the individual brilliance of one player.
It’s a feature of pretty much every single club he has managed and his growing reputation marking him as a superb man manager. Crucially though it’s combined with attractive football and it makes him one of the most exciting English managerial prospects in the game.
The key man: Tariq Lamptey
Near enough completed his first full season last term and the exciting young full-back appears to be constantly improving. He appears to keep getting better and is still only 21 years old.
Sportsmail’s prediction: 12th
A drop in performance levels from last season but another mid-table finish of any sorts will be a good campaign for the Seagulls who continue to soar above expectations.