Tusker on the road
I am back on sporting duty after spending my Christmas on the road - 400 plus kilometres from Nairobi to Kisumu and then back and another 500 kilometres to Mombasa and still 500 to go to get home.
At each destination I felt compelled to say "thank you" to Tusker, the beer, for sponsoring the Kenyan Premier League and sponsoring the champions who won the title two years in a row. I hope you know what I mean by saying "thank you".
I am a responsible drinker and I never drink and drive so when I called this blog "Tusker on the Road", I hope you didn't get the wrong impression.
KPL champions Tusker FC have spent much of the past few weeks on the road, either training or playing friendly and competitive matches in readiness for next season. Friendly victories against Tanzanian power-houses Yanga and Simba have been more than any Tusker fan could dream of.
Here is the first club to win the modern-day KPL title two years in a row and yet they aren't sitting on their laurels.
As soon as the league ended coach Robert Matano flew to Uganda to "watch" the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. While we were all just enjoying the games, he was scouting. That scouting has seen him sign Robert Omnuk, Andrew Sekayombya, Khalid Awucho and Martin Kiiza to beef up his squad. He never stopped there.
Bringing in Jesse Were and Andrew Tololwa from Mathare was ingenious, not to mention Moses Arita from Thika United. Several other playings, including some Nigerians, have linked up with the champions as well.
Very smart signings indeed, although I often wonder about clubs being ungrateful to players who win them trophies by signing others for the next season. It always happens when teams are promoted and then players who won them promotion are dropped in favour of those with experience, but that's football.
Even though Tusker has won the league two years in a row, they have failed to make any impact regionally, under Ceacafa or in the Champions league. Last year Tusker were bundled out of the Caf Champions League by APR and then went on to have the worst Cecafa ever. They did not score a single goal in the regional tournament after winning it in 2008, which was clearly too much for the club owner to take.
So, with this is mind, Matano had no choice but to go player hunting and signing. I think he's done a good job. Tusker are currently paticipating in the Zanzibari Mapinduzi tournament but, regardless of the outcome there, they have prepared well.
It's so important to see clubs playing friendlies during the off season, especially when they have made so many signings. Now is the time to see who will be in the first team, which players perform better with each other and possibly see whether some players need to switch positions and so on.
Most KPL clubs resume training this week and I fear it may be a little late. Tusker will hopefully come back from Zanzibar and do quite a bit of light training so the players don't kick off the season suffering from fatigue.
Gor Mahia will tell you that starting the season suffering from fatigue as they did last season is not pretty. In fact Gor cancelled their usual December Nyanza tour because of the damage it did early in the 2012 season.
Tusker already have some crucial injuries and I hope the club is taking note that, after Zanzibar, they need to slow down a little.
Overall I think Tusker has done well on the road this past December and I wish their exploits pay off well beyond the league this season.