Monday, October 29, 2012

What If...


This one ladies and gents, is a classic, if I may say so myself..I have been meaning to put this post up since the end of the 2011-12 season, but due to commitments else where, laziness not included I never found the right time. So you can imagine the joy I had when this season’s dates were moved, giving me the perfect opportunity to share this with y’all..

Ok first, lower your expectations here before we go on…

As a growing sport in Kenya, rugby is bound to have a flood of new fans whether attracted by the ‘muenjoyo’ factor that the sport carries or a real interest in the sport is really anyone’s guess but I’d go with the former. A real dilemma this group of ‘newbies’ face, is the choice of club to support, so I came up with this post to help them through this dilemma. As I sat down looking for the best way that I could relate to these new ones, it hit me..what better way than make comparisons between  our top flight sides and sides playing in the most popular league in the world..the EPL? 



The comparisons made below are based on club history, recent performances, fans and general nature of the clubs in question. The matches were made in consultation with experts (hehe), in most cases making matches was a daunting task due to the vast dynamics of the sport of rugby in general compared to that other simplistic sport. As always I welcome your views and disagreements in the comments section..

First up is the defending Kenya Cup champions Kenya Harlequins, this one did not take much time to figure out..it had to be Manchester united. The quartered shirts are the Manchester united of Kenya cup in more ways than one, first their recent dominance in the league, Quins are on their third back to back Kenya cup title this streak could only be compared to Manchester United’s. Historically, just like united in the EPL Quins is one of the oldest and most successful clubs in Kenya rugby. Like maure fans, you can spot a Quins fan from a mile out, they are loud and real proud. Quins though drew a few comparisons with Man-u’s fierce rivals Man city and Spain’s Barcelona but apart from the cash power in the case of City, none could stick. Barcelona on the other hand were a bit too good a match for the Quins hehe..



If Quins are Man united, then definitely Nondies are Liverpool, this one fell in place faster than you could say smooth. Man united and Liverpool have shared a great rivalry over the years, probably the greatest rivalry in English soccer. So have Quins and Nondies..you see the two trace their roots from the same club, the Nairobi Rugby Club which split in 1923 into Quins and Nondies. Unlike their counterparts in the EPL, the white shirts still hold the title of ‘the most successful side’ with 17 Kenya Cup titles and 23 Enterprise Cup wins under their belts. Unfortunately for these two, their glory days are well in the past, Nondies last triumph at Kenya Cup was in 1998. Their fans though a handful, are a loyal bunch who are quick to refer to the history books in most of their arguments… on the fans I must mention this, Nondies are the ‘barbies’ of rugby, mostly referred to as ‘Us guys of Nondies.’ 

Next up Impala, this one also did not need rocket science to figure out that their match was Arsenal. Apart from the similarity in kit colour, Impala and Arsenal share a lot, first the two were a dominant force in their respective leagues in the late 90’s and early 2000’s but have lately seen a slump in form. Impala’s last triumph in the league was in 2009 not as far back as Arsenal, the red shirts are the second most successful side in Kenya Cup with 10 titles to their name. Just like the gunners, Impala boast of an ‘invincibles’ kind of side that won the Kenya cup between 01-04 much around the Arsenal invincibles of 03. The two have seen a recent drought in trophies and with youthful sides they have found it hard to compete against the likes of Quins and KCB. Impala finished outside the top three in the Kenya cup for the first time since the turn of the century when they came in 6th last season, probably where Arsenal will finish end of this season hehe. Impala’s fiercest rivals have to be next door neighbours Quins, when the two meet in the ‘Ngong road derby’ it is usually the highlight of the season and the fixture most rugby fans look forward to..kind of like the Arsenal vs Man-U games.…can Nato Simiyu’s move from Impala to Quins be compared to Van Persie’s  move from Arsenal to Manure? I don’t know…


Next up, KCB..this one took a bit of time to figure out and after serious brain storming, my panel and I settled for Chelsea FC. The two blew onto the scene in the early 2000’s, and have been constantly disturbing the power balance that had been previously established. KCB’s first triumph at the league was in 2005 the bankers going on to win that title 3 times in a row to 07. Before KCB came into the scene, Kenya rugby was dominated by the Ngong road neighbours Quins and Impala, the two had alternated the championship from 99-2004. Much like Arsenal and Manchester united had dominated the EPL during the same period before Chelsea stepped in. Also like Chelsea, KCB’s squad boasts of a wealth of experience, read old heads the likes of Dennis Mwanja, Anthony Ogot, Peter Mutai, Xavier Makuba among others. 



Mwamba RFC are up next, this one took forever to figure out, actually the jury is still out on this one but I couldn’t wait for them that long, so I settled for the most likely option, Newcastle united. Popularly referred to as Kulabu, the rocks share one thing with the toons, culture. Formed in 1977 as one of two pioneer black clubs back then when rugby was dominated by the jungus , Kulabu boast of a very rich culture. They have won the Kenya cup title once, in 1984 and have come close on several occasions. Mwamba RFC though lives for the shorter version of the game, sevens where their dominance over the recent past has been unprecedented. Like Newcastle united, a game against Mwamba RFC is never an easy assignment, the black shirts are renowned for their hard tackling and hard running. Like the toon army, Kulabu fans are a dedicated tight knit bunch. Can Alan Shearer’s impact on Newcastle be compared to Humphrey Khayange’s or Edward Rombo’s?  


Nakuru RFC was by far the hardest match I had to make, finding a partner for the Wanyore was like..well let’s just say they are a pretty unique bunch. I had to finally settle for Tottenham FC, for the sole reason that they have struggled for a while in the league but have come good in the last season and look like they can claim their first ever Kenya Cup title.  The Wanyore fans are a special group, they look to stand out at every occasion. You have not experienced an atmosphere in Kenya rugby until you are at the Nakuru Athletic club.. 


Mean Machine and Everton F.C, this one is another lose comparison, based on kit colour I guess hehe. Historically speaking, the two share little or nothing at all, as I had earlier mentioned, Machine or Eschuma Absolute as they like to be called was formed in 1977 by players from the UoN. They went on to win the league that year and twice after in 1977 and 1989. Like Everton FC, Machine share a history with the Liverpool of Kenya Cup, Nondies RFC. Though not as strongly as the English sides the two have had great encounters over the past and it is always a thriller when they meet..cue the Floodies final. I must mention this here though that Machine’s favourite tournament is the floodies they are the most successful side in that tourney. Like the Everton faithful, Machine’s fans are a pretty loyal bunch. Machine also drew comparisons with Blackburn..but Machine didn’t buy their way to a title like Blackburn did in 1995.


Strathmore were almost as hard to find a match for as Nakuru, eventually Fulham had to do. Like Fulham, the Leos have never won a league title but have grown in stature since their respective promotions. As one of the two university sides in the league over the past seasons, they have shared a healthy rivalry with Machine. Strathmore though have had better fortunes over the last couple of seasons compared to Machine. 



Homeboyz rugby, playing their fourth season in Kenya rugby, the djs have won 2 ESS titles and a Mwamba Cup in that duration. Coming into the scene, they were the Man city of Kenya rugby, splashing the cash to acquire the services of a variety of stars, at one time their roaster included Kelvin Omiyo, Kennedy Moseti, Brian Nyikuli, John Ahenda, Ian Indimuli, Ken Isindu among others, the mentioned have already moved to other clubs. This financial power has however seemed to fade but not the spirit of the team and it is for this I had to match them with Wigan united. In the closing weeks of last season, Homeboyz hit a patch of form conjuring 4 wins in a row finishing 8th, kind of like Wigan do during the last weeks of the season when they look like prime candidates for relegation, just ask Arsenal.



Kisumu RFC playing in their second season in the Kenya cup and though they finished last in the 2011-12 season they made one thing clear, they are a tough nut in their backyard, there is only one team I could think of with a similar record…Stoke City, there’s a popular saying around soccer circles that goes something like..”Even Barcelona would struggle on a cold night at Stoke”, the same can be said of Kisumu, only change the cold with humid and night with evening and probably the Barcelona...

The newly promoted sides, Western Bulls and Blakblad will be looking to curve out a niche for themselves, as they are new sides to most. While the Echulusi (Western Bulls) will be making their first appearance in the top flight the Blad will be making their comeback. The KU side were relegated from the league in 2002, their promotion comes off the back of an impressive unbeaten season at the Nationwide league. The Bulls were runners up in the Eric Shirley Shield and earned promotion as the winners were Quins II and a side can’t have two sides in the top flight. For Bulls and Blad, I could not find matches…or maybe we could give them Norwich and Reading so that they don’t feel left out?             

So there you have it, I hope this helps all the ‘newbies’ out there as they make that all important decision...With the league set to kick off this weekend, expect a more serious preview..

Finally, Impala named their sevens side to the Singapore Cricket Club International rugby sevens tournament (2nd -4th Nov), for those wondering, No Impala is not playing in a cricket tournament…the 11 man squad will battle it out for the honours against sides from New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden.  The squad is as follows:

Travelling Party:
Duncan Ekasi, Davis Makori, Joel Omer, Anthony Oyugi, Ian Minjire, Anthony Nyandigisi (captain), Richard Sidindi, Robert Odhiambo, George Okowa, Samuel Oliech, David Dinda

Management: Innocent Simiyu (Head Coach), Philip Mwenesi (Team Manager), Godwin Karuga (Referee)

All the best to them as they represent the country…

With that ladies and gents…have a great week ahead aaannnnddd…..

KWISHA..Nimeruka Nje!!!         
    

9 comments:

  1. As you add your comments...dont just sema ati Kisumu should have been Barcelona...support your answer!!

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  2. Godwin Karuga(Referee) ...?

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    Replies
    1. Yeah..rugby games need those to go on..

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  3. coming from Manure's 'win' over the weekend and Quin's daylight theft of the Kenya cup title from Wanyore (with the aid of the referee aforementioned, of course), I completely agree that Quins is our Man U.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't want that to come out...but yeah..hehe!!

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  4. Spot on couldn't agree more.KCB's comparison with Chelsea, Quins with Man Utd and Nondies with Liverpool haha

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  5. I'm confused, I'm a Quins fan but totally dislike Man U.
    A die hard Gunner, but Impala... Not so much.
    Now I'm questioning my loyalties!

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  6. Poghie i think you did a good job....i agree with most of the comparisons..especially quins and nondies though it must have been quite hard to compare most teams coz of the differences in culture, for instance right now quins seems to have the same success that man utd had and the same funds and quality of squad of man city ( yaani big names and high profile transfers . Just my opinion though

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