The new men’s hockey Premier League champions Butali Sugar Warriors now targets three key singings with the intentions of not only retaining the local title but ending Kenya’s two decades drought at the Africa Club Championships next year.
Butali Sugar Warriors have chosen to skip this year’s Africa Club Championships that kicks off on Friday this week in Nigeria just to adequately prepare for next year’s continental championships.
“The league has just ended and players need to relax with their families as they take stock on their successful campaign,” said Butali Sugar team manager Kamal Sembi.
“We don’t want to take a fatigued side to Nigeria. We rather invest those funds in players and make a mark next year,” explained Sembi, who paid tribute to his players for their fighting spirit and will to win.
Sembi said that the team’s strong character was exhibited after they overcame favourites and defending champions Kenya Police in the last match 2-1 to recapture the title.
“We knew we depended on that match hence we prepared the players well mentally. It was all about their mental structure especially after our key player Zack Aura was unavailable due to personal commitments,” said Sembi.
Butali Sugar, sponsored by Butali Sugar Company, was formed in 2014, inheriting the berth left vacant by the disbanded Kisumu Simba. They won the league in 2014 and 2015 before surrendering to Strathmore University in 2016 and Police in 2017 and then recaptured it this year in dramatic fashion.
Sembi noted that the club’s coach Dennis Owoka was given free hand to sign players he felt would strengthen his squad. He brought in George Mutira, Nixon Amadi and experienced goalkeeper Linus Sang early in the season. He later signed Dutchman Maarten Fonteyn who helped them to recapture the title on the last day of the league.
“The three keys players we are targeting are top secret for now since we have until this weekend’s deadline to sign them. We want to challenge for the Africa title next year strongly,” he told Nation Sport.
Kenya has not won the Africa title since 1998 when Kenya Defence Forces team that had the likes of Owoka and Meshak Senge won the trophy.
The club’s sponsor through Sanjay Patel has expressed his desire for continental glory.
At the same time Owoka has urged Kenya Hockey Union to improve umpiring standards in the country as well organize more tournaments to help grow the game. “We also need to have tournaments in between the leagues. We need regional tournaments, lets us take hockey to Eldoret, Kisumu, Kakamega, Mombasa and Nakuru,” he said.