D-day approaching for Nzoia Sugar as eight-year top league dream hangs by a thread

D-day approaching for Nzoia Sugar as eight-year top league dream hangs by a thread

Festus Chuma 15:41 - 16.05.2024

Nzoia Sugar faces relegation unless they win their next match ending an eight-year stint in Kenya's top football league.

Eight years in the top flight of Kenyan football could come to a sorrowful end on Sunday, May 19, for the Western Kenya-based side Nzoia Sugar FC.

The Sugar Millers face the daunting task of defeating Nairobi City Stars in a crucial match at Sudi Stadium in Bungoma County where failure to secure a victory will seal their relegation to the National Super League.

This pivotal moment follows a disappointing defeat to Kakamega Homeboyz in a midweek clash at the Mumias Sports Complex, where Nicholas Kipkirui's goal in the 36th minute left Nzoia empty-handed, despite a close call when Obed Khakina hit the post. 

With four matches remaining and rooted at the bottom with only 18 points, Nzoia’s path to redemption is fraught with challenges. They not only need to win all their upcoming matches but also depend on other teams like Shabana and Muhoroni Youth to lose theirs.

This season has been especially tough for the Bungoma-based club, which managed only four wins against a staggering 20 losses. 

Mike Mururi, the Nzoia head coach, remains hopeful yet realistic about their chances. 

"I am a believer. We still have games and if we can push ourselves over the next four games, I believe we can stay in the league," Mururi said.

The story of Nzoia Sugar is not just about this season's struggles but is reflective of the broader challenges faced by clubs from the sugar belt region. 

This area was once a thriving hub of Kenyan football talent and competitive spirit. Clubs like Mumias Sugar, Sony Sugar, and Chemelil Sugar have all fallen from the top tier, marking a distressing decline for the region's football legacy.

These clubs, primarily supported by local sugar companies, have battled through decades marked by financial instability, lack of professional management, and reliance on single-entity sponsorship. 

When this financial backing was withdrawn, the clubs found themselves unable to operate sustainably.

Nzoia's own promotion back to the Premier League in 2016 after more than a decade came as a beacon of hope, led by a 1-0 victory against St Joseph Youth which crowned them as winners of the National Super League.

However, the departure last year of coach Salim Babu to Police FC, followed by a mass exodus of star players such as Joseph Mwangi and Hassan Beja, severely weakened the team. 

Today, the fans remember the glory days with a mix of nostalgia and sadness.

 "It's hard watching the team struggle so much," shared lifelong supporter George Otieno. "Every game, we hope for the best, but it’s been tough."

In his recent interview, coach Mururi emphasized the need for improvement, particularly in their attacking strategy. 

"My players were not proactive enough, and that’s something we have to work on. We must be in a better condition to win if we want to stay up."

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