FKF-PL 2022-23 season review: The winners and losers from the just-concluded campaign

Johnathan McKinstry (black) winning the 2022/2023 FKFPL title with Gor Mahia || Photo Credit: Jonah Onyango [Standard]

FKF-PL 2022-23 season review: The winners and losers from the just-concluded campaign

Joel Omotto 05:00 - 28.06.2023

Gor Mahia and Nzoia Sugar were among those that impressed but Mathare United and AFC Leopards had a season to forget

The 2022-23 Football Kenya Federation Premier League has served up some thrilling action with the title race taken down to the wire until Gor Mahia pipped Tusker FC by one point to win a record-extending 20th crown.

The two teams exchanged leads a number of times before K’Ogalo stopped Robert Matano’s men from making it three straight. The duo made it a two-horse race after seeing their rivals fall off and stayed neck-and-neck until the season finale.

While the battle at the top was tight, it was similarly intense at the bottom where Mathare United and Vihiga Bullets suffered relegation while Wazito FC will await to know who they will face between Migori Youth and Mara Sugar in the promotion playoff.

It was not just these battles that served up the thrills and spills as there are a number of teams that totally disappointed while others hugely impressed in the just-concluded season.

Pulse Sports looks at the winners and losers in the FKF-PL in the 2022-23 campaign.

Winner: Gor Mahia

Gor Mahia players celebrate winning the league title.
©Gor Mahia Twitter.

Only one place to start. K’Ogalo are now 20-time champions, a feat that looked distant when the season started given they were slapped with a transfer ban and a largely unknown coach in Jonathan McKinstry took over the reigns.

The Northern Irishman was forced to work with a squad of just 18 players, most of them largely inexperienced, but even with his limited options, got the best out of them.

If anything, he has unearthed some gems with Benson Omala scoring a record equaling 26 goals while youngsters such as Sylvester Owino and Peter Lwasa have impressed.

This would perhaps not have been possible had Gor been allowed to sign players and the team is now in a stronger position with the transfer ban over, meaning the new arrivals will find an already established base to work with.

Winning the league has also exposed the tactical acumen of the 37-year-old McKinstry and it leaves him in a stronger position to continue with his project after it appeared that he could leave just a few weeks ago.

Loser: Tusker FC

© Tusker FC

While Gor are celebrating, Tusker are licking their wounds after missing the title by just one point.

Robert Matano’s men appeared to be favourites in May when they had a four-point lead plus what looked like a favourable run-in that included matches against Wazito FC, Posta Rangers and Vihiga Bullets but it proved their waterloo.

Defeat away to Wazito, followed by a draw against Posta, saw Gor Mahia pip them ahead of the season finale and they never recovered despite their 4-0 thrashing of Vihiga on the final day.

Having missed the chance to make it three straight titles, Tusker have a chance to wipe their tears somewhat if they can beat Kakamega Homeboyz in the FKF Cup final this weekend but already, there reports that Matano and a number of players could leave in the wake of the league defeat.

Winner: Kenya Police

©Kenya Police FC

The law enforcers were the biggest spenders in the last transfer window, roping in a number of top names and reaped a podium finish as a result.

Police managed to pip Nzoia Sugar to third place, on goal difference, after impressing especially in the second half of the season, going unbeaten in the last nine games and would even have challenged for the title had they not drawn three games over that period.

Francis Baraza’s men started the season poorly when they failed to win any of their opening four games while inconsistences in April also slowed them down. However, they ended the season as the team with the best attack (57 goals scored) and joint best defence (22 goals conceded) showing just how impressive they were.

They also have Golden Boot winner Elvis Rupia in their ranks, the former AFC Leopards striker scoring 27 goals, and in Baraza, who won the 2006 crown with Sony Sugar leading them, a title challenge next season is surely the target.

Loser: AFC Leopards

AFC Leopards at Nyayo Stadium.
© AFC Leopards

Another clawless, directionless and trophy less season for Leopards, their final day of the season was dominated with news of infighting at the club’s AGM on Sunday, showing how deeply divided they are.

Those divisions have also spilled into the playing unit who were recently rocked with reports of a go slow over delayed payment of their dues, leading the stripping off the captaincy from Eugene Mukangula and Peter Thiong’o.

These have come to the fore in recent weeks but Ingwe had been a big disappointment on the pitch even before that and ended the season in eighth position, one of their lowest.

To put into perspective, Leopards won just four of their last 15 games in all competitions and even coach Patrick Aussems’ gamble to focus on the FKF Cup failed to pay off as they lost to Kakamega Homeboyz in the semi-final.

Like Gor, Leopards were also hampered with a transfer ban which prevented them from signing players, forcing Aussems to rely on novices but while K’Ogalo flourished under the same circumstances, Ingwe fell off.

Aussems has received the backing of the club hierarchy to turn things around with fresh faces next season but a seventh year without a trophy will not be tolerated by the impatient fans who have already started turning against the club’s executive.

Winner: Nzoia Sugar

Nzoia Sugar players celebrating
© Nzoia Sugar

For a team that escaped relegation to finish 14th in the 2021-22, few would have expected Nzoia Sugar to be among the title contenders in 2022-23.

However, Salim Babu’s men showed remarkable consistency to finish just six points behind the champions and were in with a chance until the final weeks of the season when two defeats and a draw in their last four matches locked them out.

However, Babu deserves huge praise for the manner in which he has guided his team given they have done so under difficult circumstances with the club struggling to pay the players.

With his work, Nzoia are now in a weaker position as they will be struggling to keep hold of the tactician and his players who are surely set to attract plenty of suitors now that the transfer window is officially open.

Loser: Mathare United

© Mathare United

Mathare United kissed the top flight goodbye after a 25-year stay to mark an end to what was a remarkable story.

The club set the template for what talent hunting and nurturing should be all bout through the structures built under the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) and produced a host of players who were littered all over the league.

However, in recent years, Mathare have struggled not only to produce but also hold onto their best players due to a number of reasons, one among them being poor remuneration.

Their relegation was long time coming given they were hovering around the basement in recent years but they hit their nadir this season with results hard to come by from a squad that lacked quality, depth and motivation.

Even the sacking of Samuel Okoko and the appointment of Charles ‘Korea’ Omondi did nothing to stop the slide, the Slum Boys going down with one of the worst records, having won just eight of their 34 games, scoring 26 while conceding 62.