FKFPL: Nairobi United & Naivas' race to seal promotion-relegation playoff place against Sofapaka to go down to the wire

FKFPL: Nairobi United & Naivas' race to seal promotion-relegation playoff place against Sofapaka to go down to the wire

Mark Kinyanjui 14:30 - 24.06.2024

Sofapaka may have avoided automatic relegation, but their status as a topflight club is not safe yet, as Naivas and Nairobi United go head-to-head to seal third spot in the NSL.

On Sunday, Sofapaka were handed a close shave -at least for now - after they beat an already relegated Nzoia Sugar 3-1 on Sunday afternoon to seal a relegation playoff place, with Moses Adagala’s Muhoroni Youth going down after a season of inconsistency.

Batoto Ba Mungu has not had an easy season in any way possible. Aside from signing 18 players to the side before the start of the season, they also hired Francis Harigingio, a Burundian tactician they dismissed after just five games following a disastrous start to the season that saw them register just a point.

They then appointed Ezekiel Akwana on an interim basis, and he had to try and stabilize the ship, overseeing the side from October till January, before experienced tactician Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno was appointed in January to see them through the end of the season.

This was not without its drama, where around nine players were sent packing after boycotting training for failing to receive their wages in time. 

Although Zico had his side bolstered with some additions that helped them get through to the end of the season, they were handed a transfer ban in April, which now means they will not be able to sign players, and given they lack a youth program, it is hard to see how they will sustain themselves.

Nonetheless, they are in the playoff spot, and are not safe as it stands, and will have to face one of Nairobi United or Naivas in the match.

The NSL season will conclude next week. Naivas will be facing Assad in Coast, while already-relegated Silbwet will be playing Nairobi United.

Although Nairobi United are fourth on 72 points with Naivas third on 73, United could easily seal that third place spot. Silibwet are on a poor run of form having gained just one point from their last five matches, and have nothing to play for as they prepare to return to Division One.

Naivas, who were gunning for automatic promotion at some point lost form and dropped off the race as Mathare and Mara Sugar, who have already been promoted, ran into slippery ground and fell off the race, but picked their momentum again and are now in third place.

They will be facing Assad, who have nothing to play for having assured themselves of a place in the second tier next season. Assad will try everything they can do to make life difficult for them at home. While their away form is indifferent, in Kwale, they take advantage of the low altitude which favors them, and it may count in their favor.

Sofapaka will thankfully have time to prepare for the matches by taking part in a series of friendlies to help them get ready by the time they know who they will be facing.

Nonetheless, it promises to be an epic spectacle. Both Nairobi United and Naivas have never played in the Premier League, while Sofapaka have never been relegated since winning promotion in 2009, a league they went on to win that year.

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