Shabana FC's rollercoster 2023: Rising from the ashes, battling storms and winning hearts

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FOOTBALL Shabana FC's rollercoster 2023: Rising from the ashes, battling storms and winning hearts

Festus Chuma 15:04 - 24.12.2023

From the triumphant return to the FKF Premier League to struggles, fan support, and hope for a brighter future.

A once-sleeping giant Shabana FC jolted back to life in June marking a triumphant return to the Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKFPL) after a hiatus of nearly two decades. 

The fans, who had weathered 17 years of disappointment, erupted in joy as Shabana clinched the top spot in the National Super League, securing their promotion. 

The sight of supporters running helter-skelter in celebration mirrored the ecstasy that enveloped the players and the entire Shabana community. 

The championship title, accompanied by the popping of champagne corks, signaled the end of a grueling yet rewarding journey back to the topflight football arena.

Shabana's ascent to the top tier was far from smooth, riddled with challenges stemming from disagreements between the FKF and the Premier League. 

The club's 2015 bid for promotion was thwarted when second-tier teams were denied entry into the Kenya Premier League, leaving players, management, and supporters frustrated and disheartened.

Despite these obstacles, Shabana's determination prevailed, and after nearly a decade of relentless effort, they secured their ticket back to the FKF Premier League.

Current challenges

In the current FKF Premier League season, Shabana finds itself facing a different set of challenges. 

After 16 matches, they languish in the 16th position with 14 points. Criticism has been directed towards the pre-season recruitment, with some attributing the team's performance struggles to the perceived lack of quality in the players brought in. 

The club's leadership has also encountered turmoil, with former football chief Sam Nyamweya seeking legal intervention to prevent chairman Jared Nivaton and Kisii Governor Simba Arati from overseeing the day-to-day affairs of the club. 

The abrupt sacking of coach Sammy Okoth in November added another layer of instability to Shabana's journey.

The decision to part ways with coach Sammy Okoth in November, despite a mixed record of one win, four draws, and six losses in ten games, reflected the club's determination for change.

However, the anticipated turnaround post-coaching change did not materialize, with Shabana winning only two additional matches, along with another draw and two losses. 

The struggle is evident in their goal statistics, having scored 15 but conceded 23.

The home ground conundrum

Adding to Shabana's woes is the lack of completion of the Gusii Stadium, which has forced the team to play home matches away at the Raila Odinga Stadium in Homa Bay. 

The renovations at Gusii Stadium aim to transform it into a modern facility with a seating capacity of 25,000. 

The county government's budget report indicates a substantial sum allocated for the renovations, with emphasis on the playing surface and perimeter fence. 

Shabana remains hopeful of returning to their home ground once the renovations are complete, providing a fitting stage for their future endeavors.

Partnerships and sponsorship

In November, Shabana suffered another setback with the unexpected departure of their long-standing consulting company, Beest Athletic Sports Wear.

This departure followed closely on the heels of the separation from coach Sammy Okoth, creating an air of uncertainty as the 2023-2024 FKF Premier League season unfolded.

However, at the beginning of the season, Shabana secured a significant boost with a Ksh20 million sponsorship deal with betting firm Bangbet

This sponsorship was a crucial lifeline for a club that had grappled with financial challenges on its journey to the top flight. 

Fan fervor

While on-field performances faced uncertainties, Shabana's fanbase emerged as a shining beacon of support. Fans considered the third most followed in the country, traveled in large numbers to cheer for their team.

 The promise of good performances and a return to form resonated with the loyal supporters.

Beyond the stadium, the fans' journeys contributed to a flourishing local economy, with businesses benefiting from increased hotel bookings and car hires, showcasing the profound impact of Shabana's fanbase beyond the pitch.

In the words of interim coach Kambona, "We are promising our fans that in the coming matches, we will give you a good performance. We are now coming back to the right shape." 

Despite the challenges, Shabana remains hopeful, anchored by the unwavering support of its fans and the anticipation of a revitalized Gusii Stadium. 

The year 2023, with its highs and lows, encapsulates the essence of Shabana's journey—a narrative of triumphs, setbacks, and a resilient fan community that stands by its team through thick and thin. 

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