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Wazito FC: Can record-breaking new boys conquer the KPL?

17:19 GMT+3 01/08/2019
Wazito win NSL trophy.
Having spent more than Sh8m on players ahead of the new Kenyan domestic season already, could the newly-promoted side be dark horses for the title?

Wazito FC have rocked the Kenya Premier League during the ongoing transfer window, embarking on an eye-catching and record-breaking spending spree which has prompted envious glances from their top flight rivals.
 
Fred Ambani's side have invested heavily, more than anyone else in the division, and have brought on board a mixture of youth and experience ahead of the new season, which kicks off on August 31.

The club’s ability to sign established players has taken others by surprise, and it's become easy to forget that they were only formed eight years ago, with the merger of the University of Nairobi team and an alumni group.

However, can they transform their ambitious transfer-market approach into a sustained title challenge, or are they destined to be merely a flash in the pan?

After making their debut in the KPL in 2018 under former coach Frank Ouna, a lack of finances saw them relegated to the National Super League for the 2018/19 season.

However, a takeover by Dubai-based Swedish businessman Ricardo Badoer in December 2018 transformed the club.

He ensured his charges were well equipped both on and off the pitch, and it was no surprise when they won the National Super League  title and returned to the KPL.

Players who were deemed as surplus to requirements - Stephen Owusu, Eugene Ambulwa, Cain Okeyo, Kennedy Ayako, Michael Abu, Samson Ndegwa, Ryan Hamisi, Oliver Kilonzo, David Orem, Collins Neto, and Yusuf Mohammed - were dropped and replaced with more established campaigners.

The spending spree started with Sony Sugar duo Derrick Otanga and Kevin Omondi, Gad Mathew from Kariobangi Sharks and Bernard Ochieng from Vihiga United.

However, it's been the arrival of Elvis Rupia, former Gor Mahia duo Abouba Sibomana and Karim Nizigiyimana, Pistone Mutamba and Ugandan midfielder Mansoor Safi Agu over the last week which has prompted title talk even before a ball has been kicked.

The club have already splashed over Sh8million on new players, more than any other team has spent to acquire players in any transfer window in the history of Kenyan football.

Badoer claims the main objective is to turn Wazito into African giants, and the statement will be made by lifting the 2019/20 KPL title.

“We are serious in what we are doing, and people will be surprised when they see us lifting the title at the end of the season,” Badoer told Goal. “We mean business, and we don’t have time to waste.

"We are investing in the players we know will help us achieve our targets for the season.”

Being an impatient man, the new signings and the technical bench have to deliver or put their own futures at risk.

The club’s sporting director, Solomon Alubala, believes they will have a big say in the title race this season.

“We have gone for players who can help us realize our objectives," he told Goal. "Having a strong team with able players is the only way to stand the KPL storm."

“Right now we are preparing the team in all aspects, and I believe by the time the league starts, we will be ready.”

Wazito's rise has drawn parallels with 1985, and the formation of Volcano United, Kenya’s first-ever professional football team, who should represent a warning for WFC.

Led by national team players like Henry Motego, Hassan Juma, Davis Oyiela, Pitalis Owuor, and Nobert Anyira, Volcano went on to rank as one of Kenya’s premier football teams within a short period.

Like Wazito, the team plunged into the transfer market and signed players from outside Kenya, including the deadly Tanzanian striker Zamoyoni Mogella, midfielder Hamis Gaga, and defender Lila Shomari.

However, two years later, without any achievements, the club was disbanded.

Former Posta Rangers head coach Sammy Omollo insists buying quality players like Wazito are doing is not a guarantee they will dominate the local scene any time soon.

“Their signings are impressive, but there are no guarantees that they will have an immediate impact,” he told Goal. “I think they will have to set realistic objectives to avoid heartbreaks.

"We have the ‘big boys’ in the league who will have a say.”

Gor Mahia have dominated the domestic league for some time, but this transfer window they have lost big guns in Francis Kahata, Jacques Tuyisenge, and captain Harun Shakava.

With AFC Leopards and Tusker struggling, Wazito can represent genuine contenders, or they might fizzle away as Volcano United did.

Either way, their emergence-and ambition-represents a fascinating subplot for this Kenyan season and the 2019-20 KPL.