- Capital: Nairobi
- Population: 54,985,700 (2021 estimate)
- Official Languages: English, Swahili
- National Languages: Swahili
- Men’s Team Nicknames: Harambee Stars
- Women’s Team Nicknames: Harambee Starlets
- Association: Football Kenya Federation / Football Kenya (FKF)
- Top Male Domestic League: Kenyan Premier League
- Top Female Domestic League: Kenyan Women’s Premier League
- FIFA Code: KEN
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFCON Result (Men): Group Stage (6 times)
- Best AFCON Result (Women): Group Stage (2016)
- Best Olympics Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Olympics Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best CECAFA Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1995)
- Best CECAFA Cup Result (Women): WINNERS (2019)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 68th (December 2008)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 92nd (December 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 137th (July 2007)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 144th (December 2007)
- Most Capped Player: Musa Otieno – 90 caps
- Top Scorer: William Ouma – 35 goals
Introduction & Brief History
The Republic of Kenya, or Jamhuri ya Kenya in Swahili, is a country situated on the Indian Ocean coastline of East Africa. The country is situated roughly halfway on Africa’s eastern coastline with the Indian Ocean occupying Kenya’s southeastern frontier, whilst the shores of the majestic Lake Victoria are located in the southwestern corner of the country. Kenya shares a number of land borders with its neighbours with Somalia to the northeast, Ethiopia to the north, South Sudan to the northwest, Uganda to the east, and Tanzania to the south, whilst the island nation of Seychelles is directly east of the country’s largest port of Mombasa within the Indian Ocean. Kenya is the largest economy within eastern and central Africa, with its capital Nairobi serving as a major regional commercial hub. The name of the country originates from Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain on the African continent at 5199m elevation, and is situated roughly in the middle of the country.
Kenya was originally part of the large territory that the British Empire controlled along the length of the African continent, and naturally, football was introduced to the then colony by British colonists, port workers, and administration staff by the start of the 20th century. It wouldn’t be until 1926 when Kenya played its first officially recognised football match when they took on neighbours Uganda at Nairobi as part of the first Gossage Cup tournament (now the CECAFA Cup). The score ended in a 1-1 draw, with Kenya winning the replay 2-1 to win the first Gossage Cup / CECAFA Cup. The Kenya Football Federation (now the Football Kenya Federation) was founded in 1946 with the country becoming a member of FIFA in 1960, and CAF the following year. Kenya would gain its long-overdue independence in late 1963, with the country becoming a republic exactly a year after independence, however, Kenya is still an important member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
As mentioned previously, prior to independence, Kenya was a regular competitor in the regional Gossage Cup (named after the sponsor, the soap manufacturer Gossage) with the country winning the cup eleven times before its independence in 1963. Since then, Kenya has won the Gossage Cup / Challenge Cup / CECAFA Cup another ten times with their latest victory coming in the 2017 edition of the tournament when they beat Zanzibar in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw. Their combined total of 21 cup victories makes them the second-best team in the tournament’s history.
Kenya has yet to qualify for the World Cup, with their first attempt at qualifying for the global competition coming in the 1974 edition of the tournament. Their best attempt at reaching a World Cup probably came in the 1998 qualification campaign when they were in a group alongside Nigeria, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. Had Kenya had beaten group leaders Nigeria in their fifth group game, they could have topped the group with a winnable game against Burkina Faso remaining, but unfortunately lost 3-0 to the Super Eagles to confirm Nigeria’s qualification to France ‘98 instead. However, the Harambee Stars (“Harambee” is a Kenyan traditional concept of pulling the country together) has more success at the African Cup of Nations with the nation having qualified for Africa’s biggest tournament on six occasions.
The first appearance of Kenya at an AFCON tournament came in 1972 when they beat Ethiopia and Mauritius to qualify for the eight-team competition held in Cameroon. Despite gaining their first tournament point in a 1-1 draw with Mali, they were unable to win any games and failed to progress to the knockout stage. Sadly, in their six AFCON appearances, Kenya has yet to progress beyond the group stage and even failed to win a game in their first four appearances, even though they qualified for three consecutive AFCONs between 1988 and 1992. It wouldn’t be until their appearance in the 2004 AFCON when the Kenyans got their first victory in the tournament’s history by defeating Burkina Faso 3-0. They would double that tally in their sixth AFCON appearance fifteen years later by beating Tanzania 3-2 in 2019. Even with the increase of teams in the tournament, Kenya was still unable to progress to the knockout stage of the AFCON competition.
Sadly Kenya will not be competing in either the 2021/22 AFCON tournament or the 2022 World Cup. They just missed out on competing in the upcoming AFCON by two points after a critical defeat to surprise package Comoros in the second-to-last group game ensured that the island country progressed to their debut tournament rather than the Harambee Stars. Whereas they failed to progress to the third round of 2022 World Cup qualifying, with Mali being the runaway leaders of the group and Kenya only finishing in the third position. Nowadays, Kenya can be considered as a ‘middle-power’ in terms of African football with their current FIFA World Ranking of 22nd in CAF indicating that position. Nonetheless, they are always capable of getting a result against the very best teams on the continent, and it could be argued that they are a “sleeping giant” in African football with regards to its potential and football fanaticism within the economically powerful nation.
Kenya National Team
Q. Who is Kenya’s best player of all-time?
One player who can be considered as Kenya’s best-ever players that the country has produced is the legendary forward Joe Kadenge. His pure talent, dribbling skill, and entertaining style of play had an endearing influence on many Kenyans with the famous Kenyan football chant, “Kadenge na Mpira” being inspired by his talents. During his playing career, he played for Maragoli United, Abaluhya United (now AFC Leopards), and Harambee Stars, winning the Kenyan Premier League with Abaluhya United in 1966, and was one of the most important and influential players in Kenya’s national team throughout the 1960s. During his thirteen-year international career, Kadenge earned 63 caps and scored 25 goals between 1957 and 1970, which puts him as Kenya’s sixth-highest goalscorer.
Kadenge also had some success as a coach, taking control of Maragoli FC, and became the first Kenyan team to tour Europe for a match when they visited the Netherlands in 1977. Under his management, Maragoli United would also become a club that would produce a load of talented players for the national side throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He would eventually also coach the Harambee Stars in 2002 and won the Cecafa Cup with them – the first time Kenya had won the regional cup in nineteen years. It was also fitting that he would gain glory in the tournament as a manager considering it was his numerous performances in the Gossage Cup (the forerunner to the CECAFA Cup) as a player that helped establish his reputation as one of Kenya’s best players.
Kadenge was also known for his love of wearing hats, which in itself originated from his playing days. He scored a goal against a visiting English team during a friendly match at the Nairobi City Stadium and the then Mayor of Nairobi threw his ‘Godfather’ hat to the field in disgust! From that moment onwards, Kadenge vowed to sport the hat, just like the mayor.
Another player who could be considered as one of Kenya’s best-ever players is one who has only just recently retired from international football in September 2021, and is probably the most well-known Kenyan player in European football circles – the 30-year-old defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama.
Wanyama started his football journey at the JMJ Academy, during which time he played for Kenyan Premier League clubs Nairobi City Stars and AFC Leopards, before a brief jaunt to Sweden to play for Helsingborg. However, he started his professional career at the Belgian side Beerschot AC in 2008 with whom he played three seasons before making his move to Scottish giants Celtic in 2011 for a transfer fee of £900k, becoming the first Kenyan to play in the Scottish Premier League. During his two years at Celtic, he crafted his reputation as one of the best young African midfielders in European football through his performances with the Bhoys, whilst winning two Scottish Premier League titles and a Scottish Cup. He was also named in the 2012-13 PFA Scotland Team of the Year and also won the SPL Young Player of the Year award in the same season.
Naturally, his performances in Scottish football soon attracted teams south of Hadrian’s Wall and in 2013 he signed for English Premier League side Southampton for £12,5m, making him the first Kenyan to play in the EPL. After a successful period on the south coast of England where he made 85 appearances for the Saints, he rejoined with former manager Mauricio Pochettino by joining Tottenham Hotspur in 2016 for around £11m. During his first season with Spurs, he would become a regular in the first team, but injuries and new midfielder signings would see his opportunities becoming increasingly limited during his four-season stay in North London, making only 69 appearances in total. Although he was in the matchday squad, Wanyama would be an unused substitute for the 2019 UEFA Champions League final which Tottenham ultimately lost. In March 2020, Wanyama’s seven-season stay in the EPL came to an end when he joined MLS side CF Montréal as their ‘Designated Player’, and he has just recently completed his second season having played just under 50 games for the Québécois club.
With regards to his international career, Wanyama made his international debut in May 2007 at just 15 years old in a friendly against Nigeria, whilst he was playing at AFC Leopards as a member of the JMJ Academy, which showed the massive potential the FKF believed he had. He would become their most recognisable player and the lynchpin in their midfield through the 2010s, eventually becoming the Kenyan national captain in 2013 and leading his side during the 2019 AFCON tournament by playing in all three group games. After an impressive fourteen-year international career with Kenya, he finally announced his international retirement in September after having earned sixty-four caps with the Harambee Stars and scoring six goals.
Q. Who is currently the best player in the national team?
The player who is currently the best team in the Kenyan national team is the 27-year-old Nairobi-born striker Michael Olunga. He started his career with the Liberty Sports Academy where he managed to gain season-long loan moves to Tusker, Thika United, and Gor Mahia, with his loan move to K’Ogalo being especially successful. During his time there in 2015, he managed to score 19 goals in 27 appearances to finish as the club’s top goalscorer during an undefeated league-winning campaign. His exploits attracted the attention of Swedish club Djurgårdens IF whom he joined in 2016, and continued his fine form by scoring 12 goals in 27 appearances for the Järnkaminerna, earning himself a nomination for Newcomer of the Year in the Allsvenskan end-of-season awards. Alas, his time in Sweden was a brief period as he soon moved again, this time joining the money-fuelled revolution that was occurring in Chinese football by joining Guizhou Zhicheng in 2017.
His time in China was incredibly brief, playing just 9 games for the club before moving on loan to the Spanish side of Girona for the 2017-18 season. His debut with the Catalan club was perfect as he scored a hat-trick against Las Palmas becoming both the first Kenyan player and first Girona player to score a hat-trick in La Liga. Ultimately a permanent move back to European football never materialised and Olunga continued to play in Asian football by moving to J.League 2 side Kashiwa Reysol in the summer of 2018. He would become one of Taiyō-Ō‘s most important players during his three-year stay at the Chiba-based side. Olunga scored 27 goals in the 2019 J2 season to ensure Kashiwa was promoted back to J1 as champions, and then finished the following season as the J1 top goalscorer with 28 goals. His excellent strike rate earned him the 2020 J.League MVP award – the first African player to ever receive the prestigious award.
At the start of 2021, Olunga moved across the vast Asian continent and joined the then Qatari defending champions Al-Duhail for a reported €6m. Although he joined halfway through the 2020-21 Qatari season, his 6 league goals helped them finish as runners-up in the league. He has continued his excellent goalscoring form into the ongoing 2021-22 league campaign by having scored an incredible 12 goals in the 7 games he has played in this season (at time of writing). In addition, Olunga finished as the top scorer of the 2021 AFC Champions League competition with 9 goals despite Al-Duhail disappointingly failing to progress beyond the group stage of the continental competition. Certainly, he has confirmed his position as one of the most lethal strikers currently playing in Asian football.
In terms of the Kenyan national team, Olunga made his international debut in a friendly against Seychelles in March 2015 and scored his first international goal against South Sudan in the summer of the same year. Since his senior debut, he has made 48 appearances for the Harambee Stars and has scored 21 goals (at time of writing) putting him joint-seventh in the all-time Kenyan top goalscoring chart. Olunga was also a member of the 2019 AFCON squad where he famously scored a brace (which included a superb overhead kick) against Tanzania in Kenya’s only victory of the tournament (and second AFCON win in history). He recently scored goals against Uganda and Rwanda in the final two 2022 World Cup qualifying fixtures played in November, and has recently been named the Kenyan Outstanding Sports Personality of the Year for 2021. Finally, his nickname amongst the Kenyan football fans is “The Engineer” because Olunga studied geospatial engineering at the Technical University of Kenya and pursued a Bachelor of Engineering degree.
- CAF’s Highlights of Kenya vs. Tanzania in the 2019 AFCON: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEznESAs4bs
Q. Who could be considered as the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
There are a number of talented young Kenyan players that could be worth keeping an eye on in the next few years to see whether they fulfill their potential and become regular members of the national team. Here are some players to focus on:
- Timothy Ouma – 17-year-old attacking midfielder who currently plays for Nairobi City Stars. He has just recently broken into the full national side, making his international debut in November’s World Cup qualifying game against Uganda, and then making his second apperance few days later against Rwanda.
- Tyler Onyango – 18-year-old versatile midfielder and sometime full-back who currently stars for Everton’s under 23 side. Although he is English-born, and has been capped for the England under 17 side, he has a Kenyan father and is thus eligible to play for the Harambee Stars. He has stated in previous interviews that he is open to the idea of playing for the Kenyan national team in the future.
- Richard Odada – 20-year-old highly-rated defensive midfielder currently playing for Serbian SuperLiga side Metalac but on loan from Red Star Belgrade. Odada came through the youth teams at Red Star and has recently obtained Serbian citizenship, but he made his Kenyan international debut in September 2021 against Uganda and has currently got six caps for the national side. He scored his first international goal when he scored a penalty against Rwanda in November’s 2022 World Cup qualifier.
- Wilkims Ochieng – 18-year-old defender/midfielder who is currently contracted at Club Brugge in Belgium, and plays for their under 21 side, named Club NXT. Although he was born in Nairobi, he was brought up in Belgium and has been capped by the Belgium under 16 team. However, he was shortlisted in the Kenyan national team call-ups for the November World Cup qualifiers, and should make his international debut in due course.
- George Gitau – 18-year-old right-back currently competing for the under 23 team of Middlesborough. He signed for the North Yorkshire side in January 2020 on a academic scholarship after having played for Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and Brighton youth teams.
- Benson Omalla – 17-year-old Gor Mahia forward who is already part of the U20 Kenya squad that played in the Cecafa Championship, and has already established himself as a starter at K’Ogalo.
Q. What is the current state/performance of the Kenyan national team?
The results of the Kenyan national team in 2021:
- 13th Mar [Friendly]: South Sudan (h) 1-0
- 15th Mar [Friendly]: Tanzania (h) 2-1
- 25th Mar [2021 AFCONQ]: Egypt (h) 1-1
- 29th Mar [2021 AFCONQ]: Togo (a) 2-1
- 2nd Sept [2022 WCQ]: Uganda (h) 0-0
- 5th Sept [2022 WCQ]: Rwanda (a) 1-1
- 7th Oct [2022 WCQ]: Mali (n) 0-5
- 10th Oct [2022 WCQ]: Mali (h) 0-1
- 10th Nov [2022 WCQ]: Uganda (a) 1-1
- 15th Nov [2022 WCQ]: Rwanda (h) 2-1
2021 has been a curious year for Kenyan football, and one which could be considered as ‘transitional’. Looking at the year’s fixtures, the Harambee Stars have had a seemingly decent run of results having stayed undefeated when they haven’t played Mali. The best result on the list is probably the 1-1 home draw with Egypt in the AFCON qualifiers, equaling the reverse fixture played in November 2019. Sadly, their excellent performances against one of Africa’s best teams were not enough to qualify for their seventh AFCON tournament with the 2-1 away loss to the Comoros in November 2020 proving crucial in allowing Les Coelacantes to claim the important second place spot and finish two points ahead of Kenya to qualify for their debut tournament. A bitter disappointment and missed opportunity for Kenya who were the second-highest seeded side within the group.
- CAF’s Highlights of Kenya vs. Egypt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXm-Jj8dSjc
However, the national team experienced a change in management when Jacob “Ghost” Mulee was relieved of his duties (ending his fifth spell as national team manager) following the draws to Uganda and Rwanda in September’s qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. He was replaced by former Moldovan national team manager, the Turkish coach Engin Fırat, who probably had the worst start possible as manager by facing a determined and impressive Malian side at the neutral venue of Agadir in Morocco, but managed to redeem some respect in the reverse fixture a few days later. They were very unlucky not to beat the second-seeded side Uganada in November’s game as they conceded an 89th minute equaliser to draw 1-1, but finally managed to get their first win of the campaign in their final group game by beating Rwanda 2-1 at home. Having been drawn as the third-ranked team in the group, a third place finish was the par finish for Kenya. Nonetheless, had they held onto that win against Uganda and beaten bottom-seed Rwanda, they could have finished in second place in the group and perhaps gotten some momentum going into 2022.
- FIFA’s Highlights of Kenya vs. Rwanda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU9FZnAEEbo
At the time of writing, the Kenyans are just outside of the top 100 countries in the FIFA World Rankings and are the 22nd highest ranked side within Africa. New coach Fırat will be hoping to improve on that standing and he aims to stamp his own mark on the national team throughout 2022 and beyond.
Q. Looking at Kenya’s international history, what has been the best game, result, or performance for the representative team?
I would have to say that Kenya’s best performance probably came in the 2004 edition of the African Cup of Nations. Qualifying for the tournament was certainly an ordeal having been drawn in a tough group alongside Togo (who would subseqently qualify for the 2006 World Cup), Cabo Verde, and Mauritania. The Harambee Stars started their qualifying brightly by winning their first three group games without conceding a goal against their three opponents, and be within reaching distance of finally qualifying for their first AFCON since 1992. However, a disappointing goalless draw with Mauritania was followed by a 2-0 away defeat to Togo which left Kenya in serious peril of missing out on qualification altogether as both Togo and Cabo Verde were just a point behind them and only the group winner guaranteed of progression to the finals. In a nervy final group game against Cabo Verde where either one of the top three teams could have won the group dependant on results, it was left to striker Dennis Oliech to score a late and decisive winning goal six minutes from full time to finally confirm Kenya’s group victory as they stumbled over the finish line to qualify for their first AFCON in twelve years.
In the finals tournament held in Tunisia, they were drawn in a very difficult and Sahel-dominated group alongside Mali, Senegal, and Burkina Faso. In their first group game against an impressive looking Malian side, they fought bravely at Bizerte and levelled the scores to 1-1 with midfielder Titus Mulama scoring an 58th minute equaliser, but would succumb to a 3-1 defeat. Their next group game was against the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists, Senegal, who were currently enjoying their golden generation of stars. Alas Kenya were unable to resist Senegal’s attacking threat and lost 3-0, conceding all three goals within the first half an hour of the game, to confirm their elimination from the tournament after just two group games. With only pride at stake for their final group game, they returned to Bizerte to take on Burkina Faso, who still had an outside chance of progressing to the knockout stage. After a goalless first half, Kenya created a memorable second half when goals from forward Emmanuel Ake, Dennis Oliech, and striker John Baraza confirmed a historic 3-0 victory for Kenya – their first-ever victory in the AFCON finals!
That notable win meant Kenya leapfrogged their opponents in the group table to finish in third position and provide the Harambee Stars with a memorable conclusion to an action-packed and iconic campaign.
Q. What is your favourite shirt from the Kenyan national team?
In recent years, Kenya has worn some superbly designed shirts. One of the most eye-catching designs was the Mafro-made shirts that they only played in one match against Sierra Leone in 2017 (the result of which was later expunged by CAF) which used a repeating star pattern design accompanied by a large star in the middle of the shirt. All three shirts used the same design with the home shirt in red (the best one in my opinion), the away shirt in white, and a third shirt in green. However, my favourite Kenyan shirt was the home shirt that they wore after the Mafro contract was abruptly ended in mid-2017 and they switched to Uhlsport in the same year.
As mentioned in previous blogs, I am a fan of football shirts that adopts the national flag in the design of the shirt. This design is another example of that with the home shirt having the shadow of a stylised Maasai shield and the two crossed spears in the middle of it, as taken from the Kenyan flag. In addition, the trim on the sleeves has the same horizontal stripes and colours as those on the flag also. It is a superb shirt and more in keeping with a Kenyan shirt, rather than the star-laden shirts previously worn which are probably more in keeping for countries who actually have stars on their flag. To see more pictures of the Uhlsport shirt worn by Kenya, it can be found at Football Shirt World:
Kenyan Domestic Football
Q. What is the Kenyan football pyramid like?
At the time of writing, the Kenyan football pyramid has at least seven levels:
- Tier 1 – Kenyan Premier League
- Tier 2 – Kenyan National Super League
- Tier 3 – Division 1 (Zone A & B)
- Tier 4 – Division 2 (Western, Central, Eastern, and Northern Zones)
- Tier 5 – Regional Leagues
- Tier 6 – County Champions League
- Tiers 7+ – Sub-County Leagues
The top tier league in the Kenyan football pyramid is the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) which was first founded in 1963 as the Kenya National Football League. Currently, there are 18 teams who compete in the KPL who play each other home and away to produce a 34-game league campaign that starts in August and concludes in May the following year. The Kenyan champions then qualify for the following season’s CAF Champions League, where the champions enter the continental competition at the first qualifying round. Normally the bottom two teams in the KPL are automatically relegated to the 20-team Super League and are replaced by the winners and runners-up of the national second tier. The team that finishes in sixteenth position in the KPL will have to compete in a two-legged promotion/relegation playoff against the third-placed team from the Super League, with the winner of the tie confirming their place in the following year’s KPL.
The main national cup competition is the FKF President’s Cup, and its first final was held in 1956 with its first winner being Mombasa Liverpool. The winner of the President’s Cup will qualify for the following season’s CAF Confederation Cup (Africa’s secondary continental club competition), and enter at the first qualifying round.
Q. Which Kenyan teams are historically the most successful?
These are the number of titles each Kenyan club has won since the first season was held in 1963:
- 19 titles: Gor Mahia
- 12 titles: AFC Leopards, Tusker FC
- 4 titles: Ulinzi Stars
- 2 titles: Luo Union, Oserian
- 1 title: Nakuru AllStars, Feisal, Utalii, Sony Sugar, Mathare United, Sofapaka
There have been three teams that have won more than ten national championships in Kenyan football – Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, and Tusker FC.
Clearly, the most successful Kenyan team is the Nairobi-based side Gor Mahia who has won an unprecedented nineteen titles in the club’s history. Formed in 1968 as a merger between Luo Union and Luo Sports Club, they won their first championship in the same year as their foundation by winning the 1968 league. The club was named after a legendary medicine man in Luo mythology, whose nickname was Gor Mahia (“Mahia” is Luo for “magic“) because he was famous for performing magic. The club’s most famous nickname, K’Ogalo, also stems from the name of the medicine man, which means “House of Ogalo” in Luo. They have been one of the traditional powerhouses of Kenyan football winning eleven championships on a regular occurrence from 1974 to 1995, and famously staying unbeaten in their 1976 triumph. The late 1990s and 2000s were a quiet period for K’Ogalo until they broke an eighteen-year wait to clinch their thirteenth title in 2013. Since then, they have won a further six championships with the club easily being the most dominant in the 2010s. Their last title victory came in the 2019-20 season – their fourth Kenyan championship in a row!
Abaluhya Football Club Leopards Sports Club, officially abbreviated as AFC Leopards, or simply known as AFC, Leopards, or Ingwe (Luhya for ‘Leopards‘), is another successful side based in the Kenyan capital. With 12 league championships to their name, they are currently the joint-second most successful club behind their fierce rivals Gor Mahia, whom they compete against in the Mashemeji / Nairobi / Ingo-Dala Derby, the oldest rivalry in Kenyan football. Founded in 1964 as Abaluhya United FC, they won their first two championship titles back-to-back in 1966 and 1967, before adding another two in the early 1970s. However, Ingwe‘s most dominant period came in the 1980s when the club won six titles during the decade including three consecutive victories between 1980 and 1982. However, unlike their main rivals, they are currently suffering a considerable title drought having not claimed the championship since 1998. Relegation from the top-flight during the 2000s didn’t help in that lengthy wait, however, the club has since returned to the Kenyan Premier League and is still a competitive team within the top flight.
Another Nairobi-based side has twelve Kenyan championships to its name, and that is Tusker FC. They were formed in 1969, and the club is sponsored by East African Breweries with its current name referring to Tusker, a well-known beer brand by the company. The club was known as Kenya Breweries until 1999 when the current name was adopted. The Brewers won their first league title in 1972 and claimed a further two championships throughout the 1970s before having to wait sixteen years before winning their fourth league title in 1994. This was the start of a successful period for Kenya Breweries as it won four Kenyan titles between 1994 and 2000. They have continued their success into the 21st century with a further five league championships and becoming one of the strongest teams within Kenya. This is certainly evident as the Brewers are the current Kenyan champions, having won their twelfth title in the most recent 2020-21 campaign.
Below is the list of Kenyan teams who have won the FKF President’s Cups more than once since the first final was held in 1956:
- 10 cups: AFC Leopards
- 9 cups: Gor Mahia
- 4 cups: Luo Union, Tusker FC
- 3 cups: Sofapaka FC
- 2 cups: Mombasa Liverpool, Rivatex FC, Mumias Sugar, Mathare United, Bandari FC
In terms of the history of the President’s Cup, it’s the Mashemeji Derby rivals who dominate in national cup victories, with AFC Leopards having won one more cup final victory to their name than their rivals Gor Mahia. The former having won ten cups whilst the latter with nine cup trophies in their respective histories. AFC Leopards won their first cup in 1967 as Abaluhya United, and won their most recent President’s Cup in 2017 when they defeated Kariobangi Sharks 2-0. Gor Mahia claimed their maiden cup triumph in 1981 and are the current President’s Cup holders after defeating their fiercest rivals, AFC Leopards, in the 2021 final. After the clubs could not be separated after a goalless ninety minutes, it was K’Ogalo who succeeding in the resulting penalty shootout by winning 4-1 on spot-kicks to get one over their rivals.
The most recent ‘new’ name to have won the President’s Cup is Kariobangi Sharks, who has appeared in three of the last four cup finals that have been held. The eastern Nairobi-based side appeared in their debut cup final in 2017, but as was mentioned previously, they lost to AFC Leopards. However, they returned to the final the following year and claimed their first cup title by beating Sofapaka FC 3-2 in 2018. The Sharks would return for a third consecutive cup final in 2019 but would be unable to successfully retain their trophy, falling 3-1 to Bandari FC.
Kenyan clubs have been incredibly successful in the regional cup competitions, with a wealth of victories coming in the CECAFA Club Cup tournament. AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia, and Tusker FC have all lifted the East African trophy on five occasions, however, AFC Leopards did win a sixth in the very first tournament held in 1967 (as Abaluhya), although this additional victory is not recognised by CECAFA. They would compete in the very first recognised final in 1974 but would lose to Tanzanian giants Simba.
Gor Mahia first won the tournament, winning in both 1976 and 1977 (as Luo Union) before adding another consecutive double in 1980 and 1981, and finalising their five victories in 1985 with a satisfying 2-0 revenge victory over their fiercest rivals. They last appeared in the tournament final in 2015 but lost 2-0 to Tanzanian side Azam, and have been the last Kenyan team to reach the final at the time of writing. AFC Leopards added to the Kenyan dominance of the CECAFA Cup of the late 1970s to early 1980s by winning their first in 1979 (as Abaluhya) before achieving three trophies in a row between 1982 and 1984, with the 1984 final being a memorable 2-1 victory over Gor Mahia. Their last appearance in the regional final came in 1997 when they overcame an all-Kenya final by beating Kenya Breweries (now Tusker) 1-0. Kenya Breweries’ first CECAFA Cups came in the late 1980s when they won the 1988 and 1989 editions of the tournament before adding another two consecutive victories in 2000 and 2001 (another all-Kenyan final). They are also the most recent Kenyan winner of the competition having last won the cup in 2008 when they beat Uganda Revenue Authority 2-1 in that year’s finals.
There have been other Kenyan teams who have appeared in the CECAFA Cup final but were unable to lift the trophy. Oserian FC, from the southwestern town of Naivasha, were the other Kenyan team in the 2001 final mentioned previously but lost to Tusker on penalties after a goalless final. Nakuru-based side Ulinzi Stars managed to reach the final of the 2004 edition of the regional cup competition during their successful period in the early 2000s, but fell at the final hurdle by losing 3-1 to Armée Patriotique Rwandaise.
Sadly, Kenyan success in CAF-organised African competitions has been sparse. Gor Mahia are the only team from Kenya, and the CECAFA region as a whole, to win an African continental title to date, having won the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987 after previously reaching the final in 1979. In their previous ACWC final, they lost 8-0 on aggregate to Cameroonian side Canon Yaoundé, but created history eight years later when they defeated Tunisian side Espérance on away goals after a 3-3 draw after two legs. Their two goals in the first leg proved crucial for their ultimate victory over the two legs. Kenya Breweries are the only other Kenyan side to have reached an African competition final when they reached the 1994 final of the ACWC. Taking on DR Congolese side DC Motema Pembe, they achieved an impressive 2-2 away draw in the first leg to put themselves in a strong position to lift the trophy but subsequently lost at home 3-0 in the second leg to disappointingly lose 5-2 on aggregate.
Q. Who are currently the best teams in the country?
As mentioned earlier, the current league champions are Tusker FC, who claimed their 12th title in the delayed 2020-21 season. Aided by their formidable attack where they scored a league-high total of 52 goals throughout the campaign, Tusker were just able to hold off the challenge of Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) to win the Kenyan championship by just a three-point winning margin. The Brewers‘ 2-1 nervy victory over Bidco United was just enough to clinch the title after KCB had comfortably won 3-0 away against fellow capital side Nairobi City. The Mombasa-based side Bandari FC finished in the third position, twelve points behind the champions and confirming their position as one of the best sides within Kenya after having been runners-up in the 2018-19 season. The defending champions Gor Mahia had a disappointing season by finishing in eighth position in the league, and three points behind rivals AFC Leopards (both sides were also deducted three points for failing to fulfill a fixture between themselves). However, they could take some solace from the season by winning the 2021 President’s Cup final, as mentioned previously, and qualifying for the 2021-22 CAF Confederation Cup.
Tusker FC also qualified for the 2021-22 CAF Champions League (CCL) but not because they were crowned as champions. Due to the delayed start to the 2020-21 Kenyan Premier League, it had failed to conclude before the CAF deadline for deciding qualifying teams. As a result, it was decided that the team that was leading the table by 30th June 2021 would represent Kenya in the CCL, and so Tusker qualified for the continental tournament via that unique route.
The links for the Football Kenya Federation official social media channels can be found below:
- Website: https://footballkenya.org/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FootballKenyaFederation/
- Twitter: @Football_Kenya
- YouTube: FKF TV Channel
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/football_kenya/
In addition, there are a number of other Kenyan and African football websites or social media accounts that report on Kenyan football. They can be found below:
- African Insider Twitter: @African_Insider
- African Ftbl Twitter: @AfricanFtbl
- AfricanFootball.com Twitter: @AfrFootball
- AfricanFootball.com Website: https://africanfootball.com/
- John Aggrey Twitter: @Superjohna07
- Alasdair Howorth Twitter: @ahoworth97
- Between The Lines Website: https://www.betweenthelinesfootball.com/
- Zachary Oguda Twitter: @zaxoguda
- Bonface Osano Twitter: @bonfaceosano
- Ole Teya Twitter: @Kevin_teya
- Kenyan Football Twitter: @KenyaPremierLg
So that completes the look at the Kenyan national team and its domestic league. If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.