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ONYANGO: Investment in youth key to Bandari’s recent success

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Bandari football club’s consistent and sound youth program is already paying dividend and the Dockers might as well make history by running away with the SportPesa Premier League title, their first.

With an average age of 22, and currently placed jointly second with Gor Mahia on 22 points with a game in hand, those waiting for Bandari to drop points and finish outside the podium might be in for a very rude shock.

The 4-0 drubbing by Homeboyz in Kakamega which came just days after the team had returned from finishing second in the SportPesa Cup in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where they finished second.

For Bandari to have played a competitive match on foreign land Sunday, return to Mombasa Monday then hit the road for over 900km for a league match in Kakamega on a Wednesday was inconsiderate on the part of KPL.

Back to Bandari, the sound youth program started by coach Ken Odhiambo in 2016, when he took over from Fred Nkata, seems to be working and might as well see the dockers run away with the league crown.

Odhiambo, the former Harambee Stars full back who later rose to the position of Harambee Stars assistant coach, is remembered for guiding a youthful City Stars to a respectable finish in the league.

When he was tasked with taking over the reins at Bandari, he embarked on a seven-year plan with a youthful side which he believed would at some point in the future win the league.

Bandari had escaped relegation by a whisker after finishing at a poor 13th position under Nkata and Odhiambo took the mantle. He recruited youthful players – a majority them former high school students among them Hassan Abdallah, Wilberforce Lugogo, Mohammed Siraj, Keagan Ndiema, Omar Bora Afya (now at Ulinzi), John Avire (now at Sofapaka), Abdallah Khamis and Fred Nkata.

When he left the team last year for Sudan in June, the team was fourth on the log and he proposed another youth-oriented coach Bernard Mwalala to take over.

Mwalala brought with him only two players, 22-year-olds Brian Otieno and goalkeeper Mustapha Oduor both from Nzoia Sugar and the team went on to finish a historic second last year. He also recently brought in immediate former St Anthony school utility player Moses Mudavadi and 23-year-old Ugandan Willian Wadri and the results are evident for all to see.