Over the weekend, we made time to visit the curtain-raiser for the upcoming season in the Kenyan football calendar & to a large extent, we were not disappointed. The game between Sofapaka & AFC Leopards had not had much hype but a fair crowd should up to cheer their favourite teams;
- Fanbase - given last season's hype by SuperSport and Kenya Premier League officials, the fans for both teams should up for what looks like a most interesting season. Though AFC enjoyed a larger crowd, as the season progresses we shall see a growth in Sofapaka's fan-base especially if they conquer their continental assignment.
- Ticketing - the prices for the tickets were reasonable enough and any fan worth their salt should not even go there complaining about this. The russian side was at 50 /= and the sheltered area 100/= with the main dais 200/=.
- Stadium management - the grounds looked well-maintained but might need more sprucing up especially as the season warms up proper.
- Refreshments & snacks - the fancy-looking hawkers selling the snacks got a boost from Coca-Cola which made their day by giving them easy vests to carry the bottles. This is a welcome move since the Sun was beating down on us for the better part of the afternoon.They were also affordable unlike other events where catering costs an arm and a leg.
Areas to Work On;
- Ticketing - Though the prices are fair, can the ticketing guys (one firm called Sports Ticketmasters) try and organise for advance tickets? For logistical purposes as well as security measures during big matches, they might need to work on this urgently.
- Security - I noticed less than 10 police officers around the grounds even when you consider that there is a police station right there at the stadium grounds. Given the penchant of fans getting carried away and questioning rather loudly the officials/referees word, a contingent of not less than 20 police and maybe security guards and volunteers is a future consideration. At one point, one of the linesmen had a bottle of soda hurled at him, not good in bigger (and most likely tense) games.
There was also a section of fans who were smoking some not-so-legal stuff and would most likely not be suitable in case of crowd trouble.
- MC and entertainment before and at half-time- This was a bit wanting and did not have the uumph that the crowd would participate in. One of the reasons people come to watch the game live is get entertained not just by the game but also antics of the acts as they get ready to watch their favourite players. As for the MC, he was more concerned with the English Premiership game which was to be screened later that evening than telling us more about the two teams on the pitch.
- Technical expertise of the teams - Though they have been having at least 2 months off the pitch, there were some wanting moves by both teams. AFC seemed most affected especially their forward line. Maybe it's the fact that they are moulding a new team but they need to come up with a tighter game.
Sofapaka looked more comfortable on the ball and looked more dangerous on the counter. They will need to work on their backline though especially given the Egpytians penchant for quick counters as seen during the African Cup of Nations.
If what we saw on Sunday is anything to go by,and if the Kenyan football officials do not interfere, Kenyan football might just be ready for take-off!