Former champions Butali Sugar Warriors have vowed to win back the Kenya Hockey Union men’s Premier League title in honour of their late coach Cliffe Okello.
The Kisumu-based side get their season underway on Saturday against Western Jaguars at the City Park Stadium in one of the nine matches lined up for this weekend.
In the women’s league, newcomers University of Nairobi take on Sliders on Sunday with this weekend’s first match pitting United States International University of Africa (USIU-A) against Kenyatta University (KU) Titans.
Focus will however be on Butali, who will be under the tutelage of Godfrey Wakachunga. The former Butali Sugar player replaces Okello, who died on January 24 this year.
Okello led Butali to back to back league titles in 2014 and 2015 before they were dethroned by Strathmore University Gladiators last year.
According to Butali team manager Kamal Sembi, Wakachunga is the right man to lead the club back to glory.
“Cliffe can never be replaced because he was simply one of a kind but Wakachunga understands the clubs and its vision and we have confidence he can lead us to success,” Sembi said on Friday.
With champions Strathmore and fellow title challengers Kenya Police all winning their first matches, Butali have no room for error.
“Last season’s disappointment still hurts but we have picked ourselves up and ready to fight for the title,” he added. Butali have recruited three new players- goalkeeper Pius Ratori from Mvita XI and the duo of Constant Wakhura and Derrick Kuloba (all Strathmore University).
The trio, who made their debut during the Africa Cup of Club Championship in January, are in contention to start. However, attackers Frank Wanagwe and Barnabas Odhaimbo have failed to recover from knee injuries.
Jaguars, who were set to play in the second tier league this season, will be looking for a better season. The Kakamega based side won a four team mini-play-off that was organized after Wazalendo Youth declined promotion to the top-tier.
“It is tough opening match but we are up to the challenge. Our target this season is to finish among the top five,” Jaguars coach Mike Malungu said. Allan Malit, Williss Malesi and Dan Simiyu will be the key players for Jaguars.
Butali have won the last five meetings between the clubs. In another men’s clash, newcomers Technical University of Kenya (TUK) welcome Nakuru Hockey club at City Park.
The league debutantes lost 2-0 to Chase Sailors last weekend and will be looking to bounce back.
At the Mombasa Sports Club, returnees Mvita XI and Mombasa Sports Club face-off in a men’s National League encounter on Sunday.
FIXTURES (All matches at City Park Stadium unless stated)
Premier Women: USIU-A v KU Titans -12pm
National Men: Parkroad Tigers v Thika Rovers – 2pm
Premier Men: TUK v Nakuru Athletic- 4pm, Butali v Western Jaguars – 6pm
Premier men: Parklands v Western Jaguars – 9am, USIU-A v Nakuru Athletic – 11am
National men: Mvita XI v MSC- 11am (Mombasa)
Premier women: Sliders v UON – 1pm