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Koth Biro lives up to its true spirit of nurturing talent

Makongeni Youth are the new Koth Biro champions after defeating rivals Black Mamba.

Makongeni lifted the trophy and pocketed Sh100,000 after a deserved 1-0 win at Ziwani to cap a month of gruelling action.

A 1000 Street claimed the third spot after edging out Intercity 2-1 on post-match penalties during their play-off clash.

Intercity and A 1000 Street played to a barren draw in regular time, forcing the match into penalties.

It was a fitting end  for a tournament that brought out the best from the 32 participating teams.

For the first time in the tournament two teams from outside Nairobi – Kiambu took part,  a sign that the off -season championship has a growing fan base outside eastlands.

Koth Biro’s primary goal is to help curb crime among youths and nurturing talent.  For the past 36 years, top football names have sharpened their skills at Ziwani grounds where the championship is traditionally held.

Koth Biro football tournament was first held in 1978. Upcoming players get a chance to brush shoulders with established footballers. The tournament is an advocacy tool and a forum  to address social and economic issues.

Some of the great players who have featured in the championship include John Bobby Ogolla, Ben Agina, George ‘Djodjo’ Opiyo Dzimbiri, Zablon ‘Pro’ Otieno, Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo, Paul Onyiera, Jack Oguda, Musa Otieno, Jamal Mohammed, Dennis Oliech, Mc Donald Mariga and Victor Mugubi.

The tournament received a boost  for the first time when pay TV service provider GOtv sponsored it.

The package included monetary awards totalling Sh250,000 for the top four teams, kitting of all teams that qualified for quarter-finals, GOtv decoders for the winners and tournament organisers, among other incentives for players.

Previously, the tournament mainly depended on the goodwill of politicians but according to the organisers, the coming in of GOtv is a huge leap towards making the tournament professional.

“GOtv is company dedicated to the development of sports and growing talent. We hope this is the beginning of a long partnership,” said Koth Biro chairman Charles Handa.

GOtv promised to support future championships, saying it was committed to promoting sports.

“We are happy to be associated with the oldest grassroots tournament and we hope to carry on with the partnership for bigger plans in the future,” SuperSport East Africa general manager Auka Gacheo.

Coaches termed this year’s championship as one of the most professionally run and also gave credit to match officials for making the right decisions at crucial moments.

Makongeni Youth head coach Albert Oluoch gave the tournament a thumbs up. He said there was high quality football and the competitive nature of the tournament is a motivation for players to keep coming back.

“The standard of football showcased by the teams was outstanding, the games were a joy to watch and I hope scouts did their homework well because the talent that was on display should not go to waste,” said Oluoch.

Over 200 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) players turned out for various teams, giving the tourney a profesional touch, urgency and cut-throat competition. Most players used Koth Biro to prepare for the new KPL season that kicks of next month. The tournament was a platform to regain form and for those returning from injury, it was a good way of gaining fitness.

Makongeni’s Titieh Olesu who was voted the best player said the Koth Biro title was a dream come true.

“If a footballer has not played at the tournament, they have not sampled the best football in Kenya,” he said.

New Tusker player Clifford Alwanga said the championship was a great contributor to the growth of his football career.

“I took part in Koth Biro for the third year. Frankly, it has helped shape me. Being an off-season championship, it comes in handy. If a player is not watchful they could easily lose form during the season break,” added Alwanga.

Alwanga missed a penalty in the semi-finals as his team A 1000 Street lost out to eventual winners Makongeni Youth.

He. however. put the disappointment behind him and led the team to victory against Kawangware-based Intercity FC to clinch the third place and pocket Sh50 000 during the third place play-off.

On a lighter note, before the final was played, Nairobi-based sports journalists took to the field against Diaspora (former internationals staying abroad).

The game ended in a one all draw thanks to Lawrence Wangalwa and Sammy Pamzo Omollo goals for their respective teams.

The annual tourney gave little known players to get exposure.

Some of the footballers who stood out include, Kevin Idalia of A 1000 Street, Eric Mata of Black Mamba who went home with the golden boot after scoring eight goals, Makongeni’s Olesu and John Khalifa of Umeme.

Going by their performance, it is only a matter of time before the big boys in the Premier League come calling.

According to Idalia, who plays for Nairobi Provincial league side Nairobi Water, the tournament helps bridge the gap between senior and junior players.

“Young players value the championships and relate it to the top tier. Playing in such a competition gives us the hope and confidence of one day featuring in premier league,” said Idalia.

He urged the organisers to keep up with the good work.

“I came to the tournament as a greenhorn, but I left a better footballer because of the top class players I mingled with,” said Idalia.