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EXCLUSIVE: Sofapaka Owner Elly Kalekwa Assures Club Will Not Be Relegated

Sofapaka President Elly Kalekwa has remained adamant the club will not be relegated from the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League this season.

Dennis Onsare
Dennis Onsare

Last Updated: 2024-06-21

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Sofapaka President Elly Kalekwa has remained adamant the club will not be relegated from the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League this season.

Batoto ba Mungu’s quest to keep their status in the top flight suffered a blow on Sunday after losing 1-0 against reigning champions Gor Mahia at Machakos Stadium. The defeat came just a day after their fellow relegation fighters Shabana FC, pulled a shock 4-3 victory against AFC Leopards to move above them at the lower reaches of the 18-team table but on a better goal difference.

Shabana and Sofapaka Fighting To Keep Status

Shabana are currently sitting 15th with 32 points, the same number as Sofapaka with two matches remaining to conclude the season. Having been promoted to the top league in 2009, Sofapaka have never been relegated to the lower division but they wrote history by winning the title in their debut season.

However, this campaign, despite going for top signings including the return of Burundian striker Fiston Abdul Razak and hiring the services of Razak’s countrymen Francis Haringingo as the new head coach, they kicked off on a wrong footing finding themselves sucked into the relegation battle after only the first 10 rounds of matches.

The unpleasant results prompted Kalekwa to ring changes to the technical bench, off went Haringingo, and in came former Kenya international Ezekiel Akwana. They continued to blow hot and cold and by the halfway stage of the season, they were deeply rooted at the basement of the table.

The hiring of former Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars coach Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno to take charge on an interim basis with Akwana being demoted to the deputy role, galvanized the team’s performances at the start of the second period and they finally hauled themselves to a place above safety.

But heading into the last two rounds of matches, Sofapaka are not safe yet and could find themselves playing in the lower division next season.

Image Credits: Mozzart Sport

Image Credits: Mozzart Sport

Sofapaka Will Not Face Premier League Axe

Despite tension growing among the club’s faithful over their survival fate, owner Kalekwa has refused to press the panic button insisting the club founded in 2004, over 20 years ago, will stay up and compete with the “big boys” in the league next season.

“We all know the season has not been good for Sofapaka, we have struggled by all means to get positive results but I am not ready to accept that Sofapaka will be relegated, I don’t want even to imagine or even think about it, it will not happen, just go write it somewhere and we talk after the final game of the season,” Kalekwa told SportsBoom.com.

“Sofapaka can't get relegated or even go down, it has never happened since we earned promotion (in 2009) and it will never happen anytime soon, I am not losing my sleep because of relegation, actually I never even think about it because I am 100 percent sure it will never happen.”

Kalekwa believes whatever happens, teams listed below the top ten brackets on the table would be affected to go down and not Sofapaka because the race for survival is very tight.

“I don’t fear anything, but if you look at the table, starting from Murang’a Seal, they are the only side safe for now, but the rest, but starting from 12 down to 18, anyone can be relegated, Ulinzi Stars can be relegated, Talanta can drop, Sofapaka, can drop, Shabana can drop,” explained Kalekwa.

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There is no team from position 12 down to 18 that can never be relegated, the league is that tight and we must accept it, but I don’t need to panic nor worry about Sofapaka’s status because I know it will never happen, we will be celebrating staying up when we play our final game on Sunday.

Elly Kalekwa Assures

Sofapaka’s Poor Start Reason for Relegation Fight

According to Kalekwa, Sofapaka, who have won Kenya’s Presidents Cup three times, found themselves entangled in the relegation dogfight because of a poor start and promised to avert such performances.

“We shot ourselves in the foot by kicking off the season without asking ourselves what we wanted to achieve at the end, we never took it seriously at the start and when things started to get out of hand is when we started to realise our mistakes but I am happy it was not too late because we acted quickly to save the situation,” offered Kalekwa.

“By that time we noticed our mistakes, it was difficult for us to come back strongly but our performances in the second half of the league under ‘Zico’ have been great, he has done a tremendous job, and we only need to do our job (by winning) the two matches and start planning for next season.”

Kalekwa added: “I don’t think I will allow such mistakes to happen again, I will not allow Sofapaka to fight against relegation again, I have seen enough of it and it will never happen again, I will stamp my authority and make sure everything runs smoothly, let us first cross the bridge and discuss the rest soon.”

With Nzoia Sugar already relegated, one team is destined for the axe with another going for the relegation playoff with teams from the National Super League (NSL). Position 17 above Nzoia will automatically be relegated while position 16 will have the opportunity to regain their status if they perform well in the play-offs.

Sofapaka’s next two matches will see them take on Nairobi City Stars at the new Dandora Stadium on Wednesday, June 19th, before finishing off against Nzoia at Narok Stadium on Sunday, June 23rd.

Meanwhile, Shabana will play Bidco United at home and round off their campaign against Murang’a Seal on Sunday.

Dennis Onsare
Dennis Onsare Sports Writer

Dennis is a seasoned journalist in Kenya with over 18 years of experience. Having started his career at Kenya Times Newspaper, Dennis worked for Standard Newspaper for nearly six years as a Sports Writer. At Standard, he was privileged to cover Kenya's national team Harambee Stars outside the country, the biggest of all being the Four Nations tournament in Cairo, Egypt. He also covered the U17 team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.