Nzoia Sugar coach Bernard Mwalala says that he is picking vital lessons on how to cope with the unique atmosphere of Kenya’s top club competition, the SportPesa Premier League.
Some of the lessons that Mwalala has learned so far include taking each game at a time, to prepare for each fixture using a different strategy, and also to be ready for intimidating opponents.
One thing that has fascinated the rookie top flight football coach the most is the reality that each team in the Premiership is working towards proving themselves and making a good name in the league, unlike in the National Super League where only a few teams jostle for the chance to earn promotion into the top flight.
“The league is very competitive. We started very well, defeating the teams that people call ‘big’. I now I realise that to cope well in the league, you need to respect every opponent, otherwise it is the ‘small’ teams that will crash you.
“Unfortunately some teams like to intimidate opponents using uncouth methods, so one needs to take extra caution especially when playing away. In short, you have to be very alert and know how to prepare for each game and how to adapt accordingly. Rigid strategies do not work here,” he said.
Nzoia got off to a brilliant start this season, beating defending champions Tusker 5-2 at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, to draw plenty of attention before returning home to hold 2009 league winners Mathare United to a barren draw in their next game.
It is a performance that earned defender Brian Otieno the award of Best Player for the Month of March.
In those early stages of the season, Mwalala attributed his team’s success to a heightened sense of belief and confidence.
However, two straight losses against AFC Leopards and Kariobangi Sharks saw them drop from the summit of the SPL table to the seventh place that they currently occupy.
Mwalala now says that despite some pundits labeling them dark horses their objective this season is to ensure they avoid relegation and dream next season.