The 2017 edition of the National Secondary Schools Ball Games, just as has been in the past years, was a breeding ground for plenty of youngsters who are eager to make a career out of football in future. Top coaches, including Harambee Stars tactician Stanley Okumbi, flocked Nyeri on a scouting mission.
This year's edition had some young gems on show with a number said to have signed contracts with Kenyan Premier League (KPL) teams prior to the completion of their secondary school education.
Soka looks at the players who excelled throughout the showpiece that was held in Nyeri Primary School - Nyeri County from 3-8 July.
Duncan Okinyi (Upper Hill)
The young keeper single-handedly gifted his team with the title. Despite conceding in all the games of the competition bar their opening game against Ramisi, Okinyi saved six penalty kicks in the competition; three against Kakamega High School in the semi-finals, the other three coming in the final against St Anthony’s.
Upper Hill head coach Joseph Makokha on his goalkeeper: I believe he will become one of the top goalkeepers in the country because he has all it takes to thrive. Were it not for him, we could have not made it past the group stages and we depended on him in the penalty shootout. You don’t see penalty saves such as his on a regular basis.
John Quol (Kakamega High School) The towering Sudanese defender was one of the four players that played all the entire minutes of Kakamega’s five games in the tournament. The Chemelil Sugar FC youngster formed a superb partnership with Yusuf Mainge on the right half of defense; the duo conceding only two goals in regular time in the entire competition. He used his height well in thwarting oppositions aerial balls and had an eye for goal too when in the opposition half as exhibited by his effort that came off the bar in their last group game against Kathungi.
Quol on his own words: I am in my last year of secondary school and I will fully concentrate in representing Chemelil when I finish school. I know it won’t be easy breaking straight in the first team but I believe in myself and my abilities.
Peter Oyier (Upper Hill)
One of the reasons why Upper Hill lifted the 2017 title was because of their defence which stood out for everybody in the tournament. According to Makokha, the Upper Hill coach - his defence did the donkey work in keeping opponents at bay when they hoped for their strike force to nick in a goal or two. Together with Tyrone Yara, as exhibited in their semi final clash against tournaments favorites Kakamega High School, they made few mistakes while dealing with the pacy Kakamega strikers; a calmness that saw them contain St Anthony’s strike force in the final too.
St Antony’s Coach Mr Peter Mayoyo on Oyier: “The number 16 did well today (in the final). I think we dominated play for the better part of the afternoon but they had a solid defence that stood out and for me he (Oyier) organized everything at the back.
Finlay Osoro (Upper Hill)
Not only did he defend astutely, the lanky right back joined his team in attack whenever they were troubling the opposition defence. Some thought his prodding left his defence exposed due to his negligence to track back faster when his team was out of possession but his two assists in the tournament proved that he can be a good wing-back or just a better winger when utilized properly.
Boniface Ooko (Kakamega High School)
Known for his dead ball antics, Ooko used the prowess of his side to prowl most of the time in the opposition half. Many mistook him for a winger as in many occasions he would be found complementing Mazembe or Henry Juma in attack. He was tasked with bringing in the team’s corner kicks and numerous fouls. He had five assists in the tournament, the most in the showpiece and with a year to go to finish his schooling, he will be one who will be attracting interest from clubs across the nation’s divisions.
Chris Alpha (Kakamega High School)
When Kakamega were denied a final slot by Upper Hill in the semis, Apha broke down in tears after insisting earlier in the showpiece that he was in the competition to win it. Still in Form Two, the midfielders’ combativeness earned him praise from his friends and foes who likened him to Wanyama.
His crisp passes and the knowledge of the game have teams salivating for his signature even though he is in the books of Gor Mahia Youth team.
William Muluya, Kariobangi Sharks head coach on Alpha: He is one player that interested me in the entire tournament. His knowledge of the game surpasses his years and every other coach would be happy to have such a play in his team.
Phillip Mayaka (St Anthony’s Kitale)
Mayaka captained his team in this year’s showpiece and showed why he deserved the armband on the first day. He provided two assists that day in their 3-0 win over Kanga before scoring a sumptuous free kick on the second day against eventual winners Upper Hill.
His presence on the middle of the park gave his team the much needed balance since he attracted opposition by this allowing his team mates room to manipulate their way through the opposition half.
James Mazembe (Kakamega High School)
Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards don’t come easily more so with the type of talents that were on show. With a deft left foot, Mazembe made a mockery out of his markers with numerous tricks and was capable of plying both the left and the right wings at will. Add that to his pace and the urge to provide assists when needed then you don’t have to ask why he scored four goals in the tournament.
Silas Ogana (St Anthony’s Kitale)
Apart from Mayaka, Ogana ensured that his team mates had the time to concentrate on their game. His combination with Mayaka was massive with the duo in several occasions exchanging positions. When they were attacking, he was glad to sometimes sit back and prevent teams from hitting them through fast breaks. He might have had a lean physique that in fact duped the opponents but his work rate on the field of play was there for all to see.
Henry Juma (Kakamega Homeboyz)
Juma has previously featured for Muhoroni Youth and Gor Mahia in the KPL Under 20 showpiece and that tells you why he is one of the hottest properties in the nation right now. He banged in four goals in their opening day as Kakamega ran out 13-0 winners over Boystown. The striker finished as the tournaments top scorer with seven goals. His age has been a matter of debate but the potential cannot be washed away.
James Kibande (St Anthony’s Kitale)
While his team mates were trying to make things tick in the midfield and other parts of the field, Kibande did his work on the striking department just well and notched in important goals that helped them through the showpiece. He might not be the pacy striker you need, but if you looking for someone to bully defenders and bring in his other team mates into play, Kibande is the guy to have on board.
Goalkeepers: Job Ochieng (Kakamega High School), Faruki Omar (Ramisi High School), Sheikh Alley (St Anthony’s)
Defenders: Yusuf Mainge (Kakamega High School), Ian Karani (St Anthony’s), Samuel Kapen (Tetu Boys)
Midfielders: Ramadhan Abdalla (Upper Hill), Joshua Otieno (Kakamega High School), Ali Salim, Dalton Muthenge (both Kathungi High School),
Strikers: Tyson Kapchanga (St Anthony’s), Ronald Sichenje (Kakamega High School),