After a very exciting World Cup, football fans have been eagerly waiting the start of the English Premier League (EPL) which kicked off on August 10 and is scheduled to end on May 12, 2019.
The 2018—19 Premier League is the 17th season of the top English professional league for Association Football clubs, since its establishment in 1992. Though they happen further afield, fans follow each move in the international leagues with extreme interest.
Memes and opinions of the happenings of the transfer period have permeated social media for months now. As the season gets under way, predictions are rife, with some already declaring a win for their teams as others take more realistic view of the situation.
Though it started with a trickle, European football fan-base has grown tremendously over the years in Kenya. Every game night, fans congregate at entertainment spots to cheer their favourite team and jeer at their sworn opponent.
The following is so strong that most major European teams have local fan clubs with regional and national offices. These fan clubs organise charity events, football matches and even fund raising for their bereaved members.
It may be perceived as a man’s game, but football is quickly gaining a solid female following. Contrary to the popular notion that women watch football because of their boyfriends or to watch cute players, there are genuine female followers who watch the game because of the game.
Carol “Ceyrhol” Kagwiria is the team manager for Man United Kenya Football Club that plays against opposing fan clubs of other European clubs in the country. She is also the events organiser for the fan club, with over two thousand active members across the country. Their Facebook page, Manchester United Family Kenya has over 90,000 members.
The avid fan organises charity trips for members and football games to be played. She concedes that in the last season several underdogs shocked the League, but she holds that Manchester United will beat Manchester City this time. This she attributes to the strong start to the season that her team has had.
“Liverpool and Man City have made very good signings in the just concluded transfer period, so this season will be very exciting,” she says, “However, there are teams like Westhampton and Fulham that had very good signings, but still performed very badly in their first matches. So we are very hopeful, even though Manchester didn’t get the signings we wanted, that we will do very well.”
The team she heads will participate in this year’s DHL “United. Delivered” Global Football Tour on September 16. The tour unites Manchester United fans around the world by delivering a special ball that several first-team players have enjoyed a kick-around with.
Caroline “Carol Kings” Wanjiru is a co-ordinator of Liverpool Supporters Club Kenya. She is also one of more than 29,000 members of Liverpool Supporters Club — Kop Kenya on Facebook.
“When I started supporting Liverpool we were not many fans. Our fan base increased as the team continued to shine, especially after winning the UEFA Champions League in 2005. I have a very good collection of Liver pool regalia from bed sheets, caps, jerseys; anything I can get my hands on.”
According to her, the only fixture that seems tough is their match against Tottenham Hotspurs. In her view, Liverpool has acquired very good talent and their 4-0 win against West Ham last weekend is just a sign of things to come. She predicts that they will take the EPL this year, especially if they keep the same pace they have begun with.
“Ironically, it’s the small teams that seem to harass us; we handle major teams like Arsenal and Manchester United well. But we are very hopeful, this season’s EPL title is ours.”
Annexis Aubanne is a diehard supporter of Arsenal. She is a member of the Nairobi Branch of Arsenal Kenya Supporters Club, abbreviated as KAFC. The group is even recognised by Arsenal FC in the UK and they have their banner at the Emirates Stadium. Despite their periodic losses she has remained strong.
She said: “Arsenal is for hopeful people. This season will be very tough for us but we are still very positive. We may not get the cup, but we hope to finish in the top four. The team was used to our former manager Arsene Wenger so we are still adjusting to the new systems.”
She admits that their left back position is quite weak because of injuries and the team should have acquired some talent.
Her message to Manchester United fans: “Tell them to continue counting the years till they win a major championship. Everyone starts the season believing they will win but only time will tell.”
There is no question that a lot of men will be spending most of their weekends in communal football screening areas, but next time you see a lady in that mix don’t just assume she’s there as company.