A contentious court ruling derailed Seal’s promotion bid and turned their lofty goals into a nightmare
•As they rose through the lower tiers of the football hierarchy, Seal clung to the dream of flexing muscles with the big guns on the country’s grandest football platform.
•According to Macharia, the club has already purchased 26 acres of land on which to construct its own boarding house, restaurant, clinic, entertainment hall, gym, swimming pool, and classrooms, as well as training pitches and a stadium.
National Super League side Murang’a Seal had hoped to make their Kenyan Premier League debut this season.
As they rose through the lower tiers of the football hierarchy, Seal clung to the dream of flexing muscles with the big guns on the country’s grandest football platform.
They were about to realise their target when they cracked a top-three finish in the National Super League.
That, however, turned out to be just another mirage after a number of unforeseen factors connived to deny them a perfect opportunity to join the big stage.
A contentious court ruling derailed Seal’s promotion bid and turned their lofty goals into a nightmare.
The unfortunate turn of events was precipitated by the country’s football arena’s heated and protracted squabbles.
The club fought valiantly in the two-leg playoff matches against Wazito but ultimately fell short on aggregate.
A ray of hope appeared on the horizon when the Sports Disputes Tribunal ordered that the club be awarded the six points deducted from their matches against Muhoroni Youth and Zoo.
If the ruling had been implemented, Seal would have automatically won the National Super League.
They eventually settled for third place and competed in the playoffs for a promotion spot against Wazito, who finished third from bottom in the Kenyan Premier League.
Seal were unable to realise their dream of making their first top-flight appearance after losing on aggregate to Wazito in the two-leg playoffs.
Despite their defeat, they did not give up easily. The club lodged a petition in court, claiming Wazito fielded an ineligible player in both games, an offense that has earned Seal an automatic spot in the top tier.
“Wazito fielded a player who already had been released to KCB FC, which is against the football rules and therefore we have lodged a case against them.”
However, even before the case was resolved, a sudden shift in the local football landscape threw Seal’s KPL ambitions into disarray.
Following the expulsion of the Football Kenya Federation, led by Nick Mwendwa, by former Sports CS Amina Mohamed in November 2021, the government formed a Caretaker Committee to oversee football in the country.
The Transition Committee was tasked with managing all tiers across the country, including club promotion and demotion, and was even involved in Seal’s case that season.
The FKF Transition Committee’s term expired, and the government-appointed body was forced to make way for the reinstatement of the expelled administration led by Nick Mwendwa.
When the expelled FKF administration reclaimed its mandate at Kandanda House, the National Executive Committee declared the previous season’s league results null and void.
The FKF NEC stated that it would not recognise any activities managed by the Transition Committee and that everything would be restarted from scratch.
With that, any hopes of Murang’a Seal playing in the KPL were dashed. But playing in the Kenyan Premier League is not the ultimate ambition of the club according to its chairman Robert Macharia.
Murang’a Seal (an acronym for Sports Excellence Academy Limited) aspires to be the best footballing academy in the region, producing talent for both local and international clubs.
“Of course, playing in the league will provide the best platform for most of our players to showcase their talent locally,” says the club’s creator, Robert Macharia.
“We want to identify very young talent, assemble a pool of coaches, and place them at the academy where they will not only develop their footballing skills but will also attend school,” Macharia says.
According to Macharia, the club has already purchased 26 acres of land on which to construct its own boarding house, restaurant, clinic, entertainment hall, gym, swimming pool, and classrooms, as well as training pitches and a stadium.
“We want to create a structure in which the curriculum combines pitch training with classroom sessions,” Macharia says.
“The idea is for the students to get a basic education like everyone else while also playing football,” he says.
He says his vision is for students to board at the age of 10 and stay and play together until they are 18 and have completed their O-Levels.
“Here they will be taught also different skills apart from basic education and football. “When they reach the age of 18, some will pursue football, while others will attend universities or junior colleges,” Macharia observes.
Macharia, a career lawyer, got the idea for the academy while watching Arsenal play Manchester City in the English Premier League.
“Of course, the infrastructure impressed me, but I also realised that when it comes to talent, we have players here who, if properly nurtured, can match the big players we see on television every day,” he says.
“What I saw in terms of quality is no different from what we have here in Kenya, but what makes them tick is the coaching they get from a very young age, the exposure, and the infrastructure. Then there’s the issue of sponsorship and government assistance.”
“I visited the Southampton academy and got impressed by what they have done there. It’s no surprise that they produce the most talented young people in the country. You can see the progression from Under 10 to Under 17 there (Southampton).”
Macharia says he wants to introduce a similar model at Murang’a Seal, which he founded in 2016.
“We have a master plan; we will build the necessary infrastructure, select boys based on merit, and educate them in such a way that they will be an inspiration to other children who want to pursue soccer as a career,” he says.
However, as the project progresses, Macharia has built a team that is already making a name for itself in the National Super League.
He houses all of the players (most of whom he recruited from the surrounding slums) at his home in Murang’a. The players are given allowances to help them manage their daily needs and to win bonuses.
“They also get points for volunteering in the community,” he adds.
When he first formed the team, he quickly realised that there was no suitable stadium in Murang’a for them. He attempted to work with the county government to upgrade Mumbi Stadium, but was frustrated by the slow pace of the process.
“I decided to do my pitch. “I did research on the best grass for the playing surface, and I can confidently say that we have the best playing surface in the country today,” he says.
Former Sofapaka coach Ezekiel Akwana has been tasked with establishing a youth academy while also serving as the club’s head coach.
“He (Akwana) understands my vision for the academy and he has a footballing brain,” says Macharia of the former Kenya international.
The project, which is expected to cost more than Sh300 million, will be built on a 26-acre plot of land, a portion of which will be used to house the academy and schools from primary to secondary levels. A stadium and training grounds will also be built.
“It will function like a regular school, with students attending classes,” Macharia says.
“I want to give young boys as young as 10 the best opportunity to receive the best primary and secondary education in a wonderful environment, as well as to develop their footballing talent.”