Nairobi, Dec 15 (IANS) When the 2016 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) football champions, Tusker FC, feted their season’s top performers, one man quietly followed the proceedings more keenly than those who were in a celebratory mood.
Former Kenyan international Boniface Ambani sat round a table in a terse mood, his body language depicting that of a man in a moment of nostalgia, reports Xinhua news agency.
When the team’s top striker, Allan Wanga, was invited to receive the award of the team’s season top-scorer, after he scored eight goals since he moved to Tusker in the mid-season transfer window, Ambani stood and clapped, happy that someone followed into his footsteps, or afraid that his record was on the line.
When he turned up for Tusker FC in 2007, Ambani, then 24, scored 26 goals to set a national record of the most goals scored by one player in a single season of the KPL, and which still stands to date.
With that scintillating goal-scoring form, Tusker won their eighth league title. “KPL today has a lot of talent, but still lacks goal scorers who can surpass my 10-year record,” Ambani told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“During my time when football was challenging, we would play two matches in one weekend but despite the fatigue, goals would come. Today, the league lacks players who are anchored on discipline, consistency and respect,” Ambani said.
He said football has developed in the country but still lacked players with consistent finish, hence the reason no player has equalled his 26 goals, he added.
Ambani played for several clubs in Kenya and abroad before an Achilles tendon injury sent him into early retirement, ending his short stint with Chinese side Xian City FC.
Decrying the goal-shy strikers in the current league, Ambani advises current players to keep their focus, noting that is the reason he also scored many goals with Yanga Sports of Tanzania where he netted 24 goals to win the Tanzanian Premier League Golden Boot in 2008.
“After retirement, I have remained relevant in football as a businessman dealing in sports apparel,” he said.
Ambani, an accountant by profession, is the proprietor of Botchend Sports shops and has established himself as the main supplier of sports equipment and uniforms to most KPL teams and signed a contract with his former club, AFC Leopards as their chief merchandise supplier.
He started the business after selling pairs of uniforms he brought along from China after which he opened sports shops in Eldoret town and Nairobi.
Ambani, whose passion for AFC Leopards can barely be hidden, has won more Golden Boots than any other striker in the last two decades.
He was winner of the KPL Golden Boot in 2002 after he scored 16 goals for Oserian FC. He won it again in 2005 after he netted 18 goals for Kenya Pipeline; his record 26 goals for Tusker FC in 2007; and in 2008 when he scored 24 goals for Yanga FC in the Tanzanian Premier League.
During the same year, Ambani scooped the Tanzania Sports Personality Award (TASWA) that rewards the Best Sportsman of the Year in all sports disciplines.
Ambani played for AFC Leopards in the 1998 KPL season emerging the second highest goal scorer after taking his tally to 14 goals.
He scored 13 goals for Oserian in 2003; 16 goals for Yanga in 2010; and 17 goals while playing his trade in Oman in 2005.
He earned 35 national team caps and scored 17 times before retiring from international football.