Refugees find glory in Kenya

They came to Kenya as refugees escaping conflict in Eastern Congo two years ago and now they have proved their worth by clinching the Kenya Premier League title at their first attempt.

Sofapaka are made up of players from a refugee camp mostly from Congo DR who took sanctuary under a church organisation in Nairobi. "They have made a whole new difference, they have brought a breath of fresh air to the Kenyan game," said Sofapaka manager Jimmy Ambajo.

Like Sofapaka, former champions Gor Mahia, who became the first Kenyan club to win the African Cup Winners Cup in 1987, have also enjoyed the fruits of including foreign players. The arrival of 18-year-old striker Baldwin Ngwa from the Cameroon league champions, Tiko United and his compatriot Simon Pierre, a defender, have helped revive the fortunes of Gor Mahia which was facing relegation from the 16-team championship.

"The two players have been outstanding in our campaign. Since arriving in the middle of the season, our performance has improved," said coach Gedion Ochieng. "We were performing dismally but their resilience has lifted the club from the lower reaches of the league to becoming strong contenders. Ngwa is a hustler and a committed player. He encourages the rest of the team."

Sofapaka, who are set to compete in the lucrative CAF Champions League in 2010, are proud to have set their own club management standards. "We are not just a football team but people who are out for fellowship with the less fortunate members of the society," said Ambajo, who is a church pastor.

"We are innovative, and want to create new ideas to better develop the game," he said. "Sofapaka FC is ready to lead the way as Kenyan football moves to the next level and we are ready to take that challenge," added club president, Elly Kalekwa, a Congolese businessman.