It is now four wins and a draw since former Kenyan international John Baraza took full charge at Sofapaka at the exit of Portuguese coach Divaldo Alves and the change in fortunes has comes with a massive leap on the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) standings.
The fine run sees the 2009 KPL champions placed fifth after 13 matches. It has breathed a new lease of life in the team and Baraza is hoping the run persists, as he is looking to challenge for the league title at the advanced stages of the season.
In the opening eight matches of the season, Sofapaka had won two matches; half the number of wins that have come in five matches since he took charge and he credits it all to a change in mentality from his players as well as readiness to fight for the badge.
“We came to a position where everyone needed to know which team they are playing for and what are our ambitions. The mentality had to change, and they know everyday when they walk out there, they are playing for a team contesting for the league title,” he told Soka.
Baraza’s latest reign started with a win over Wazito, then managed by his former boss, Melis Medo, and he followed it with another win over his former coach, Salim Ali at Mathare United. A third straight win was a massive confidence boost as the team picked three points against Zoo FC.
The charge was slightly slowed in the 1-1 draw with Western Stima but normalcy resumed when Baraza engineered a 2-1 win over Kisumu All Stars in their most recent game. With the right psychological balance has come confidence and Baraza admits it makes his job very easy.
“As coaches, we always want to lift the players so they can give us the results we want. At the moment we are dealing with players who have their confidence back and it makes it so easy to do our job. I am very thankful to them. The confidence comes from good training, and winning matches. Training involves a lot and they sacrifice a lot too,” he pointed out.
At Dilavdo Alves’ departure, Baraza, who has also served earlier stints as assistant coach under Medo and Sam Ssimbwa, was handed the reigns on a permanent. He remains modest and says he is open to continue learning with every opportunity that comes his way.
“I have been fortunate to serve under many good coaches; I look at this as a learning opportunity always and I want to give my best for the team. I am always open to good and new ideas and I have to say after transitioning from playing, I have learned a lot. I still have very little experience as a coach and I learn with every passing day,” he concluded.
Next up for Sofapaka is a game against Kariobangi Sharks on Sunday 12 January, 2020.