Clinton Kinanga: The last man standing in Kenya Police’s moneyed transformation

22nd March 2024

From the team that earned Kenya Police promotion to the topflight in 2021, only Kinanga remains.

Clinton Kinanga. PHOTO| Kenya Police
Clinton Kinanga. PHOTO| Kenya Police
  • Kenya Police earned promotion to the FKF Premier League in 2021 after defeating Vihiga United in the promotion/relegation playoffs.
  • Fast forward to three seasons into the topflight and Kinanga is the only player left from the team that achieved the incredible feat.
  • The striker has been labelled as loyal, level-headed, long-lasting, likable, and legendary, traits that the modern game rarely has nowadays.

Topscorer Samuel Ndung’u. Captain and defensive stalwart David Okiki alongside a back four of Faustine Ojiambo, Steve Baraza and Bernard Omondi who stood in front of goalkeeper Reuben Juma.

In the heart of midfield stood play orchestrators Soita Silicho, Erick Kipkirui, Kelvin Omondi, and Kelvin Mwaura.

And then there was striker, Clinton Kinanga.

These were the main, among many, men tasked with delivering topflight football to Kenya Police FC in September 2021 when they came up against Vihiga United in a two-legged promotion playoff.

Police had finished third in the National Super League, behind champions Talanta FC and runners-up Vihiga Bullets, earning them a relegation-cum-promotion playoff against Vihiga who had finished third from bottom in the Kenyan Premier League.

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Police were hoping, rather than anticipating, to be the first lower-tier side to win a promotion battle against higher opposition since the format was introduced when the league was controversially extended from 16 to 18 teams by the Nick Mwendwa-led administration.

A 1-1 draw in the first leg set the stage for a mighty showdown in the return leg. Kinanga, who had scored the equalizer in the first leg in a 1-1 stalemate, delivered the decisive blow with a solitary goal that secured Police their spot among the elite and etched his name in the annals of club history.

Or so we thought.

Fast forward to three seasons into the topflight and Police FC is an established side rubbing shoulders with the big boys and challenging for top-tier honours.

But gone are the days of John ‘Bobby’ Ogolla, the coach who masterminded the ascent. Gone too are all those players who delivered the hitherto finest moment in Police’s history.

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Except for one man - Clinton Kinanga.

Lanky, loyal, level-headed, long-lasting, likable, loved. Legend.

The modern game doesn’t make for such personalities anymore. Not in an era where argument can be made on whether money is ruining or improving the game.

In the case of Police FC, money has made them. After finishing 9th in their debut top-flight season, the law administrators went on a signing spree, offering top-dollar contracts to some of the league’s best players and in the process getting rid of the men who helped them step up.

It’s a strategy straight from the books of the world’s football moneybags and although it’s yet to pay dividends, progress is there to be seen if their 3rd-place finish last season is anything to go by.

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However, amidst the big names like Francis Kahata, Kenneth Miguna, Tito Okello, Patrick Matasi, David Owino and Omar Aboud, to name but a fe, the one constant name that has been donning the Police colours and survived the chop is Kinanga.

And he has been earning his dues despite a side chick role which perhaps even he expected when he saw such players getting drafted in.

Kinanga has been used mostly from the bench and boy does he continue to deliver.

He may have only found the back of the net five times this season but they have been crucial goals.

When just over a week ago Police found themselves locked in a stalemate with the dogged defense of relegation-fighting Muhoroni Youth, it was Kinanga who answered the call to arms.

With the precision of a well-trained soldier, he drilled home the equalizer, rescuing his side from the brink of an embarrassing home conquest.

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A mere fortnight earlier, he emerged from his habitat - the bench - with the decisive goal to help the law enforcers beat Posta Rangers in their last 16 FKF Cup tie which was teetering towards a nervy penalty shootout. 

He is also the only substitute to have scored twice from the bench this season, a brace against Murang’a Seal giving his side a 2-0 victory on matchday 13.

And who can forget his goal and assist contribution in the 2-0 win over Bidco United that handed coach Zdravko Logarusic his first victory just 48 hours after getting appointed as the new boss?

Deep inside, and because he is human, Kinanga must be feeling a twinge of frustration that he continues to play second fiddle to the more expensive but less effective so-called marquee signings.

But he is more than just a footballer – he's a blood-thickened soldier who continues to embody the resilience, discipline, and unwavering determination of a seasoned soldier on the battlefield.

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Like a soldier honed by years of rigorous training and hardened by friendly combat, his ability to step forward when called upon mirrors the arduous battles endured by soldiers, where every match becomes a strategic operation, every goal a hard-fought victory.

In his quiet defiance, he embodies the timeless values of dedication, sacrifice, and unwavering belief – qualities that resonate far beyond the confines of the football pitch.

In him, we find not just a footballer obsessed with transient glory and fleeting allegiances. We find a symbol of courage, sacrifice, and unwavering belief whose legacy will endure long after the final whistle.

We can only hope his story will inspire generations to come to embrace the values of dedication, resilience, and steadfast obligation to duty, both on and off the field.

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