What attracts Kenyan footballers to the little-known Taiwan Premier League?

11th April 2024

Gor Mahia attacking midfielder Enock Wanyama is among the players who have played in Taiwan.

Enock Wanyama while playing for Leopards Cat. PHOTO| Courtesy
Enock Wanyama while playing for Leopards Cat. PHOTO| Courtesy
  • Former national U23 defensive midfielder Sven Yidah, Kenyan international David Owino, utility player Erickson Mulu have all traveled to Taiwan for opportunities.
  • Holding midfielder Brian Mzee and midfielder Muthoka Maingi are some of the other players to have taken that route as well.

Last year, Kenyan football enthusiasts woke to the news of Enock Brian Wanyama, one of the country’s most skilled attacking midfielders, completing his move to the relatively unknown Taiwanese Premier League side Leopard Cat FC.

Wanyama, a free agent back then, was largely expected to join record Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia but he opted to try his luck in professional football thousands of miles away from home.

He joined Leopard Cat alongside battle-hardened central defender Nicodemus Onyango on April 30, 2023.

While Wanyama returned home in January and fulfilled his dream of joining Gor, Onyango is still going strong in the Taiwanese league that isn’t well known by Kenyans.

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Onyango would have been joined by five more Kenyans in January but the quintet didn’t pen deals in Taiwan due to administrative hitches triggered by delays in processing International Transfer Certificates (ITC).

Former national U23 defensive midfielder Sven Yidah, Kenyan international David Owino, utility player Erickson Mulu, holding midfielder Brian Mzee and midfielder Muthoka Maingi, all traveled to Taiwan in January but suffered heartbreak after failing to obtain clearance and put pen to paper.

First to board the plane back to Nairobi was Owino who was immediately recalled by his employer, the National Police Service, with the four training in Taiwan for a month before returning home as well.

The four will join Onyango in Taiwan in July when the off-season transfer window opens. It remains to be seen whether Owino, a General Service Unit (GSU) officer, will be cleared by the police service to play abroad.

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Sportsboom reached out to Onyango to ascertain what lures Kenyan players to join the Taiwanese league.

The former KCB defender said that the allure of playing abroad is a dream harbored by nearly all Kenyan players.

“If you ask players in the Kenyan leagues, they will say that their dream is to play football abroad. It doesn’t mean that the Kenyan top tier is not appealing but players want to test themselves in a different competition,” said the former Kibera Black Stars player.

Onyango revealed that when Leopard Cat FC came calling, he couldn’t resist the offer for various reasons.

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The experienced defender revealed that clubs from Taiwan offer better salaries compared to Kenyan clubs and their sporting infrastructure is miles better.

“Taiwan may not be known much in terms of football but their infrastructure is good. They pay well and on time. The clubs take player welfare seriously. I can confidently say that their football is on the right path,” stated the former FC Talanta defender.

Brian Mzee, who was privileged to train in Taiwan for a month, conceded that Kenya was lagging in terms of sporting infrastructure.

“I stayed in Taiwan for a month before returning home. During my stay, I was lucky enough to access quality training gear and train on excellent surfaces.

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Their teams are managed professionally and everything at the club level flows seamlessly. I can’t wait to join in July and prepare for the new season,” said the former Ruiru Hotstars player.

For Wanyama, he says, he will not be surprised to see more Kenyan footballers trooping to Taiwanese as the country’s top-tier clubs offer mouthwatering packages and their facilities are appealing to the eye.

“Most of the things we dream of are in Taiwan. The good pitches we long to play on, the quality gyms, medical care and money are not an issue in Taiwan.

Match attendance is also good in Taiwan. Much as their league is not as competitive as the Kenyan one, the speed in which it is growing is commendable,” said the former national U20 team winger.

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