NAIROBI, Kenya, April 10 – James Nandwa boarded the luxurious state of art AFC Leopards coach and travelled to Mumias with the team, no doubt, taking a seat close to the front as the club boss as his charges eased on the back to enjoy the on board entertainment that includes a 42 inch LED screen.
On his mind as the bus snaked from Nairobi, through the beautiful Rift Valley and finally to their second home in western Kenya, the shock of a stunning midweek 1-0 defeat to promoted KRA, a second in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL), was still weighing on his mind when a phone call came after they had just disembarked in Mumias.
It was his club chairman, Allan Kasavuli, at the end of the line… after the usual pleasantries and a polite request for him and his deputy to step away from the rest of the squad came the bombshell…. ‘You’re fired,’ a bolt Nandwa did not expect when he rounded his squad and boarded the bus earlier in the morning.
It went beyond the famous Apprentice shows franchise where contestants are fired for failure but at least, they are given the chance to sit down in a boardroom.
Once again, the Harambee Stars assistant head coach who led Ingwe to the GOtv Shield last season had unceremoniously been bundled out of a top domestic side in a flash. It was reminiscent of how he was booted out of Tusker FC despite leading them to the title a few months earlier in 2008.
Speaking to Capital Sport, Nandwa, who was still in Mumias trying to pick up the pieces of his latest career low, explained how the dramatic Thursday unfolded.
He woke up as Leopards boss only to be forced to hand over the team to his goal keeping coach, Washington Muhanji, by late afternoon.
To him, the unfolding events were a local rendition of the popular Hollywood series, 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland as he waits for official communication from the club on Monday prolonging the uncertainty.
His assistant and club legend, Mickey Weche, who also travelled with the squad was not spared the axe either on the Day of Long Knives at the Den.
“It’s okay life must go on, as coaches we are used to it and we expect anything anytime and this is not the first time I have been to this situation.
“I encountered the same when I was at Tusker FC so its normal especially to big clubs like AFC and Gor Mahia where fans want a coach to perform always for them they don’t know what a draw or loss is,” the soft-spoken coach said with a tinge of regret as the project he intended to announce his return to the big time unraveled in disgrace.
But the manner he was hounded out of his job left a sour taste in his mouth having spent the better part of the past eight months attempting to revive the club that was stalling when he succeeded Luc Eymael, the Belgian who fell foul of the club after a three month stint last year.
“Its unfortunate the chairman informed me late when I had traveled with the team to Mumias, though I understand its pressure from fans. I received a call from our chairman today (Thursday) who told me that I, my assistant Weche and Team Manager Francis Xavier should step aside and wait for the Executive Committee to decide our fate in a meeting on Monday.
“So I’m just waiting to be given the official termination letter and if they give me my dues well and good I will just leave the club peacefully,” the Harambee Stars assistant coach narrated how his turbulent reign at the club came to an undignified end.
The deposed boss maintains he does not harbour sour grapes, wishing the team victory in his absence when they host Nairobi City Stars on Saturday at the Mumias Complex in the KPL, urging the players to give their all to Muhanji.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) we did not play well and during half-time I told the players to give their best since its all about their life and time to build their career but for us coaches we come and go. I’m happy they took it positively.
“I have no problem with Muhanji in fact I’m happy for him and I’ve already handed over everything to him, I wish him all the best for Saturday’s game and I’m sure the players will deliver so that they can shock the impatient fans.”
He delivered a parting shot to supporters who hailed him a hero only to turn against him when they hit rough waters this season, even going ahead to chant funeral dirges aimed at him using his native Luhya dialect from the stands.
“Its also good I step aside since the fans were saying bad things about me which is not good. Some sang for me ‘Luwere’ (a Luhya song sung during funerals). In our tribe it means they were wishing death upon me, which is a curse in itself,” Nandwa decried after ending weeks where he was literally, with no pun intended, a dead man walking in the Leopards hot seat.
The soft spoken coach leaves with the pride of leading Leopards to the GOtv Shield title and a second finish in the league as arch rivals Gor Mahia lifted the title for the first time in 18 years.