NAIROBI, May 13- Crisis-hit AFC Leopards Den was plunged into further disgrace on Wednesday when the grand old giant of Kenyan football had its players and technical officials detained at a Mombasa Hotel before being bailed out by area County Governor, Ali Hassan Joho and allowed to proceed to Nairobi.
Financially plagued Leopards who have commanded all the wrong headlines this season with a series of strikes, threats of boycotts and a long standing dispute between players and management over non-payment of salaries and bonuses hit a new low when they were prevented from leaving Jambo Village Hotel for bill arrears amounting to Sh174,000 (USD1,761).
Ingwe were on a high on Tuesday evening after beating home side Bandari 2-1 with goals from Musa Mudde and Jacob Keli either side of a David King’atua equaliser to lift them fourth on the Kenyan Premier League table at Mbaraki Stadium .
It took personal intervention of former Prime Minister and Cord leader, Raila Odinga who placed a call to his deputy in the opposition coalition and Mombasa Governor Joho for the bill to be settled and Leopards released to make their journey with their team bus back to Nairobi.
“The management called former PM Raila and requested them to bail him out. He then called Joho and the Mombasa Governor went to the hotel and paid the bill in full and they were let free.
“The former PM promised them Sh100,000 (USD1,036) for tea when they arrive in Nairobi,” Phillip Etale, the Chief Communications Officer of the Orange Democratic Party that Raila also leads told Capital Sport on phone.
Ingwe players and technical officials were all set to check out of the hotel located in Changamwe, five kilometres from Mombasa’s Central Business District, for the seven to eight hour bus journey to the capital but were not allowed to leave the compound.
The affected milled around as it dawned on them management had rejected payment by cheque from team officials with another effort to settle via mobile phone money transfer service M-Pesa also being declined.
“Such incidents are normal though they arise as a result of poor management,” hotel manager Eutropia Manga noted on the unsavoury occurrence.
During the standoff, journalists from Nation Media were accosted by goons purporting to be Leopards fans and chased from the hotel on the baseless claim their media house prints and airs ‘negative stories’ on Ingwe.
“Lucky escape for me and colleagues as AFC Leopards officials and followers assault us when we make attempt to cover the story of their detention at a hotel in Changamwe.
“The club had not settled accrued accommodation fees, our efforts were thwarted as were were arm-twisted and frogmarched from the location! Another stab to journalism!” Nation journalist Francis Ontomwa posted on social media site Facebook.
Ingwe players received a Sh500,000 boost from Westlands MP, Timothy Wanyonyi ahead of the Bandari tie coming in the heels of another Sh450,000 from his Webuye West counterpart and former club chairman, Alfred Sambu a week earlier but these monies are shared out by the squad and do not reflect on the official books.
Leopards’ financial woes started late last year when players declined to return for pre-season training claiming three-months in salary, bonuses and allowances arrears before they threatened to boycott their Nairobi derby against Gor Mahia and another key clash against Tusker FC in the past two months over the same issue.