NAIROBI, Kenya, March 30- The role of former Harambee Stars coach, Francis Kimanzi in Saturday’s crucial CAF Confederation Cup match for his new club Sofapaka remained unclear with conflicting takes from within the 2009 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) winners.
A press statement released by the club on Tuesday evening stated in part, “Kimanzi will return to the country this Friday and take charge of former KPL champions, Sofapaka when they face Egyptian giants, Ismailia this weekend.”
The moneyed domestic cup holders intend to unveil Kimanzi who led domestic league rivals Mathare United to the title in 2008 at a ceremony on Friday evening.
However, speaking on Wednesday after Sofapaka’s training session, the caretaker coach, Ezekiel Akwana, insisted he would be in full charge of the second leg return tie against Ismailia as the team seeks to overturn a 2-0 deficit.
“Let’s talk the truth. Kimanzi cannot arrive here on Friday and be in charge of the team a day later. I have been communicating with him for consultation and advice on the game but I can assure you he will be at the terraces on Saturday.
“Kimanzi knows the rules of coaching. You cannot just arrive and take over. His first match in charge will be the (Tuesday’s rescheduled) KPL game against Tusker FC since he will have trained with the players for two days,” Akwana asserted.
Sofapaka striker, John Baraza, said the arrival of Kimanzi before their crunch tie against Ismailia would raise the team’s morale adding, “There is little he can do for this game apart from giving us some advice. We have prepared under Akwana and I do not foresee any changes to our plans for the game.”
He took over in acting capacity from Ugandan national, Sam Ssimbwa who was fired after failing to take the resourceful outfit who won the league in the season they were promoted back to the summit of KPL.
Under Akwana, Sofapaka won the Football Kenya Limited (FKL) Cup, the season opening, Dstv/SuperSport Super Cup and qualified for the second round of the CAF Confederations Cup after eliminating Angola’s AS Aviacao on spot-kicks.
Kimanzi will be the fourth man in charge of the demanding club in a year following Robert Matano who won them the title, Ssimbwa and his former team mate at Mathare United, Akwana.
“I pour so much money in this club and I expect results,” Sofapaka president, Elly Kalekwa, stated when firing Ssimbwa deep into KPL’s second leg when it became apparent they would not defend their league title in October last year.
Kimanzi will join Sofapaka after a one-year coaching training stint in Holland. He took Harambee Stars to the final round of the 2010 World/Nations cup qualifiers before he was unceremoniously relieved of his duties after resisting FKL’s demand to field the side at a hastily arranged friendly in Egypt in December 2008.
His replacement in the national team, German national, Antoine Hey, presided over four loses and a victory that saw Stars clash out of both competitions. Kimanzi left Mathare early last season after he was suspended for six months by KPL’s disciplinary body IDAC for an altercation with a referee.
“Everyone at the club is excited and we shall be there to receive and welcome him to the Sofapaka family. The players, technical bench and Kenyans cannot wait to see him in action,” Kalekwa said of Kimanzi according to the club’s statement.