NAIROBI, Kenya December 13 – The Dutchman, Jan Koops, is turning round the fortunes of Kenyan Premiership Football League Team, AFC Leopards.
RNW’s correspondent spoke to the man helping AFC Leopards change their spots.By Caasi Sagalai in KenyaWhen the Kenyan premiership football league ended recently, fans of AFC Leopards were chanting praises for coach, Jan Koops.
The Dutchman is credited with turning around the fortunes of a team that was facing its worst ever season performance, struggling at the bottom end of the league.
His efforts pushed the side to finish in the top five. In honour of his efforts, the fans have given him the Kenyan name ‘ Wepukhulu ‘, which translates as ‘gift.
’Koops, strolled nonchalantly along the sideline at the City stadium recently during AFC Leopard’s final match, watching his players play their final match, a game that ended in a draw.
This result guaranteed the club the fifth position in a league of 16 teams.
‘I had some friends in town, I asked them if there was a possibility of coaching a small team because I love football.
A TV reporter heard of this and introduced me to the team, that’s how I came to coach AFC Leopards. The last 12 matches we have played we have not lost any game. When I joined the team in June, they had lost six straight matches and were number 15,’ says Koops.
Seventy year-old Koops is a father of two. He started his career in the Dutch second division as a semi-professional footballer, playing as striker, midfielder and defender for Dutch first division club FC Zwolle (formerly PEC ) for 8 years.
He then moved to Germany for 15 years, where he coached lower division sides.He first came to Kenya in the 1980’s by invitation of a Dutch friend.
He fell in love with the country, though he still maintains a connection with The Netherlands where his children live.
‘Koops has saved AFC Leopards from what could have been the most embarrassing season yet. He has come in like the messiah, to save us from humiliation. Our rivals would have made us the laughing stock.He has truly helped the team,’ says a fan at the end of AFC Leopard’s final match at the City Stadium.
When probed by RNW about the secret formula of turning around the fortunes of AFC Leopards, Koops insists there is no magic involved.
‘There is no secret, I like to play ball possession, discipline in the team is important; one touch football, technical players. I like to talk to every player, if they have a problem…I like to be their friend but with a respectable distance so that they can respect me and I respect them,’ says Koops.
Koops believes that the disciplined, one- touch Dutch style of football is one of the best in the world. He has introduced the style to the AFC Leopards.
The AFC Leopard’s coach is happy with the performance of the team, he is optimistic about winning the league next season.
He also believes Africa can win the world cup one day, but African players need to be disciplined.
For Koops Ajax Amsterdam is the best team in The Netherlands, and the best players are Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich and Dirk Kuyt of Liverpool because “they work very hard,” he says.
By Caasi Sagalai/Capital FM Sports