Nairobi, Kenya, April 23- Despite his side losing their unbeaten run after being bottled by Tusker FC on Saturday, AFC Leopards coach Jan Koops has not lost his resolve to craw Ingwe back to the big time.
The Dutchman who was bestowed the nick name Wephukulu by the Leopards faithful after steering them from the brink of mediocrity to title challengers since taking charge mid last season believes he can make the Cats roar again on the continental scene.
“The situation is that many clubs make several changes in the squad immediately after the season hence the new players take time to blend in with the rest. It’s like a new team altogether participating in these tournaments,” the Dutchman explained the dire situation facing Kenyan sides in continental competitions.
He has formulated strategy to make sure that he has a rock-solid squad that will challenge the big teams that have proven a hard nut to crack for local sides should Leopards earn the right to feature in either the CAF Champions League or Confederation Cup next season.
“At AFC we will sign new players during the June transfer window to make certain that they have enough time together so that even when we become champions we will have a strong team to take to the continent.
“We have signed most of our players on contracts that range between three to five years so the issue of losing players is not giving us any sleepless nights,” Koops revealed.
The tactician is confident that his side will continue causing ripples in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) as he boasts of players who can withstand any opposition.
“I have missed the services of several key players so far for instance Syongo, Amon Muchiri and Allan Wanga but still managed to register wins since we have sufficient back up,” the tactician added.
Since he took over the helm after the departure of Nick Yakhama, he had maintained an impressive 23 games unbeaten record that was shattered following a 2-0 loss to Tusker in Mombasa.
“Our goal is not to remain unbeaten, we aim is to be champions at the end of the league, and only strive to collect the best results from every match,” affirmed Koops.
The coach has nothing but praise for the huge Ingwe fan base that has been supportive of the side since he took over.
“I get overwhelming phone calls and goodwill messages from fans especially early in the morning before our matches, some even with suggestions on how we should approach the game but I appreciate their passion for the team,” noted Koops with a chuckle.
His two sons living in Germany and Holland are proud of his exploits at Ingwe and are always keeping tab of the happenings in the league which he feels has the kind of competitive spirit he was yearning for.
“The Gor derby is still the most thrilling game for me because of the rivalry and deep history between the two sides but I also feel that Edward Manoah of Chemelil and Tusker’s Sammy Omollo are the tacticians who could give me a tough challenge,” he intoned.
Koops is a big fan of the La Liga titleholders Barcelona and greatly admires the philosophy of the Catalans boss Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp of Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund.
“They are the kind of coaches who bring together the various skills of their players into one single unit and deliver results.”
“I look into the strengths of my players which I try to mould and outshine their dark sides and that why you are able to see certain players growing in stature as the league progresses,” said Koops.
He doesn’t rule out giving a shot at the national team but will not let any distractions in his quest to lift the title for the first time since 1998, incidentally the last time they beat Tusker, with the club he has signed for three years.
“Kenya is now my home and I have seen lots of talent in the country but AFC is my concentration for now though I would be willing to engage Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi in any capacity to help the team rise up the world rankings,” said the coach.
Koops loves to spend his free time playing snooker and is an ardent follower of the Tour de France cycling showpiece which he feels gives the riders a personal challenge in the gruelling event that he can easily relate to as he plots on clinching the KPL title.
“After my short stint in this country and witnessing the situation, I feel it’s my obligation to register good results that will translate into better livelihoods for the boys in my squad,” Koops said in his parting shot.
Leopards have featured in the top tier continental championship 12 times with their semi final run in 1968 their best result and their preliminary exit from the 2010 Continental Cup marking the last time they qualified to represent the nation in an African tournament.
Following their win, Tusker moved up to second on the KPL log on 22 points, four shy of Leopards as other close challengers, Sofapaka slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Thika United as Chemelil were held to a barren stalemate at City Stars.