NAIROBI, Kenya, October 20 – On a day reserved to celebrate the country’s heroes, hooliganism reared its ugly head as the GOtv Shield semi-final between cup holders AFC Leopards and Sofapaka descended into anarchy, forcing the tie to be aborted in the 86th minute at Nairobi’s City Stadium on Monday.
Sofapaka were on the verge of ending Leopard’s reign with a healthy 2-0 lead over the jaded champions before a section of their misguided supporters turned what was a festival of football into chaos.
Once again, a boardroom decision will come to play with the matter now in the hands of Football Kenya Federation to decide the fate of the game between the top flight outfits whose winner will meet former Kenyan Premier League (KPL) side Posta Rangers.
City stadium was turned into a battle field on a Mashujaa (Heroes) Day moments after Leopards conceded the second goal through Ekaliana Ndolo with a section of Ingwe fans throwing objects towards the pitch, forcing police to lob teargas to disperse the rowdy fans.
The bedlam that lasted for over 20 minutes saw the unruly supporters invade the pitch and attack Davis Omweno and assistant referee Stephen Oduor injuring them before venting their fury on the harmless Sofapaka and SuperSport’s buses with stones with their own luxurious coach not spared either in an orgy of violence.
With the situation getting out of hand police officers were forced to fire live bullets to the air to disperse the rioting mob to enable both teams, journalists and broadcast rights holders SuperSport crew who were marooned in the middle of the pitch to gain secure passage out of the arena of disorder with their own lives at risk.
Leopards head coach Pieter de Jongh condemned the violence, saying they were trailing fairly.
“I’m not happy with the fans the way they have conducted themselves today, this is football and we were to win or lose. The opponent was a good team; the first goal was as a result of miscommunication and the second my defence slept a little bit. I’m disappointed but we now focus on the league,” the Dutchman told Capital Sport.
The prelude to the ugly scenes started in the 24th minute when fans sat in the infamous ‘Russia’ stands hurled objects at Oduor after he ruled out Nigerian import Austin Ikenna’s goal for off-side forcing the match to be stopped for five minutes.
Sofapaka was the better side in the first-half, taking advantage of Leopards static defence of James Situma, Joseph Shikokoti, Jackson Saleh and Titus Wamalwa to break the deadlock in the 26th when Enoch Agwanda made good use of Ndolo’s pass to smash the ball pas keeper Patrick Matasi who had came off his line.
Ingwe could put matters to level five minutes later when Humphrey Mieno set Bernard Mang’oli loose and his stinging shot forced keeper David Okello to parry out for a fruitless corner.
The last chance of the half for Batoto Ba Mungu came in the 33rd when Ndolo broke through from the left to beat Wamalwa and cross in but Matasi denied Agwanda a brace as he waited to pounce.
Burundian Fiston Abdul saw Sofapaka start the second-half on a high with his well timed shot but Matasi was well positioned to deal with the threat before head coach Sam Timbe pulled him out for Anthony Kimani.
Leopards fought hard in the remaining 15 minutes forcing Batoto Ba Mungu to sit back but neither Ikenna’s and Noah Wafula’s efforts bore fruit not even Mulumba’s backward header that forced his own keeper to fingertip for a wasteful corner.
Sofapaka scored their second minutes to the final whistle after Situma concede a free-kick from a high boot against Agwanda at the edge of the box with the resulting Kimani’s set-piece hitting the wall before Ndolo tucked in from the rebound.
This was the cue for the merchants of violence to unleash the mayhem as lawlessness reigned before security forces expelled them from the stadium by discharging their weapons to prevent disaster on another day of crying shame for Kenyan football.
The chaos came just 24 hours into another domestic match, this time in the KPL between title-chasing Tusker FC and Muhoroni Youth was abandoned in the 77th minute after the latter accused the Brewers of having 12 men on the pitch as officials bungled a routine substitution.
Earlier at the same venue, Rangers edged out fellow Super League side West Kenya 12-11 on post match penalties after both sides played out a barren draw in regulation time.
At stake for the winners is the chance to represent Kenya in the CAF Confederations Cup next season.