NAIROBI, June 8 – After experiencing a torrid first-leg of the 2015 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) season, giants AFC Leopards have the three-week mid-season break to put their house in order if they are to mount a challenge for the title in the latter half of a season.
Fourth placed Leopards are still in contention to overhaul runaway leaders and champions Gor Mahia after finishing the first term on 25 points, 14 adrift of their archrivals despite a myriad of problems that has turned the grand old institution of Kenyan football into a farce.
Ugandan midfielder, Musa Mudde who skipped a hurriedly assembled team that shocked Sofapaka 1-0 on Sunday in an extraordinary match, has called for warring factions in management to put politics aside and rescue the team.
“We were not in a good mood but we tried and got a win. It’s a plus for us (players) and good motivation. We know we have a lot of problems but we urge the office to come together because we are players and not politicians.
“I gave my all in the game and through teamwork, we did our best to help the club,” Mudde who was instrumental in the stunning victory against the closest challengers to the champions said.
Facing a crippling cash-crunch since Mumias Sugar ended their sponsorship; the 13-time domestic champions have been plunged further into turmoil by two groups vying for administrative control.
After a number of training boycotts to demand their unpaid salaries and bonuses running into the fourth month, matters reached a head on Sunday when some of the players made good their threat of a match-day strike.
Only 14 of the club’s 28-strong squad made it in single file to the stadium, seven among them foreigners as the protest held up the broadcasted game for an hour as officials frantically scrambled to assemble a permissible starting line-up.
The abrupt resignation of Allan Kasavuli from the chairmanship a fortnight ago sparked the battle for administrative control between a group viewed as ‘insiders’ with Western Kenya heritage and another of ‘outsiders’.
One led by current office holders who installed former vice-chairman Walter Onyino as their leader after accusing Kasavuli of leaving them in a lurch and the other fronted by former chairman and Nairobi County Assembly Speaker, Alex Ole Magelo have accused each other of inciting the players to boycott the match.
It’s believed players got incensed when the Magelo-led group under the interim chairmanship of business man Amin Walji, promised to offset their dues, only for them to receive Sh1,000 each.
“I was at the Stadium pleading with players on phone. I talked to the coach for so long until the last minute and Logarusic (Zdravko) told me if you don’t have money, the players do not need you,” Assistant Secretary General, Prof. Asava Kadima claimed.
Keepers Wycliffe Kasaya and his assistant Joel Bataro were among those who rebelled forcing Ugandan striker, Karim Ndungwa to volunteer to stand in between the sticks before shocking many by his saves; including stopping veteran’s John Baraza 83rd minute penalty.
Club’s top scorer, Jacob Keli, midfielder Michael Khamati and Duncan Otieno were other notables who never showed up.
Keli took to Facebook to apologise to fans that rounded on the missing players on the stands and explain his absence.
“Let me start by apologizing to the Ingwe fans for not turning up for yesterday’s match. It was due to personal and physical reasons. Let me make it clear I did not incite any one not to honour the match.
“AFC has 28 players and 13 showed up, so why mention only two that didn’t. I have played my heart and soul for the Den this season despite all this hardships and I’m still recovering from my hamstring injury. God is good we won but it’s a wakeup call to put our house in order to avoid such side shows. OURS FOREVER#teamfocus,” Keli who was signed from KCB wrote.
Assistant coach, Yusuf Chippo challenged the management to put the interest of players first if they are to get better results in the second leg.
“I thank God because things that happen outside the pitch are not what happen in it. Ndungwa helped us a lot after he volunteered to be the keeper and I also thank the boys for sacrificing themselves to help us get the tree points.
“I plead to all AFC fans and those who love the team to come out and help the club solve its problems because we have a good team,” Chippo told Capital Sport after the stunning win.
Walji extended an olive branch to the other group, saying his intention is just to stabilize the club financially.
“Initially the boys refused to play but I convinced them. We only had 14 players without a keeper, we had to plead with them to play after promising them Sh300, 000 after the match.
“We urge those who are fighting the club to please come and join us. The club is not mine. I’m still the interim chairman until I stabilize the club then I will leave,” Walji explained.