NAIROBI, August 23 – The ugly face of hooliganism forced the signature SportPesa Premier League ‘Mashemeji Derby’ of bitter rivals; champions Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, to be abandoned after a section of fans sparked off trouble in the 66th minute of the second-leg clash at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday.
Both sides were locked in a barren draw before chaos erupted when unbeaten K’Ogalo were awarded a penalty after Leopards skipper, Jackson Saleh, blatantly handled the ball in the box.
But as Meddie Kagere prepared to take the spot-kick, a section of Leopards supporters sat in the notorious ‘Russia’ stands, threw projectiles into the pitch to compel centre referee Raphael Nduati to halt the match for the second time.
Police lobbed tear gas to disperse the rowdy fans and after over 25 minutes of unrest that saw players, technical bench, journalists and broadcaster SuperSport crew huddled at the centre of the pitch to escape the bitter confrontations, Match Commissioner, Paul Kaunda called off the match on security grounds.
“The penalty was awarded at 16:26hrs right now it’s16:53hrs, normally the stipulated time is 15 minutes and my mandate as Match Commissioner is to be concerned about the security of the spectators.
“It’s unfortunate we have to arrive at this decision after consulting with my referees because in my wisdom I have seen that even if the penalty will be taken whether scored or not there will still be massive problem,” Kaunda said.
He added, “Its unfortunate fans from the opposing side have been engaging the police in running battles but I’m not happy with the way the police have handled this. I’m going to write a comprehensive report detailing facts and reason that might have directly caused the abandonment.
“The writing is on the wall. KPL will look at my report and that of the referee and based their decision on that but to stamp out hooliganism without prejudice any team that cause abandonment in a top notch match where sponsors have brought in a lot of money, punitive measure should be taken to those culpable teams,” the Match Commissioner declared.
Unlike the peaceful first-leg that ended in 1-1, signs of chaos were evident even before kick-off after fans broke gates 10 and 2 to pour into the stadium without paying a dime but when the much anticipated game got underway, both sides had a balance share of the first-half.
The referee called the first premature stoppage at the stroke of half-time after a section of Leopards fans threw objects at assistant referee Stephen Ngure.
Things got worse at the breather when the stadium was turned into a battlefield after some of the Ingwe faithful hurled missiles at their Gor rivals who retaliated as police lobbed tear gas canisters to arrest the situation.
Disturbingly, there was no security buffer between the two sets of supporters in what was a major failing on the part of organisation of the usually charged derby.
K’Ogalo showed early intent to reclaim the bragging rights and pick their first win over Ingwe since May 2013 when Kagere found the back of the net after two minutes of play but it was ruled off side.
Midfielder, Bernard Mang’oli responded with a thunderbolt but Gor keeper, Boniface Oluoch stood tall to parry away the threat for a fruitless corner.
From there onwards it was new Leopards custodian, Lucas Indeche verses Gor after the former Sony Sugar shot-stopper turned on a match-of-the-match shift between the sticks to keep the marauding champions out with splendid stops to livewire Michael Olunga and Innocent Wafula.
Leopards head coach, Zdravko Logarusic rung his first tactical change to bring on former Gor winger Tinonah Wanyonyi for Patrick Kagogo but still no difference was made in the opening half.
The back-to-back champions picked up where they left after the restart but Indeche continued with his brilliant show to deny Olunga as the Croatian exhausted his substitutions by withdrawing Lamin Diallo and Fredrick Ndaaka for Duncan Otieno and Khalid Jumaan.
But even before the duo could settle in the game, Saleh gifted K’Ogalo the penalty when he handled Abuoba Sibomana’s cross but the spot-kick was never taken as chaos ruled in a poor advertisement of Kenya’s football.
The matter now lies with Kenyan Premier League disciplinary body who are set to make a ruling but in the mean time K’Ogalo who are on track to their third successive title are perched at the top on 56 points, 21 ahead of Leopards who are fifth.