Football Football

AFC turn down Zambia invite due to SportPesa exit

AFC Leopards team posing for a team photo before the match. Head Coach Robert Matano opted to start with Gabriel Andika in goal in favour of regular Ian Otieno. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 3- GOtv Shield champions AFC Leopards have turned down an invite from Zambian Premier League side Napsa Stars for a pre-season friendly match since they will be unable to raise close to Sh1mn in air fare after the exit of their sole sponsors SportPesa.

Ingwe chairman Dan Mule has told Capital Sport they had been invited by the Zambian side for a friendly match between January 15-20 and they were asked to foot their travel expenses while the Lusaka based club had committed to cater for their meals and accommodation.

“As things stand right now, I don’t think we will be able to honor that match because with the sponsors exiting, we need to prioritize our expenses. It will be impossible for us to honor that match so more or less, we have turned down that invite,” Mule said.

The betting firm announced on Tuesday it was withdrawing all its sports sponsorship in Kenya, the news throwing a devastating jab on AFC and Gor Mahia, Kenya’s two biggest football clubs.

Also affected by the exit was the Football Kenya Federation, Kenyan Premier League, Kenya Rugby Union, National Super League side Nakuru All Stars, Boxing Association of Kenya, boxer Fatuma Zarika and Kenya Harlequins RFC.

AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano with Team manager Gilbert Selebwa after their Kenyan Premier League match against Nakumatt on November 5, 2017. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Mule has decried the exit of the company which was sponsoring them to the tune of close to Sh45mn annually and the figure had been set to rise by a certain percentage this year.

“It is not only a blow to us as AFC but the entire sporting fraternity. That is killing sports. It would be advisable if the government could re-look that taxation law and sit down with the stakeholders for an agreement,” Mule further noted.

The exit of the sponsors will now further force Ingwe to change most of their pre-season plans including a planned high altitude camp ahead of their CAF Confederations Cup campaign.

Mule has meanwhile affirmed that the club has already begun measures to cushion themselves from a possible cash crunch and they have been talking to potential suitors to replace the betting company as the club’s shirt sponsors.

He has also assured that the club will honor their Confederations Cup matches beginning with the preliminary round clash away to Madagascar side FOSA Juniors FC.

AFC Leopards celebrate with Andrew Tololwa after the midfielder scored the lone goal in their 1-0 win over Nakumatt FC on November 5, 2017. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“We will honor the match and we are in the process of writing a budget and forwarding it to the Ministry of Sports through Football Kenya Federation to see whether we can get some help. We are also talking to a few potential sponsors and probably by the end of the month, we will have something concrete,” Mule said.

“We will not fail to get a way. If not from sponsors, we will fundraise here and there to get the money. We are also asking our fans to turn out in large numbers when we are playing because they are our number one sponsors,” averred the AFC boss.

Meanwhile, the club has continued to beef up the squad ahead of the new campaign and their newest acquisition is Ghanaian left back Isaac Oduro, formerly of giants Hearts of Oak. The defender who had been touted to sign for Zanaco in Zambia penned a two year contract on Tuesday evening.

The club has also acquired the services of midfielder Simon Mburu from KCB and is looking to add two more midfielders and a striker.

“The team is shaping up very well and from what we have done in this transfer window, I am confident that we will have a very strong squad to challenge for titles,” Mule said of the team which last won the Kenyan Premier League title in 1998.