NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 28 – AFC Leopards have sent their Argentine head coach Rodolfo Zapata on leave, citing concerns over his security following fan apathy since their SportPesa Shield semi-final loss to Sofapaka last Sunday.
Ingwe Organizing Secretary Timothy Lilumbi told Capital Sport the club took the decision after growing concerns over his safety with a number of fans accosting him after the Sofapaka and Tusker matches last Wednesday.
“We have not sacked the coach. What has happened is that we have sent him on leave because of the concern over his security. There was trouble in the Sofapaka match and Tusker as well on Wednesday and as a club we are concerned about him. If anything happens to him, we will be in so much trouble,” Lilumbi said.
He added; “An employer can always grant an employee leave and that is what has happened. He will return to the club during pre-season for the 2019 campaign.”
However, Secretary General Oscar Igaida gave a contrasting statement, saying the coach was headed to the United States on personal business, further putting into doubt whether or not the tactician will still be in charge of the team.
“Tom Juma will be in charge for the final two games of the season. The coach has been granted leave to travel to the US for some personal business and he will be back before the new season. We have not sacked him,” Igaida said in a response to Capital Sport.
Efforts to reach the Argentine coach who joined Leopards in mid-season from Botswana side Gaborone United were fruitless as his phone went unanswered.
Zapata took over from Dennis Kitambi who had been handed the role following the sacking of Robert Matano early in the season.
On whether Zapata will still be in charge of the team in the new season, Lilumbi said; “I cannot say conclusively anything as at now. That will still pend on any recommendations the Executive Committee will have.”
Zapata on Wednesday told Capital Sport that he was not ready to quit the club but added that he would only do so if the club’s top hierarchy would seem it fit for him to leave.
“I will have a meeting with the Executive Committee to analyze the season and see what we need to do in the team and what’s better for us. If they think the coach is the problem then, it’s okay, I will go, but I think the problem is much deeper,” the tactician said.
AFC’s 1-0 loss at the hands of Sofapaka in the Shield semis increased pressure on the tactician and Wednesday’s 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Tusker FC increased the calls for the tactician to call it quits or the club to fire him.
A section of fans who had attended the Wednesday afternoon tie in Machakos publicly told the coach on his face to quit the club with a section of the club’s backroom staff coincidentally joining the call.
AFC has been a notorious club known to hire and fore coaches at will and if Zapata’s term comes to an end, it will only be a chapter of the already best-selling book at AFC, anchored in firing of their tacticians.
Though regarded as one of the biggest clubs in the country, the club has not won the Kenyan Premier League title in the last 20 years and continuously remain in the shadow of arch rivals Gor Mahia who just this season picked their 17th KPL diadem.