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Friendly fire as John Baraza, ‘Modo’ face off

AFC Leopards head coach urges his players on during a past Kenyan Premier League match. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 21 – In their hey days as players, Anthony ‘Modo’ Kimani and John Baraza faced each other countless times on the pitch, but on Saturday, the two former Kenyan internationals will face off as coaches for the first time ever.

Kimani, a versatile defender in his days with a long career at Mathare United is now the head coach at AFC Leopards, a club he played for briefly while Baraza, a feared striker for Sofapaka now leads the same side from the dug-out.

The former Harambee Stars captain remembers Baraza as one of the finest strikers he ever faced especially during his time at Mahare when they faced each other so many times.

“Anytime before we faced Sofapaka, he was one of the players who had to appear in your pre-match notes. He was a striker you had to do your homework proper on. On the pitch, he was a silent killer. You don’t see much of him, the next moment you see him celebrating a goal. I am glad I am now facing him as a coach and not a player,” Kimani said of Baraza.

Sofapaka forward John Baraza.PHOTO/Courtesy

He says he now respects him even more as a coach, bearing in mind what he has done with Sofapaka, managing to keep them afloat the top five of the standings even in tough times.

“As a coach he has done really well and I must commend him. If you look at how Sofapaka play and how he sets them up tactically, it shows you he is a very good coach. I am delighted that I will be playing against his side and I expect an entertaining match,” Kimani further stated.

Ingwe are placed sixth on the standings with 34 points, four ahead of Sofapaka who are placed two places before them.

Heading to this tie, both came off unscathed in the second round of the Football Kenya Federation Cup last weekend and while Sofapaka needed penalties to beat Balaji EPZ, AFC beat Kitale’s Ellim FC 1-0.

In the league, AFC are reeling from a slim defeat to second placed Tusker while Sofapaka come with pounds of confidence after convincingly beating leaders Gor Mahia in their last league match.

Sofapaka FC players Elli Asieche, Thomas Wainaina and Brian Nyakan celebrate their win over Nzoia Sugar during a Kenyan Premier League clash at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on January 12, 2019. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

“They are in good form now and I have watched them play and I must say Baraza has a good squad. He has quality players and it will not be an easy match,” Kimani said.

He added; “For us, we have worked a bit on what didn’t work out well against Tusker. We have worked on the finishing and a bit of our link up play in the final third. I believe we have prepared well and everyone is looking forward to the game,” Kimani added.

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“Camping in Mumias has been a blessing in disguise for us because it has been sort of a team building for us. Eating together, staying together and just sharing time together has made the team bond stronger especially for players who just recently joined us. Our frame of mind is on top.”

Ahead of the tie, Ingwe will miss the services of forward Vincent Oburu who is nursing a muscle strain and has sat out of the last three sessions. But, Kimani will have the rest of the squad fit to pick up a best 11 from.

An AFC leopards supporter cheers his team on during the Mashemeji Derby at the Kasarani Stadium against Gor Mahia on May 19, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

The first leg encounter between these two sides ended 2-1 in favor of Leopards and they will be looking to complete a double over Batoto ba Mungu for the first time since 2013.

On head to head, there’s a thin layer of ice between the two sides with Sofapaka winning 10 while AFC have won nine of their last 23 league meetings. There have been 59 goals scored between these two sides in those 23 meetings, AFC accounting for 28 and Sofapaka 31.

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