Monday, September 26, 2011

Snakes and Ladders

AS LEOPARDS continue the walk into a new era under Jan Koops and a returning legend Mickey Weche coupled with a very decent playing unit there will be times when doubts are expressed about the remnants of the previous era. Any remnants that symbolise the depressing side of that era should have already been moved on and Leopards should be working hard to be the feared side of old. The club, and ultimately the fans, have been hurt by the incompetence that had made the team a laughing stock and whipping boys in the league. Time heals wounds but every wound is different and some injured parties take longer to heal than others.

Power struggles have gone on throughout the club for much of the last few years and power isn’t always used to the best effect – as anyone remembering Demonde Selenga’s wayward shots towards the end of his Leopards career will testify. Power struggles usually lead to people takings sides and leaving common sense behind; at Leopards it meant individuals were judged not on their abilities in the positions they were elected to (as officials) or jobs they were given (as the technical bench and playing unit) but on their (often inaccurately) rumoured actions away from the pitch.

This situation was at its height when the 2011 season was commencing. The season before it was already there, in the shadows, as the Executive Committee (EC) of Directors than run the club fought each other with some suspensions being handed out to some officials. At times, you got the feeling that the wars were more important to the Executive Committee and the team had a bad run in at the end of the season with players complaining of lack of pay.

Every so often, the EC would interrupt their own fight to turn on fans, staff or players but even without their daft antics the fans, staff and players were capable of having their own little bun fights. This continued even after the change of guard at the helm of the team as the succeeding EC also took the centre stage in waging their fights. Coaches were fired for not producing results; players were fired for sabotaging the team; and at times the fans turned against themselves blaming even issues like the dressing of fellow fans for some bad results on the pitch.

Somehow, and it seems incredulous and amazing to think back to it now, how this off-field turmoil could have been better utilized to make the club serious contenders for that which the club was formed for: playing football.

Leopards had finished the last two seasons in the new Kenya Premier League with a measly 34 points in both seasons and hanging around the twelfth position in the sixteen team league. With the end of the last season, there was many a smile on every Leopards fan’s face. The difficulties in paying players salaries seemed to have been thrown to the dustbin as Mumias Sugar were announced to be the new sponsors of the club. 

Rather than bring stability, the announcement that sponsors were on board seemed to be the reason that led to one of the fiercest contests over the control of the club with court battles ensuing to determine which Directors were rightfully in office. Alliances shifted within the protagonists; but it was remarkable that the team continued to be assembled during what a local daily called catfights.

With a new EC in place on 7th March, there were other developments that came fast and furious. The club had lost its first match of the season but it went on a three match winning streak. It looked like the good times were back! But that seemed a false dawn as some discouraging results crept in. That is when coaches came in and went out on a merry-go-round as other changes came in on the technical bench. By the June transfer window, a tsunami like wave left some key players jobless too. At some point, the CEO left and signs of trouble within the EC were starting to really break out into the open; truly the long rope was running out and the noises weren’t exactly encouraging.

One of the things that brought about a positive buzz was when a group of supporters who’d come together at the end of the previous year decided to go out of their way and form a supporters trust that would attempt to unite the fans and make them speak as one voice as they engaged the EC. CLAWS Trust which stands for Club of Leopards Active & Wise Supporters Trust worked hard to motivate players by introducing a player reward kitty; it also worked hard to improve the image of the team that had been worn out with the constant fights which image was now replaced with the Community Social Responsibility programs; the Trust also saw the partnering up of one of its social media outlets, the Face Book Branch that visited other branches, playing football with them and generally bonding with a view to bringing hostilities between fans to a minimum; the Trust also took over a popular blog Ingwe Fan and supplemented it with a quarterly fanzine by the same name that featured articles on the club, the players, the fans, the coaches and so on; the trust also partnered with the club by encouraging its members to buy the club’s merchandise especially the replica jerseys.

As these feel-good times went on, it was apparent that the fans had found their voices again. The EC had upped its game too and some well-loved players had been recruited. A new TV deal was also announced by the EC making the club one of the few that had such a deal on the continent.

And once the good ship of Leopards started sailing once again, there was happiness all over with some decent results coming our way. But as anything that glitters, sometimes the truth only gets revealed by waiting until time wears down the paint that was hastily coated over the cracks.

The resignation of some EC members was a rude reminder to the club that the ship of Leopards still needs careful steering even when the waters are calm. Despite the smiles, there was a feeling that the ship was being torn apart by those who had their own ideas on where they wanted it to go and how they wanted to get it there. And making it worse was the way the people who didn’t want to save the ship, people who just wanted to make sure they got as much salvage as possible, were turning the people who did care about the ship against each other. Some fans took it upon themselves to label anyone who disagreed with them as spanner boys and other derogatory language was used against sections of the fans.

The blame game is never constructive and mistakes were pounced on, such as the draw away to Bandari, and put under the microscope in an attempt to show how ugly the situation at leopards was – but the ugliness was in the methods employed and the ease with which some supporters seemed to take the line of the club’s sworn rivals. It is one thing for a fan to be criticized by a Gor Mahia fan but to hear some of the same vitriol from fellow Leopards fans must have been a heart-breaker for the lily livered.

But when Leopards wins, as they did against Sony Sugar, it appears that football is football again. 

For most of us there’s no longer a nagging doubt that some decisions off the field were political in some way, as admitted by the EC as it let go of the players accused of sabotage; however it is important that the buying and firing of players be governed by rules that are fair if any club genuinely wants success. We as fans might not always all agree on every decision that’s made by the EC but we should not feel any need whatsoever to question the motives of the decision makers.

Attention must be drawn, however, to the words “for most of us”.

There are clearly still some pockets of the fan base of Leopards that haven’t “gotten over it” when the dust has settled on the playing pitch which had been the biggest threat to the club’s future.  Yes, the results on the pitch if they go wrong are a greater threat to the leopards future than the structures that we seek, be it a new constitution, a new secretariat, a new members register and a new set of the EC.

It is important to give credit where it is due. The EC hasn’t always gotten it right – but at the end of the day we are a football team whose principal objective has to be to play football matches and win those football matches. In the last six matches, Leopards haven’t lost any match and have won four. You would think that this is automatically translated to ‘the good times are back’ but it isn’t translated to that.

CLAWS Trust still has a lot of work cut out for it. Any criticism that it voices on the other issues and the warnings it sounds over building a house-of-cards is inevitably met with suspicion by others including the EC and some other sections of fans. 

Fans have to be united. After all, the motto of our club was decided by our forefathers to be OBULALA NA AMANI, meaning unity is strength. Even the issue of the motto isn’t agreed upon with modernity seeing another motto OURS FOREVER infused to the club. But the message is the same. The OURS in OURS FOREVER refers to the fans. For they are the ones that remain as time goes past. Sponsors come and go, players come and go, coaches come and go, EC officials are elected and their terms ends, but the supporters remain, forever!

So if fans have to be united, then terms like “us and them” are quite misplaced. To see sections of fans celebrating rumours that the Face Book Branch is not recognized by the EC as if it wasn’t in support of Leopards but some other team, is the height of the sabotage of fan unity. And in any event, fans who care about the team would go about their duties well knowing that as long as their agenda is pure, then it matters not if they don’t get mere recognition. 

Any brilliant mind on the EC would want to have on its side a group of fans such as CLAWS Trust and the Face Book Branch, who not only travel to support the team, but rallies its troops to be fanatical about the Leopards. The trust through its fanzine Ingwe Fan have taught sections of the fans the history of the crest of leopards; and given out the list of persons who have served as Chairmen of the EC thus preserving the history of the club. 

Any brilliant mind on the EC would be telling people that during its tenure in office, they created an environment that was conducive and led to the formation of a supporter’s trust, the first in the country and one that is a valuable partner for the EC.

But if the EC makes the mistake of isolating any sections of fans, or openly engages in shadow boxing any fans, they play into the hands of the enemies of the teams. Some sections of the press will be enjoying it, at least the bits of the press that don’t particularly care about Leopards, and will add more and more poison to the mixture, in the form of reporting conflicts at the club and making it a laughing stock once again.

We live in interesting times when green snakes amongst the EC, amongst the fans, amongst the press, amongst the technical bench and other sections that affect our club will take advantage of friction at the club. This is why the leadership of CLAWS Trust should be lauded for recently cautioning that the constitutional amendment process at the club should go ahead but should be cautiously handled.

Times like this call for people of integrity and who believe in something to stand out and be counted. There is a story that is said about a certain Attorney General of our Republic who was gleeful as he moved a motion in Parliament to remove the security of tenure in the offices of the judges and the Attorney General. Whilst he thought he was handing the Executive the axe to remove judges, the same Attorney General was also removed from office as he had no security of tenure. If he complained about being fired, he would have been like the people who move with the wind instead of being guided by what they believe in.

To illustrate the point further, it means, too, that the fans who say that when Mike Baraza scores a goal for the Kenyan national team Harambee Stars, they are justified to celebrate the goal by shouting ‘AFC! AFC! AFC!’, they are in effect saying that if Collins Okoth scored a goal for Harambee Stars and our rivals Gor Mahia fans shouted, ‘Gor biro! Yawne Yo!’ such fans would have no problem with that! That is principled.

Principled persons will not hesitate to say something that is well thought out and which they can stand by.

In any organization there are actions that remind us of the game snakes and ladders. Snakes take you down or backwards, and ladders take you up or forwards. At Leopards, just like in that game, after you have experienced the exhilaration of a ladder, it is quite possible that you could bump into a snake. But on the flip-side, after experiencing the humbling emitted by an encounter with a snake, your next move could land you at the foot of a ladder.

This game teaches us that our future in the game of life is determined by one thing, and one thing only – movement. We have to just keep moving ever forward. We should not stop at the foot of a snake and throw away the dice. Just keep moving. Get up again, and keep moving. And hope that you meet as many ladders as possible along the way.

For me, I am glad I met the gentlemen at CLAWS Trust, a true ladder at the club. They hold their horses when it is necessary, or when it is helpful to the club that they keep quiet and they speak out when they need to.

Nowadays, in this barely hatched new era for Leopards, we should be able to pass comment on the EC, players, tactics, coaching staff and performances without anyone assuming that it’s being said with some other motive in mind. We all see things our own way, we even see differences between what we see live at the game and what we see on highlights later, either because we saw it from a new angle or because we’ve had time to reflect.

That’s  a big part of why Leopards is what it is – we’re passionate about it and all secretly think we could probably do better at times. But as long as we’re passionate about the right things – the football itself, not the politics – we can still enjoy the sport at the same as having arguments with each other about it.

When football is as it should be, fans whether they belong to different Branches will argue with each other, passionately, but they won’t fall out with each other. If they do fall out it’s because something other than football has got in the way. We’re capable of finding our own things to get in the way – if we’re workmates maybe work will get in the way, if we’re housemates maybe dirty dishes will get in the way – but we also need to be on guard for others trying to put those old Ochiel-Magelo control fights back in the way.

Suspicion has been so high though that it didn’t matter what the background of anyone commenting on the situation was. The most passionate Leopards or the bitterest Gor fans would be given praise or condemnation depending on which side they seemed to be on. That Leopards fans couldn’t see this is perhaps the biggest shame of that period of time – but those who still can’t see it probably have no shame, and they are the ones most likely to be carrying those old battles on.

If CLAWS Trust got support and united the fans, it would mean that people will be able to be critical of what goes on during a match because they weren’t happy with that thing that went on in that match. It doesn’t mean they are right – see above about arguments – but it means that they are making a judgement based on football, just football. Not insults, not innuendo, not to curry favour with the EC or with sections of fans.

Jan Koops has set the mood.  We have not heard Koops blame the fans for wearing short dresses and contributing to our draws in Mombasa. We have not heard Koops blame the former office for sabotaging the team. We have not heard Koops publicly blaming the current EC for being incompetent. We have not heard Koops moan about the sponsors.

He has gone about his business as a professional. He has concentrated on managing the playing unit. The team now has a bounce to it. The whole squad know that they are no longer certainties to start – but also know that they can get themselves close to being that way by putting in the performances. Every position, including the goalkeeping, has some healthy competition and that should serve as an incentive at a club where far too often in recent years certain players have failed to put a shift in. Those players have now left the club and the existing squad won’t want to follow them.

Koops has instilled teamwork to the playing unit. It is a challenge for the EC to instill teamwork to the EC. It is a challenge for CLAWS Trust to instill teamwork in the fans.
Inside the club, the atmosphere is good, with six games gone by without a defeat. The nig challenge comes when the team meets Gor Mahia over the weekend in the 70th League meeting between the two teams. It is time for the players to step up and bring a victory that the fans so desperately need.

Every player should know that just like Gor Mahia are the rivals of Leopards, the players of leopards within themselves are rivals for the positions for the privilege to represent this stories team. More importantly every player should know that they can and will be criticized by the fans for anything they don’t do right – such as not getting a victory against our bitter rivals. Any such criticism should be constructive, designed to help the club as well as that player, and won’t be prejudiced by what has gone on at the club when it was infested by snakes in the EC, in the fans, in the playing unit and in the technical unit.

A few green snakes in the grass are still hiding in dark corners, within and outside the club it has to said, and will continue to try and spread their poison in whatever way they can, be it looking to divide supporters again or spreading stupid false stories about the club. But they’re easy to spot, if you open your eyes, and are far less harmful if ignored. It’s a long walk back to where we were, back home at the top of the league table; at times we’ll be running and at times we might stumble. But we’ll get there far sooner and in far better condition if we head there as one team: AFC Leopards Sports Club.

(with additional help from an article by Jim Boardman)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Post Match: Sony Sugar (A)

Leopards beat Sony Sugar 3-0 in this match played in Awendo. Oscar Kadenge scored twice with Charles Okwemba scoring the other goal.

Sunday Nation carried the story

In Awendo, AFC Leopards continued their fine run with an emphatic 3-0 win over Sony Sugar.

Leopards’ impressive turn around continued with an emphatic 3-0 victory at a rain-lashed stadium.

Oscar Kadenge latched on to a weighed cross from Bernard Mang’oli to score a brilliant opener.

Leopards continued to press on against a shaken home team and were rewarded when Francis Chinjili’s goal-bound shot from 20 metres out hit the upright and Charles Okwemba easily taped in the rebound in the 13th minute.

Second half was delayed for nearly an hour because of a waterlogged pitch but officials decided to let the game proceed after scrutiny and consultation amongst themselves.

Five minutes to the hour, Kadenge banged in the third for Ingwe after some brilliant piece of solo effort by Salim Ramadhan

Standard on Sunday in its Feverpitch report carried the story

AFC Leopards struck a morale boosting 3-0 win over Sony Sugar away at Awendo a week a head of their crunch clash with Gor Mahia whose embattled coach, Zedekiah Otieno, came under a hail of bottles and rocks after their 2-2 draw against KCB.

Oscar Kadenge scored twice as AFC Leopards beat Sony Sugar FC 3-0.

Sony came into the game seeking to continue with their good run which had seen them win three games on the trot, but it was the visitors who went ahead in the 5th, Kadenge tapping in Francis Chinjili pass at the near post past Gaddy Kawuondi in Sony’s goal.
Charles Okwemba made it 2-0 six minutes later, running into a through pass which caught the host’s defence flat-footed before rounding Kawuondi and rolling the ball into an empty net.

The second half had to be delayed by almost 30 minutes as heavy rains flooded the pitch making it impossible for the half to kick off.

When it eventually started, it was the visitors who would take the lead straight away. After a failed Sony attack, Leopards made a quick entry into the hosts’ half with Kadenge finishing neatly from a tight angle a minute after the break.

From then on it was all Sony as the visitors seemed content to soaking Sony pressure and catching them on counter attack.

The win brings to an end Sony’s good run, but coach Francis Baraza expressed confidence that the team will be able to forget about it and move ahead to the next games as the club continue with its quest to finish better than its 5th position last year. has the story by Collins Okinyo. He reported:-

Oscar Kadenge scored a brace as AFC Leopards produced a virtuoso performance thrashing Sony Sugar 3-0 in Awendo on Saturday.

Charles Okwemba scored the third as Ingwe ended Sony Sugar’s three match winning streak in a match that was held up for almost an hour because of heavy downpour.

Kadenge broke the deadlock in the eighth minute when he found himself in acres of space, easily tapping in a Francis Chinjili cross.

A charged leopards continued pilling pressure and they made it 2-0 in the 13th minute when Collins Kisuya’ pass caught the Sony defence napping and Okwemba beat gary Kawondi with a classy finish.

The second half was however delayed for 45 minutes as heavy rains pounded the stadium making the playing surface wet but resilient Leopards players took matters into their own hand draining the water off the pitch perhaps due to the urgency and importance of the match.

Referee Nicodemus Marani gave the match the go on and in the 55th minute man of the match Kadenge got his second of the day after his long range shot was deflected by Sony defender Sylvester Wanyama into his own net giving Leopards an unassailable lead amid song and dance from the many travelling fans that thronged Awendo Green Stadium.

The win ensured Leopards leapfrogged Sony Sugar moving to seventh on the log with 33 points.

“I am indeed happy with today’s performance as this has underlined our intentions in the league. The players played according to instructions as they gave 100 percent despite playing away from home,” an elated AFC Leopards coach Jan Koops told

His counterpart Francis Baraza was devastated, “I congratulate Leopards .We simply switched off and could not recover after the early goals.”

Kenyanstar in a report by Timothy Olubulu gave this account:

At half time in Awendo, AFC Leopards were leading 2-0 before a heavy downpour started. The rains flooded the pitch and rendered the field un playable and as the 15 minute break before half time ended, Sony players refused to take to the pitch citing that they could not play in the field due to its state.

Sensing that the game could be pushed to the following day cancelling their 2-0 lead, AFC Leopards players took matters into their own hands and decided to drain the pitch themselves. After almost half an hour of concerted effort, they had succeeded to drain the pitch using banners of Fans’ branches and the referee then decided that the match could go on.

AFC Leopards had gotten the two goal margin within 15 minutes of the start of the match. Oscar Kadenge who has been enjoying good form of late opened the scores in the 10th minute tapping in a cross from Francis Chinjili on the right. Charles Okwemba got his first goal for Ingwe after signing from Rangers FC in mid season. The midfielder was a beneficiary of a spilled ball by the Sony goalie. Francis Chinjili again provided the assist picking the ball from the keeper’s hands and proved unselfish choosing to pass to Okwemba instead of shooting at goal.

Leopards relaxed with the two goals margin, dominating most part of the first half. Sony had only one clear chance with Patrick Matasi saving from Isaiah Omondi as the half drew to a close.

After the pitch was drained in the second half, Kadenge put matters beyond Sony with a clean Solo effort, taking a shot from outside the box and was deflected into the net by a Sony defender, completing his brace.

In the final 20 minutes of the match, Sony decided to up the pressure in search of the three goals at least to pull off a draw. Former Leopards man Hugo Nzoka was stubborn all through but was contained by the AFC defense. Enock Agwanda had two clear chances in the second half but none was converted. The clearest of them was when he picked a ball after keeper Matasi was left sprawling on the ground but failed to convert with the conditions of the pitch and instead slid.

Leopards now move to 7th on the table with 33 points from 10th and push Sony to eigth. They will next be playing Gor Mahia this weekend.

KPL website standings

2Ulinzi Stars2412842617944
3Chemelil Sugar24117627171040
6Gor Mahia2391042116537
7AFC Leopards23103102524133
8Sony Sugar2495102128-732
9Karuturi Sports248791620-431
10Thika United2494112631-531
11Western Stima248791521-631
13Mathare United2351171919026
14Congo United2355131735-1820
15City Stars2447131627-1119

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pre Match: Sony Sugar (A)

Sony Sugar beat Leopards 2-1 in the reverse encounter. How will the Leopards fare in Awendo's Green Stadium? has the story of Sony coach warning the Leopards. Collins Okinyo writes:-

Sony Sugar coach Francis Baraza has warned AFC Leopards to brace themselves for tough battle when they arrive in Awendo for their league clash on Saturday.

Sony Sugar are inform with three consecutive wins beating Gor Mahia, Thika United and Karuturi Sports at their backyard to climb to seventh with 32points.
“We definitely respect AFC Leopards as one of the big teams in the league but they should be worry because on the pitch it will be a different story.” 

“I know Leopards are in form currently but I am definitely happy that our fans back at home have been very instrumental in our rise and I know they will back us to the hilt as we fight for the three points.” 

“We want to finish the league among the five top teams and my only injury worries are George Amayo and Victor Otieno who are nursing ankle injuries,” he added. 

Sony however welcome striker Isaiah Omondi who last played against Western Stima, Sichai Kizito who has had a long layoff after suffering a knee injury in the first leg and Justine Monda. 

AFC Leopards are currently tenth on the log with 30 points and a win would see them leapfrog the Awendo based side. 

Kenyanstar has reported that Mike Baraza is doubtful for the match though he has resumed training.Timothy Olobulu writes:-

AFC Leopards striker Mike Barasa started training today after spending the last three days recovering from an accident he was involved in on Saturday. Barasa trained lightly with AFC leopards as they prepare to play Sony Sugar in a KPL tie on Saturday.

"I trained lightly today, just running around and stretching. I removed the neck brace yesterday and I underwent some physiotherapy and massage on the neck because of some muscles which were strained. Now I am OK and I thank God for that", Barasa told Kenyanstar.

At the same time, he says that he is not yet sure whether he will feature in the Sony match adding that he will examine the state of the response of his body after Thursday's training and make a decision.

"I can not say now whether I will play or not. I will train again tomorrow and I will examine myself. If the body will have recovered, then I will play but if I will still feel that I am not ready, I will not force myself into it. I will just relax and wait for the next match. For Harambee Stars, I will join camp on Monday, they gave me the whole week off", he adds.

Barasa is currently the second best goal scorer in the league with nine goals, with Moses Arita leading the log with 10 goals.

Nairobi Star have a story about Aluvisia filling the shoes of Baraza. The story by Francis Wadegu reports:-

Former Tusker forward Silas Aluvisia is ready to step in and fill the big gap left by the absence of club top scorer Mike Barasa who suffered a minor injury in a car accident last weekend. Aluvisia, who has had to contend with a place on the bench at Leopards for the better part of this season, is optimistic that the injury to the striker, who has notched nine goals in the league so far, could be an opportunity for him to shine.

“We wish Barasa a quick recovery because without a doubt, he is our main man in front. But for me, this is chance to prove that I can also merit a place in the first eleven and if given the chance by the coach, I will take it on both hands,” said the striker. Leopards who are hoping for a top five finish to the season after a poor first leg left them in the lower end of the league will travel to Awendo where they will face Sony Sugar hoping to climb above their opponents.

Carol Radull predicts a 2-2 draw.

Collins Okinyo predicts a 2-1 home win.

Sony Sugar have managed three consecutive wins in their backyard helping push them up to seventh on the log with 32 points.

Sony’s Hugo Nzoka has been the man to watch leading their resurgence but on the other hand Leopards have been in good form themselves with coach Jan Koops solidifying the team’s performances.

They might have to do without talisman Mike Baraza who is recuperating from a car accident suffered last week.

Our Prediction: 2-1

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Turning Point

There is a television program that focuses on Christians turning their lives around and it aptly called Turning Point. Most times, you will find persons who have been through hell but then they get their Damascus movement, and then their lives become happier.

Being beaten by Gor Mahia was the best thing that happened to AFC Leopards this year.

For after that match, the Executive Committee of the Directors that run the club fired Nick Yakhama from the technical bench and elevated Jan Koops officially to head Coach and brought in Mickey Weche as an Assistant Coach.

It had been a torrid time for the Leopards. The loss to Gor Mahia was the tenth for the Leopards in seventeen matches. Gor was coasting; they had played a game less than the Leopards, and were now third on the league table. If they won their game in hand against Sony Sugar, they had a chance to go joint top.

Leopards on the other hand was at position 12 on the table flirting rather blatantly and dangerously with Ms. Relegation.

But though the match against Gor Mahia was a frustrating game for the Leopards, it was not necessarily fruitless. Having outplayed Gor, the Leopards left the Nyayo National Stadium with no points but with no more fear of tough games ahead of them either.

If they could play so well against a team that was on the throes of the summit of the league, why would they fear any other team in the league. That was etched into the Leopards players’ collective psyche.

Fast forward to five games later.

Leopards had still lost ten matches - meaning of course, that they had not lost a single match since their loss to Gor who on the other hand have not won in the last four matches.

The points gap that was eleven points between Ingwe and K’ogalo with K’ogalo having a game in hand and with a chance to extend the gap in points to fourteen points,  has now narrowed to six points with both teams having played an equal number of matches.

Gor has fallen from the third position at that time (which had later risen to second position) and are now settled at sixth with a chance to climb up to fifth with their game in hand. Leopards are tenth with a chance to climb up to seventh with their game in hand. As a Leopards fan put it on the Leopards Facebook Branch Wall, the two teams are now neighbours on the league table.

The confidence in Leopards is rising whilst that of Gor is plummeting. The latter have lost the last two games whilst Leopards are banging in the goals with Oscar Kadenge, Laurent Tumba, Collins Kisuya supplementing the goals scored by golden boot contender Mike Baraza. Francis Chinjili has also shown sparks of brilliance and surely there is a goal in him. Jimmy Bagaye has been sidelined with injury but he is the kind of player who can also improve the fortunes of Leopards. Veteran Charles Okwemba is also the leading in assists at the club and will be relied on to supply passes or even go for goal.

Leopards fans on the other hand cannot wait for 2nd October 2011 when their team gets the chance to avenge the first leg defeat to Gor, a defeat that is treasured for having turned around the hell that leopards were going through into some sort of Seventh Heaven that has seen the club rise up to seventh in the league in the recent past, only slowed down by the lack of s stadium to play against Gor last weekend.

The 70th El Clasico in the league couldn’t have come at a better time with Gor seeking redemption whilst Leopards are not going to thank Gor, but will be seeking revenge for that Turning Point moment.

Ingwe Fan and will keep you posted on how this script turns out.

The King of Assists

Statistics. You can do without them and you can’t do without them. There are those who see statistics as an American thing that was brought to keep Math teachers happy and create jobs for some research assistants.

Yet statistics are helpful in the modern game as they help coaches and recruitment officers make decisions that are based on sound analysis of player’s performances. Football is about analysis and thought and nothing speaks analysis more than stats.

The modern game needs an analysis of fitness levels of players; and it is in this context that coaches can tell which player is the fastest because if you passed the ball to a player who isn’t fast, chances are that the opposing team will reclaim possession.

How far can Imbalambala throw the ball for instance, can determine whether certain positions are worth taking the Rory Delap throw in.

An article by Tim Adams appearing in the September 2011 edition of the magazine Esquire  and titled ‘Sport by Numbers’, tells the story of Opta.

When Aidan Cooney first read Moneyball in 2003 he sent it to every one of the 20 managers of (English) Premier League clubs. He did not get one response. Cooney is the chief executive of Opta, and in 2002 he set out to transform the way we understood our national game with a team of one. When they first went to newspapers with the suggestion that football analysis might be a little more scientifically rigorous, selling stats, they were told in no uncertain terms that there was no desire "to Americanise sport" in Britain. Opta now employs 100 staff across Europe analysing data on matches. It supplies most of the Premier League clubs and nearly all of the bookies in the land with statistics. The newspaper editors were wrong.

Close home, there are attempts by Facebook Page 89:59 to do what Opta does though the analysis of the specific games has been hampered perhaps with lack of staffing and the requisite technology that Opta has at its disposal.

Other stats that we come about are the usual Supersport television half time stats that come on to our screens can help a coach identify what areas need to be tweaked. During the match we had with Gor Mahia for instance, the half time stats showed that Gor Mahia was fouling more than the Leopards were (13 to 6). 

That is a stat that one can use to gain advantage in getting free kicks near the goal area as long as the ball is pushed forward.

Possession stats also help the coaching staff know where they could utilize the information. If the possession is in the opposing teams territory, then a substitution can be made that comes to take advantage of the stats.

One of the stats that Ingwe Fan is interested in, is the statistic of who made an assist.

According to Wikipedia, an assist in football is a contribution by a player which helps to score a goal. This could be in the form of the pass to the player who scores, or if the goal comes from a direct free kick or a penalty, then the assist is credited to the player who won the free kick or penalty, and if a goal is scored from a rebound, then the player who hit the ball that was ‘spat’ is the one who is credited with the assist.

From our research, we have noted that though Mike Baraza is the leading scorer of the twenty two goals scored by leopards this year, the players who have made the contributions to the goals by providing the assists are quite a different statistic. 

In the order of the goals scored by Leopards, the assists are listed in bold:-

1. Brian Masiolo, Joseph Okumu, Salim Kinje
2. (corner Selenga), Douglas Okumu, Joseph Okumu
3. Joseph Okumu, Salim Kinje, Brian Masiolo
4. Hugo Nzoka, Evans Wandera
5. Emmanuel Tostao, Itubu Imbem
6. Demonde Selenga, Hugo Nzoka
7. Martin Imbalambala, Hugo Nzoka
8. Shaban Ramadhan, Laurent Tumba
9. Laurent Tumba, Shaban Ramadhan, Emmanuel Tostao
10. (Corner Milton Milimu) Nicholas Muyoti
11. Salim Kinje, Silas Aluvisia
12. (fouled Francis Chinjili) Jonas Nahimana
13. Charles Okwemba, Collins Kisuya
14. (fouled Charles Okwemba) Brian Masiolo
15. Charles Okwemba, Mike Baraza
16. Brian Masiolo, Mike Baraza
17. Salim Kinje, Jimmy Bagaye, Mike Baraza
18. Emmanuel Tostao, Oscar Kadenge
19. Charles Okwemba, Mike Baraza
20. (free kick Charles Okwemba), Laurent Tumba
21. Salim Kinje, Mike Baraza, Oscar Kadenge
22. (fouled Bernard Mangoli), Collins Kisuya

In our analysis, we have taken note of some of the plays that contributed to the goals. Goal Number 16 for instance was scored against Gor Mahia and involved a cross from Masiolo which was controlled by Baraza before he fired in. One may be tempted to think Baraza assisted himself!  Goal Number 19 against Sofapaka was clearly an over hit pass by Okwemba which was then parried into Baraza’s path by the Sofapaka goalie; however, for purposes of checking the path of the ball, we have considered the Leopards players only.

From the above, it shows that the King of Assists is Charles Okwemba who is currently way ahead with 5 assists.

5 assists - Okwemba
2 assists - Tostao, Ramadhan, Kinje
1 assist - Selenga, Baraza, Chinjili, Masiolo, Nzoka, J. Okumu. D. Okumu, Milimu, Bagaye, Mangoli, Imbalambala

Okwemba: He happily gives out the ball to the scorers
For us Ingwe Fans, it is also a wake-up call to always remember that though one may not score a goal, he may be making a huge contribution on the pitch which some of our local journalists do not wish to keep tabs on, preferring instead to concentrate on the English Premier League. 

Some say that statistics are like mini skirts – they give us good ideas but hide the most important thing. The important thing is that football is a team sport which is emphasized with players who will go to celebrate with the player who provided the assist that leads to a goal. 

But each player has to play his part on the pitch so that when the most important statistic of a match is counted, then the cumulative happiness will be felt all around. The most important stat is of course the result.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Post Match: Bandari (A)

Leopards drew 0-0 against Bandari at the Mbaraki Sports Ground.

MichezoAfrika reported:-

AFC Leopards on Saturday afternoon were held to a barren draw by their hosts Bandari FC at the Mbaraki stadium in a lively KPL fixture. Despite enjoying possession and dominating play, AFC Leopards lacked the finishing touch wasting open chances in both halves with Bandari keeper Ivo Mapunda forced to make four spectacular saves that saved Bandari the blushes.

Mapunda was on point to deny Charles Okwemba early in the match when he parried off the midfielder’s hard volley in the 12th minute and another mid in the second half.

Bandari also had an open chance in the 18th minute but Matasi was quick to deny the hosts with an easy collection of a low grass cutting drive by Eric Opondo.

With less power upfront and wasted chances, Jan Koops brought in the bulky Francis Chinjili for Emmanuel Tostao as the Leopard piled pressure on the port’s men in the second half trying to break the deadlock.

Bandari Coach Shedu also made substitutions to his side trying to find a break through by introducing Ali Wiza for Shaban Kahindi and Zuberi Kombo for Andrew Murunga.

In the end, there was nothing much to show by both sides as they went home on shared spoils.

The draw at home is not good news for Bandari who needed maximum points to extend their gap from the relegation zone. After their match, Bandari moved up to 18 points same as City Stars but the two teams are now separated by goal difference while Congo United despite collecting a vital win away to Gor Mahia remain rooted at the bottom.

Savvy Kenya blogged about her experience

Kenyanstar on the other hand had this report by Timothy Olobulu

AFC Leopards were forced to play to a 0-0 draw with Bandariu in a Kenya Premier League match played on Saturday afternoon at the Mbaraki Sports Club in Mombasa. Bandarie who had designed a heavily defensive play did littyle to create meaningful chances with Leopards enjoying possesion especially in midfield but frequently stopped in thye attack.

Bandari’s Tanzanian keeper Ivo Mapunda pulled off a sensational match saving Bandari in more then three dangerous situatons in the game. Charles Okwemba tested the keeper early in the 10th minute when he hit a half volley from a poorly defended long throw from Martin Imbalambala. The Tanzanian flexed himself before acrobatically tipping over Okwemba’s volley.

Bandaris’ best chance of the first half came in the 22nd minute when Eric Opondo riffled a low shot from outside the area but AFC keeper Patrick Matasi handled well.

In the second half, Ingwe came back with more determination to win the match and pressed their hosts from the start. Coach Jan Koops introduced experienced Francis Chinjili for Emmanuel Tostao to spice up things up front. Ten minutes from the restart, Okwemba was again at the thick of attack with his shot ion the half turn taking a deflection and dancing away inches from the goal.

With Coach Rishadi Shedu sensing that his Bandari side needed more than just a point from the match, he also decided to jig up his attack line bringing in Ali Wiza for Shaban Kahindi and a few minutes later bringing in Hamisi Zuberi Kombo for Andrew Murunga.

This however did little to change the termpo of the match as they kept almost 8 men behind the ball always. Keeper Iuvo Mapunda was called into action againin the 72nd minute, tipping away a chip from Okwemba agan, after a short corner taken between him and Bernard Mang’oli.

Ten minutes before referee Amos Ichingwa blew the final whistle, Jonas Naimana saw hios freekick at the edge of the 18yard box clinically saved by a fully stretched Mapunda. Leopards tried to push the game harder in the dying minutes trying to capitalize on an injury Mapunda had picked on his left shoulderr but the scores still remained the same.

AFC Coach Jan Koops was satisfied with the match anbd congratulated Bandari saying they played a very defensive and physical match which was a little bit over his players.

“We played well, I am not complaining. Bandari played a very defensive and physical game and that was where they almost beat us”. He also adds that he was impressed with Laurent Tumba who played as a left back for the first time with the absence of Collins Kisuya.

“He played very well and I was impressed with him”, he said.

His opposite number Rishadi Shedu was dissapointed that they defended instead of attacking but nevertheless was thankful for the point especially now facing relegation.

“I was not happy because we played alot of defensive play and at this point we just need to attack because the position we are at is not good. But we are fighting to the end”, he said.

2Ulinzi Stars2210842215738
3Chemelil Sugar2210752516937
5Gor Mahia229941914536
7AFC Leopards2293102224-230
8Karuturi Sports228681517-230
9Western Stima228681318-530
11Sony Sugar228592025-529
12Thika United2284102429-528
13Mathare United2251071818025
14City Stars2246121424-1018
16Congo United2245131635-1917