How Gor Mahia left rivals AFC Leopards sleeping in the den

AFC Leopards SC fans follow the proceedings during their SportPesa Premier League match against Gor Mahia FC at the Nyayo national stadium on October 23, 2016
With 18 KPL titles to boot, K’Ogalo have left Ingwe asking themselves where the rain started beating them.

His body lies on the cold slab of Chiromo morgue – oblivious of the impeding Mashemeji Derby this afternoon.

Perhaps without George Daniel Wakasala, this derby would be off the Kenyan Premier League menu, for who knows AFC Leopards would not be lining up today at Kasarani for the 87th league fixture of this absorbing rivalry.

Like a protective hen in 2007, he took under his wings the remnants of a once vibrant AFC Leopards; Ainea Wekesa Masika, Ibrahim Shida and Ken Nyagaka keeping them busy with his young son’s tattered ball until a knight in shining armour arrived.

SEE ALSO :Local league faces bleak future

Unfortunately, whatever result this afternoon at least for AFC Leopards, it means nothing to the detained cold body of Wakasala, whose spirit would be more concerned with the day it will be laid to rest than moaning about thankless service to Ingwe.

After AFC Leopards were relegated in 2006 under the chairmanship of the late Dr Sobbie Mulindi, Ingwe den literally collapsed, its faithful and leadership deserting en masse.

But Wakasala, a poor old man from Kamukuywa in Bungoma County who was a volunteer Team Manager at the time, kept the faith with the three players until Gilbert Selebwa arrived from the USA.

For More of This and Other Stories, Grab Your Copy of the Standard Newspaper.

As team manager in 1998, Selebwa had won what would be the last AFC Leopards’ league title and so was pliant to Wakasala’s vision to return the club to the league.

Selebwa brought on board former Nairobi County speaker Alex Ole Magelo and together with Wakasala they registered the club in FKF Nationwide League in 2008 paving the way to Ingwe’s return to the KPL in 2009.

SEE ALSO :AFC Leopards’ hunger for victory goes on

Wakasala’s forgotten contribution to the club is just one of a litany of mishaps dotting AFC Leopards’ journey in search of greatness – one that has seen their eternal rivals Gor Mahia wheel away with six KPL titles in the last decade to stand peerless with 18 gongs.

Like the cold body of Wakasala in Chiromo mortuary so is AFC Leopards’ trophy cabinet speckled consolatory domestic Cup titles of 2009, 2013 and 2017 since their return to the top flight.

With 13 KPL titles by 2013, AFC Leopards were a gong KPL better than Gor Mahia (of course Ingwe’s 1971 title a subject of fierce contestation that the league was scrapped with the felines leading the table).

Up until the 2014 season, AFC Leopards had beaten Gor Mahia 26 times and lost 21 times in 76 meetings.

Gor Mahia, however, are head and shoulders above AFC Leopards since 2009 with the record champions having won 15 times and drawn five in the last 26 fixtures. Now that is a depressing statistic for a team priding itself as Gor Mahia’s peer. “Stability both in club leadership and the squad including the technical bench has really worked for Gor Mahia,” Selebwa contends.

SEE ALSO :Shocks and surprises as new KPL season kicks off

“Compared with AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia have stuck with their chairman Ambrose Rachier despite several challenges. Their recruitment policy has worked very well for them because the office does not interfere with the team,” Selebwa adds.

“The high turnover of club leaders at AFC Leopards, firing of coaches and recruiting players for the sake of it and not because of the needs has really undermined the club’s progress.”

AFC Leopards SC fans cheer their team against Gor Mahia FC during their Kenyan Premier League match dubbed 'Mashemeji Derby' at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on February 06, 2019.
According to former AFC Leopards defender Peter Lichungu, Ingwe’s woes are just down to poor leadership.

“Since Alfred Sambu left we have had trust issues at the club. One leader after another has come and at the end, we discover they had other motives such as using the club to get political offices,” Lichungu said.

“Leadership is AFC Leopards’ Achilles heel and unless we get someone who restore trust, it will be difficult to change the situation. It is a challenge that Dan Shikanda (current chair) has to deal with for him to be able to change the fortunes of this great club.”

SEE ALSO :AFC Leopards beat Gor Mahia in race for Makwata

Gor Mahia’s long serving team manager Jolawi Obondo credits K’Ogalo’s success to the leadership continuity at the club.

“Chairman Ambrose (Rachier) has been at the club for 11 years, which has really helped in planning, and decision-making in pursuit of the club objectives. It has given the chairman enough room to execute the plans and the vision.

“Bringing in foreign players such as Meddie Kagere, Jacques Tuyisenge, Baba Kizito, Godfrey Walusimbi, Khalid Aucho provided the spark and with it came the professionalism and competition within the club,” Obondo said.

He added: “Sponsorship deals with Tuzo, Crown and SportP{esa ensured we could hire quality coaches such as Logarusic (Zdravko), Bobby Williamson, Nutall (Frank), Ze Maria and many others.

“The scouting has been fantastic and former players such as Gor Oronge acting as the club’s eyes has worked for us. The fans too have been unbelievable. They came and have stuck with the club through difficult moments.”

Obondo, however, believes AFC are beginning to shape up again. “I have seen AFC at their best and lowest moments. Their scouting has not been anywhere near good, but I think they are now doing something.”

Do not miss out on the latest news. Join the Standard Digital Telegram channel HERE.

AFC LeopardsSportPesa