By Robin Toskin
"Yes he is gone," said AFC Leopards chairman Alex Ole Magelo confirming the sacking of coach Robert Osebe Matano after Ingwe’s 1-0 defeat to Congo United.
Asked what he thought of his sacking, Matano said: "They have made their decision. I respect it. I leave the technical bench with my head held high, but as you know once a leopard always a Leopard."
To some, the decision to fire him may be unexpected while to others the writing was on the wall after Leopards lost to Western Stima and KCB while the loss to minnows Congo United was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Asked why they decided to fire the man who calls himself a ‘lion’ (for according to him, he cannot be a hyena which runs away from problems), Mr ole Magelo said: "His fielding is not good. The team has not played to its potential because some players are left out when they should be playing."
He added: "Fans are on my neck. They want results and we had to make a decision which is: Matano’s time at AFC Leopards is over."
The irony of it is that Matano, then officially Ingwe Technical Director, elbowed out Belgian Robert Bollen after Tusker took AFC Leopards to the cleaners on match Day One of the Kenyan Premier League, citing poor fielding.
Although his sacking mirrors the classic expression "in by the gun out by the gun", Matano maintains he did nothing wrong to warrant the boot.
"What if we had won? Leopards were denied an obvious penalty early in the game, which could have changed the complexion of the tie. The team created so many scoring opportunities yet they faile to convert them. I will always wish them well no matter what certain people think of me," Matano told FeverPitch.
Matano must go!
If the writing was on the wall, then the first graffiti was painted on April 10 when after the 1-0 loss to KCB at the City Stadium despite putting in a decent display, and a section of fans chanted, "Matano Must Go" slogan.
Within seconds, another group of other fans chased away the chanting pockets.
A week later at Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi City Stars dragged Ingwe along a leash for 90 minutes, but were beaten by two Hugo Nzangu Nzoka clinical goals, a result that was given respectability by John Amboko’s own goal in the 2-1 defeat.
Although Ingwe faithful go what they wanted — three points, they were unhappy with the pedestrian manner the team had played. One fan made his opinion known, which Matano took offence and had to be restrained by a cabal of Leopards security from a face-off.
Up came the trip to Mombasa on Friday and Leopards team bus left without him. The officials explained that the ‘lion’ would link up with the team later for he remained behind to see a doctor and that they would book him an air ticket if his health allowed.
As it were, the ‘lion’ followed the team to Mombasa via Mash Bus where he got the boot.