Mashemeji derby offers Leopards chance to restore battered pride.

By Robin Toskin: Wednesday, November 6th 2019 at 08:36 GMT +3 | Football
AFC Leopards fans against Gor Mahia during their Mashemeji Derby at Kasarani Stadium on Sunday 22/07/18[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

When Gor Mahia take on AFC Leopards on Sunday in the storied Nairobi derby, the Ingwe faithful will pray the Green Army does not belt out the late D.O. Owino Misiani’s haunting ‘Ogwang’ othiro yiwe to Gor nyono’ tune.

And why not? Gor Mahia fans retain scant respect for their eternal rivals, at least on the pitch, who statistically no longer hold a candle to their achievements for the reason that Ingwe is no longer Ingwe but D.O Misiani’s Ogwang, which translates to a mere mongoose – a far lesser threat than a Leopard.

It is a jibe titled Gor Mahia fans would gaily flaunt before Leopards fans hard-pressed to justify their claim to being K’Ogalo’s revered peers.

The Kenyan champions have beaten Leopards six times in the last seven fixtures – the other on August 27, 2017, ending in a 1-1 stalemate. Leopards’ victory, 1-0 win via a Lamine Dialo goal on March 6, 2016, now ranking as a footnote in the derby history.

“So many things are broken at AFC Leopards and still are. Hopefully, the efforts to restore Ingwe to its glory days will bear fruit,” Ignatius Khaduli, former Gor Mahia attacking midfielder, offers.

Khaduli, a relative of AFC Leopards legend Noah Wanyama, who also hails from Busia played for Gor Mahia at a time it was almost taboo for a Luhya to play for K’Ogalo and vice-versa.

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The career banker left Gor Mahia in 1991 having joined in 1988 and had hoped to play for AFC Leopards, but for a strange turn of affairs as Ingwe reneged on buying him two pairs of boots for the midfield maestro.

“AFC Leopards approached me after I left Gor. I knew their financial struggles and because I was working at Barclays Bank at the time I just wanted to play for the club for free. However, to test their resolve I requested that they buy me two pairs of boots; one for training and the other for game time. AFC Leopards are yet to bring me the boots up to today,” Khaduli said.

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. Photo Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com

It was a broken promise, the kind of mishaps that have dodged AFC Leopards even as Gor Mahia continue to swell its trophy cabinet — having won six KPL titles in the last decade.

In contrast, AFC Leopards are still waiting for a first league trophy since 1998.

Gor Mahia has been regular campaigners in Africa with their 2018/2019 group stage showing in the Caf Confederation Cup being the highlight of their revival.

AFC Leopards have turned to their former winger Dan Shikanda as club chairman to lead the felines out of the doldrums. Shikanda has endeavored to inject a feel-good factor to the club by signing young and exciting players.

Asked about the ‘ogwang’ tag, Shikanda said: “We are playing Gor Mahia of today, not one of 10 years ago or last year. Our fans should come and see for themselves the project we have embarked on.”

“We have very good players, determined to restore the pride of the club. So let the fans come and enjoy the match on Sunday,” Shikanda said.

Leopards are third in the league and save for their 1-0 loss to Kakamega Homeboyz, the Casa Mbungo-coached side is slowly getting back their claws.

The clash against the rampant Gor Mahia will demonstrate how far AFC Leopards have gone in convincing K’Ogalo that they are not a mere ‘ogwang’.

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