Does black magic or juju exist in Kenyan football? It is a question that is as old as local football and goes even beyond the national borders. Yet even as ardent football fans spend many hours of pub banter on the subject, it appears there will never be a conclusive answer.
On Wednesday, kick off to the Posta Rangers and AFC Leopards match at Nyayo Stadium was held up for 10 minutes as the former insisted Ingwe stewards should vacate the inner perimeter of the pitch. Reason? They were ostensibly there to cast a spell.
The stand-off only helped to stoke emotions as the match descended into ugly scenes of fan violence when AFC Leopards grabbed a last-gasp equaliser in the extra time of an ill-tempered clash.
Kepha Aswani came off the bench to rescue a point in dramatic fashion in the 1-1 draw.
“One of the Rangers players, who turns out to be a former player of ours, told the match officials to eject us from the stadium, claiming that we were carrying juju. It is so absurd to hear such things, more so from somebody we gave a platform to showcase his talent,” said a disappointed AFC Leopards steward who sought anonymity.
Rangers thought they had got off to a dream start only for Calvin Odongo’s shot in the sixth minute to clip the post with goalkeeper Ian Otieno well beaten.
Leopards responded moments later, but Eugene Ambulwa’s header was also miraculously cleared off the line by Joseph Mbugi from a Bernard Mang’oli corner.
With the first half ending in a barren draw and with three of AFC players injured (Bernard Mang’oli, Cresten Mwanzo and Simon Abuko), chants of “stop witchcraft!” from some Ingwe fans directed at Rangers coach Zedekiah Otieno rent the air.
But after the break, it was the Otieno’s men who finally broke the deadlock through Cavin Odongo’s 56th minute clinical finish.
The youngster pounced on a rebound in the box before precisely slotting the ball past Otieno, his former Rangers team-mate.
With Leopards trailing by a goal and with less than 10 minutes left, tension started rising in the stands.
As AFC piled forward in search of an equaliser on the pitch, some of the visiting fans fought among themselves in the VIP section. The irritated supporters turned their anger on one of their own, ‘Mula Mula’, accusing the burly fan of talking ill of the club following his favorite chairman’s defeat to Dan Mule in the just-concluded club elections.
The incident came barely a week after the notorious fan was rescued from a mob of angry Ingwe fans during last weekend’s 2-0 Gotv Shield knockout victory over Kakamega Homeboyz in Mumias.
The fans seated in the VIP section continued squaring it out among themselves, inviting their Russia counterparts in the ‘Ingwe unconscious’ fight.
But a few moments after ‘Mula Mula’ had been whisked out of the stadium, substitute Aswani sent the raucous Ingwe fans into a frenzy with a stoppage time equaliser, rising high above his marker to cancel out Odongo’s opener.
And just after the final whistle, AFC fans stormed the pitch and confronted Rangers goalkeeper Patrick Matasi, accusing him of harassing one of their (AFC) players and punching an Ingwe fan. Matasi, a former AFC player, was reportedly hit with a bottle on the head by one of the rowdy fans before he was rescued by AFC assistant coaches Ezekiel Akwana and Nicholas Muyoti, and the stewards.