Last updated 7 months ago | By Rodgers Eshitemi
AFC Leopards interim coach Anthony Kimani believes the FKF Shield Cup presents them with a perfect opportunity of lifting silverware this season and return to continental football scene.
The Kenyan Premier League will take a break this weekend to pave way for the knock out stage of the Betway FKF Shield Cup.
The record domestic cup winners, who last clinched the trophy in 2017 after beating Kariobangi Sharks 2-0 in the final, face lower tier side Elim on Sunday in Kitale in the round of 32 of Kenya’s oldest competition.
But with Leopards, currently sixth, on the Kenyan Premier League log and ten points behind leaders Gor Mahia, Kimani feels their realistic chance of gracing continental football next season is by winning the Shield Cup.
And it is because of Ingwe’s hunger for continental football that the former Kenyan international has warned his charges not to undermine Elim.
“FKF Shield is another opportunity for us to play continental football. That’s an avenue that can guarantee AFC Leopards of playing at a level they should be playing because it’s a very big club,” said Kimani after his side fell 1-0 to Tusker in last weekend’s league match in Nakuru.
Having watched Leopards get eliminated by little-known Bungoma Superstars 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation time of last year’s pre-quarterfinals, Kimani will not gamble with Ingwe’s Cup chances again.
“It is a match that we are going to take very seriously. We are going to field everybody that’s capable of ensuring the team does well and clinch the title. If that means fielding any of the new players, so be it. We’ve signed them because we know they have the potential and quality to play for AFC Leopards,” he said.
Just like Kimani, captain Robinson Kamura said his teammates have committed to give their best in the tournament.
“AFC Leopards has been playing continental football for a very long time. I believe the Shield presents us a chance to represent the country in the continental competition. We are going to give our best. Even if we don’t win the league, we can get back to continental competition through the Shield,” said Kamura.
The winners of the tournament whose final is slated for March 20 will represent the country in next year’s Caf Confederation Cup as well as pocket Sh2million in prize money.
The first runners up will walk away with Sh1million, while the second runners and fourth-placed will receive Sh750,000 and Sh500,000 respectively.