Why Ingwe want to make 60 anniversary memorable

From left; Shabana Secretary General Elizaphan Kerama, Ingwe@60 chairman Vincent Shimoli and AFC Leopards chairman Dan Shikanda during a press conference at Maa hotel, Nairobi.[Stafford Ondego, Standard]

AFC Leopards want to make their 60th anniversary celebrations memorable after their FKF Premier League rivals Gor Mahia and Shabana accepted an invite to participate in a series of activities in the final day of the two-week long festivities at Nyayo Stadium on Sunday.

The action-packed day that will see at least six matches played will be graced by President William Ruto.

The participating teams include AFC Leopards SC, AFC Leopards Legends, AFC Leopards Select, Gor Mahia FC, Gor Mahia Legends, Gor Mahia Queens, Shabana FC, Kisii Queens and Spanish side AE Ramasa FC.

Though Ingwe-fans have been title-starved for almost 26 years, AFC Leopards chairman Dan Shikanda feels the celebrations could be a turning point for the 12 time FKF Premier League champions as they plan to transition from society to corporate entity.  Leopards last lifted the league title in 1998.

Shikanda believes for Kenyan football to restore its lost glory more efforts need to be done in supporting community football clubs.

“We believe the climax of the whole celebrations will be on Sunday where we will play a series of friendly matches against Gor Mahia legends, ladies and senior team as well Shabana. We want to have a carnival at Nyayo Stadium just to celebrate our football. I think the three clubs, AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia and Shabana are the biggest community clubs in the country, and we are looking at ways in which we can engage all our fans to celebrate this big occasion,” said Shikanda during yesterday’s press briefing at MAA Hotel, Nairobi.

“We welcome each and every football stakeholder to grace the event so that we can showcase that the 60,000-seater Talanta Sports City, which is being built, can actually be filled by football fans. It was a challenge from President William Ruto that our football is going down. But for us, we feel AFC @60 marks a turning point especially with the promise of the land that was given before, and we are happy Shabana has also been included. Once these three clubs have their ‘affordable housing’ I’m sure football in this country will go to the next level because we are looking at a scenario whereby these clubs can be self-sustaining.

“When I spent Sh12,000 per day on a venue for my team to train, that’s a lot of money, and at times when it rains, we use almost Sh40,000 just to secure a training ground. Therefore, with the Sunday event which will be graced and patronised by President Ruto, we are looking at a scenario whereby the government will support the three clubs to make sure that we can house ourselves and start competing with who is who in East Africa and Africa at large,” he added.

But to make the club self-sustainable AFC Leopards patron Alexander Muteshi said they must adopt a corporate model.

“For us to have a strong team that can match the squads of 70s, 80s and late 90s, it depends on how we also recruit our players and handle talent scouting.  If we focus a lot in this particular direction and see how it can also help to nurture talent which can grow and join AFC Leopards that will help in strengthening the team,” said Muteshi.

“Even if we have good players, how do you ensure their welfare is well taken care of and are paid well? The idea is now to see how soon do we move from the current community-based approach to the corporate world approach because we strongly believe that will help to inject more revenue. By doing so, we will be able to recruit more quality players and pay them well. Those are the areas we really want to focus on. We need to have clear linkages with other academies we can partner with. But let me make this clear, by going corporate, we won’t be selling the club but opening up avenues for investors to pump money into the club. We will follow all the laid down procedures, involve the members and branches as well as sensitise them.”

His sentiments were echoed by Ingwe@60 chairman Vincent Shimoli, who said the corporate approach was long overdue.

But while it’s a good model, for Shabana Secretary General Elizaphan Kerama Mwanzo, there is still a lot for them to do before considering the approach.

“We encourage to have such models, but before going corporate, we need to do our basics right. We are right now working on the stability of the team before thinking about other programmes,” said Mwanzo.

Gor Mahia Secretary General Sam Ochola said they will temporarily put their rivalry with AFC Leopards aside to join them in celebrating their momentous occasion on Sunday.

“We have been invited and we will take part. It’s a celebration, and the president is also gracing the event and we need to support our in-laws. We invite Gor Mahia fans to come in large numbers and celebrate the momentous occasion, there is no rivalry of football. We hope the three community clubs will be able to fill the stadium to show that football is a sport that brings Kenyans together despite their political affiliation,” said Ochola.

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