The State Of AFC Leopards; An Interview With Ingwe CEO, Ronald Namai

A familiar pattern is happening at AFC Leopards, A good start to the league followed by a string of poor performances close to half-way the season... Only this time round, the club CEO assures that they won't be firing the playing staff and hiring new ones. It is for several reasons but ultimately an attempt to have some stability. 

We sat down with AFC Leopards CEO, Mr. Ronald Namai, for an Intrinsic look into the state of AFC Leopards .  

KS: Who is Ronald Namai?

I'm a Kenyan Citizen. I went to high school in Western Kenya, went to Egerton University. I graduated with a Bachelors  in Arts and Economics and I've spent most of my life as a sales person after that. I've sold in the oil industry, I've worked at the bank, I've done insurance sales and so I'm more inclined towards sales management. I'm now managing AFC Leopards on a day to day basis. I'm married to one wife with two children .

KS: You happen to be a Chief Executive Officer of one of the biggest clubs in Kenyan soil... How has it been running AFC Leopards?

I've been here for six months. It has been enjoyable and tough. Enjoyable and tough are two combinations that are suitable for sales people so I think I like what I have seen and I like what we have done. It has been tough in the sense that we have had to make a lot of structural decisions and we continue to make them. Enjoyable because we are seeing some progress off the pitch and I'm hoping in the next few months we also see progress on the pitch.... So it has been a good time so far.

KS: Your appointment elicited mixed reactions across the fan base and membership,  some saying that you forced your way into the job, some saying it was more of a political reward. What's the true position on your appointment?

I will leave that to the appointing authority. But you see towards the end of last year, I was asked to come and help the club. The office was about four months old and they needed to put things together at the secretariat. Most of the NEC members are professionals in their own fields so they didn't have time to come and put things together, especially considering that we were facing a deadline for club registration and licensing. So they asked me to come and help them put together the secretariat and handle the issue of club licensing to ensure that we are in a position to start 2017. It was a short term arrangement  so I was asked to come in and handle that which was supposed to take only a month then hand over the report, which I did. We handed over the report on 16th December and we had managed to get the interim license and I put in my recommendation of where we need to move as a club. So based on that, The club offered to retain me for the time being and try to implement some of those recommendations from the secretariat which I'm currently doing. I don't know how you can force yourself to be a CEO of an institution so I will leave that to whoever makes such comments. I know AFC has a lot of political undertones but in  my capacity as the CEO, I will leave that to the political side.  

KS: Speaking of timelines, your job must surely have a timeline... What is your duration in your contract at Leopards as the CEO?

I don't think I would want to discuss the details of my contract in this forum...But it is time-bound with specific deliverables which  are evaluated every six months then the NEC makes a decisions on what needs to be adjusted and what needs to be done. It is however open in such a way that if the NEC feels that we are not achieving what needs to be achieved, they are free to disengage. If I also feel that I am not getting the support I need, I am free to disengage.... So nobody has been imposed on another. I'm now not on an interim basis.

KS: Over the last ten years, Leopards have not been performing as the fans expect.....In your own opinion and as the CEO of the club, what has been ailing Leopards?

What has been ailing the club is marching the history with the fans expectations and with the resources available.  As someone put it in a separate forum and if I may paraphrase, we as a club operate on a Manchester United history, with a Huddersfield budget and with Arsenal fans' expectations. In brief we have a huge history which gives us a big name, we have a very limited budget within which to operate and our fans' expectations is beyond description. So in the last years, each administration has been coming in and trying to deliver on the fans' expectations without addressing the fundamentals of the club in terms of resources, structuring  and actually having a long-term plan, which is why we have failed every other year. 

At the beginning when we started the season, we made it very clear to our members that we want to bring down the expectations first. Don't expect that we are going to win the league; that is not our target this year. We first want to address the foundations of the club, that will give us a strong position moving forward so that we can now be in a position to be winning titles continuously.

One of the biggest issues at Leopards has been legal issues, we have had more than ten cases in court running from fraud, legality of the office and so many things. We have managed to get licensing from the Federation, we have managed to get the registrar of sports recognize the office that was elected...that has helped us in solving some of those legal issues. We've managed to put together a team to review the constitution in line with the Sports Act and those recommendations are going to be put to the AGM of the members this month. We also revised the constitution to model it along a more corporate and sustainable nature...we moved the elections from annual to three years; that helps in planning. We allowed the office to have a mechanism of replacing those members who leave through cooption and those are the stepping stones that we started with. In the next six months, we should not have any more legal issues.

In the last six months, we have also managed to re-do the membership and have a verifiable register. We just made an announcement a week ago that we have about seven hundred registered members in twenty different branches and some of them have registered individually which is allowed in the constitution. We have issued those members with their membership cards and those branches with their branch certificates. That gives stability to the office to now plan for the future.

We made a decision to start the foundation of the club and have a young squad which we can mould over the next three years to be able to deliver trophies for us. We want players who will be with us for a longer time, work together as a team, grow with us and be part of the success story of the club. If you look at such a time a year ago when we had to let go of thirteen players, this time we might let go of only one player and sign utmost four players. That gives continuity and stability to the team.

We had asked Stewart Hall to be our coach for the next two years but he asked to leave earlier than expected and we have accepted his request. We are only going to replace Hall....the rest of the technical bench will remain the same to ensure stability and continuity of the team. We also plan to have a retreat before the beginning of the next leg and just try to engage our players.

KS: As a CEO, what key administrative strengths are you bringing on the table to make sure that these goals are achieved? 

I've worked in environments like this before and I believe that has prepared me well for this role. Over the last six years, I have been able to interact with a variety of stakeholders of the club so I understand where they stand, I know which kind of people to tap into if there is something that needs to be done in the club.... that gives me a strong footing in trying to drive for the change that we want to.  We have professionals who are willing to volunteer or work at a subsidized rates for the club and my interaction with them gives me an opportunity to engage them very fast. 

KS: Six months in, What would you say are your key achievements?

For starters, We have managed to steer the club away from the corridors of justice. As we speak, we don't have an active court case unlike eight months ago where we had about six court cases. 

We have also had very many conflicts with players during the transfer windows which have ended up in courts and so on. Over the January and this June window, we have not had a case of a player going to court for wrongful dismissal and we are not going to see it in June. we have had discussions, agreed and signed documentation that in June we are only releasing one player, which is by mutual consent.

Thirdly, we have tried having a harmonious working relationship between the NEC and the technical bench. We have had a lot of push and pull between these two in the past. I have tried acting as a shield between the two. Where decisions have to be made, they have to be made objectively and within the law so that we don't have those conflicts spreading into the playing unit. 

We have also been able to go through the membership drive. As a person who has been in this club for a long time, I can confidently say that this is the first time that we have had a membership drive in a non-election year.  That's a very good foundation to go forward.

KS: What about the main challenge?

The main challenge for us is revenue. Most of these things require a financial base. If you look at our audited accounts for 2015, we carried a debt of 32 million shillings. If you look at that debt and our 2016 sponsorship deal which was 45 million, it leaves you with thirteen million yet the club runs on a budget of approximately 4.5 million per month on the lower side.  You can now see the hole that we are in as at 2016. Part of what the previous office did to ensure that they see off 2016 was to borrow money. So last year's borrowing amounted to 8.5 million and we got penalized in various court cases amounting to about 5 million. So it was a huge debt coming into 2017. One of the things we have agreed on is to stop creating more debts because it is going to catch up with us at some point. So this year, we have not borrowed any money and we have been penalized 177,000 for last year's Homeboyz match, which we have paid. We have also paid part of last year's debts.

KS: Can you take us through Vincent Oburu's case?

The issue was about communication and player management. Vincent signed with us in December 2016. We have policies with which we sign players.  We have players who we sign from our junior team where he was playing and we have players who we sign from other clubs, locally and internationally. So we signed with him a three-year contract in December. However as a new player who has never played in the league, he was convinced by other people that the deal was not as good as it should be and that he can get a better deal elsewhere, and they led him to our noisy neighbours to do another contract in January, so we were told. In the normal manner, we took his documents for registration at the Federation and he was registered as our player. On the last day of January, the other team went to the Federation to claim that they wanted to register him yet we had already done that therefore that became a dispute and since the matter was still under dispute, we were not allowed to field him. The matter was eventually resolved in March where he was allowed to play for a team of his choice, but from June as a punishment for entertaining two spouses. So he came to us and said that the club of his choice is AFC Leopards and so we did for him a contract last week which we have handed over to the federation. 

KS: Do you feel you were given a fair ruling in March?

From the bottom of my heart, we did not get a fair ruling given the facts that were laid on the table. In fact we have two rulings; we got a ruling in February clearing the player to play for us and the letter says that the other team did not provide any documentation to confirm that they had signed the player. Our disappointment with the ruling is that although they upheld that there was no documentation to prove that the boy signed for another team, they went ahead and gave him a punishment. But it is a decision that we didn't contest and we didn't want this case to keep dragging  from one place to another. It doesn't work for us nor for the player. 

KS: Having said that, Have you sued the federation?

I personally feel that it was not fair to the club but the better result for us is not engaging in disputes and court cases with the federation. Since we have an opportunity for the player to start playing for us, we would rather let that matter rest.

KS: You were quoted by the press saying that you wanted Gor Mahia  to be punished over player-tapping. what informed your decision to say this or is it just a political statement?

As I've said, there was a court ruling which exonerated AFC Leopards and clearly put blame on Gor Mahia for the activities and things that they did which led to the player not playing in the first leg, and it is in writing from the federation. I made that statement  after getting that ruling in writing from the federation so my concern was I didn't want the federation to just make a statement that we are going to make a follow up. We actually want to know and see the end of this thing if they have punished the culprits. We need to see that punishment being done so that in future, we don't have to engage in the same things. It is illegal, against football rules and regulations and if it allowed to go like that, others are going to do the same. The player and the club have suffered so we still insist to see what the punishment to the culprits is. 

KS: Oburu's case is not the first one. We also previously had Diarra and several others.  what are you doing in your capacity to make sure that this doesn't happen again?

The Diarra and Oburu cases are totally different. For local players, we have been very categorical that we are following the rules to make sure that if we are interested in a player, we engage his club and the federation to ensure that we have the proper documentation as we go to engage the player. The Diarra case was whereby the club engaged the player and the club legally but for one reason or the other,  we did not conclude on our part in good time to ensure that the player can be released to us. So during that gap, the other club upped their offer for the player and the player decided not to move. 

For foreign players, before we can announce that we have a player, we do our check to make sure that all documentation is in place before telling you that we have acquired a player. 

KS: You have had probably the best coach in the country in Stewart Hall but less than a year, he is leaving. How and why did your marriage come to an end?

I don't dispute the qualification or abilities of Stewart Hall. He is a very good guy. As I said, we brought him in on a two-year contract  and explained to him the nature of the club and what we wanted to achieve. To the best of our knowledge, he was happy with what was there and he agreed to the terms that we had negotiated. We have worked very hard to make sure that he has a conducive working environment. we even moved out training from Marist University to St. Paul's University, Limuru because of his recommendations and we've never had a major disagreement  with him. He surprised us when he asked to disengage because we didn't understand the basis. He explained to us that he has family issues that he has to deal with back at home which would not allow him to continue being our coach. He explained that he will not leave Leopards to go and coach another club, locally, regionally or internationally so he wasn't leaving because he had a better offer from another club or because of bad working conditions. So we asked him to give us some time, thought about it and we went back, sat with him and told him that we still believe that he is the right man to be around. But he still gave as no as the answer and insisted that he has to leave in June. So to be very honest, we are still surprised by the turn of events. But this is a professional job so if somebody says they want to pursue a different line in their lives, we have no reason not to allow them and since he gave us notice, we have follow the contract as it obligates. 

KS: How does his departure affect the ongoing development project?

The development should suffer zero consequences. This team is not being built around a coach or an individual. We are building the foundation for Leopards for the next fifty years. No coach is going to be here for the next ten or twenty years, so we want to shield the club from a change of policy because one person has left; be it the Chairman, CEO or anyone. We are still on the project, it is long term and we will sit down with the next coach and speak to him about the project.

KS: Was the project Hall's or NEC's idea?

This is a club's idea. I don't want it to be an individualized idea. So it is a collective thing that we are developing. The club should continue growing on the playing side, commercial side, social side and all areas. So it will not be molded around an individual.

KS: What informed the choice of Hall's successor? Was he recommended by Hall Himself? 

I don't know where you get the impression that he was recommended by Stewart Hall. I will only talk about Marin in the context that we are having discussions with him to be the next coach. He is not confirmed until the paperwork is done. So for now, he is leading the pack but it is not yet done. We are now in the final stages where we are finalizing on the nitty gritties, which are very crucial. So we are making arrangements for him to come, we have a discussion, share with him the project and if he buys it then he will be confirmed as the coach.

KS: You have done a good job convincing the fans that Leopards are developing a squad for the future but still the current results have put Leopards way off target..... From your season projections of a top 5 finish, was this expected?

The fans are not happy and we are also not happy. But how far are we from our target? The first target was a top five finish. We are seven points away from top four so how do you rate that. In my rating, we are not where we want to be but we are off by about two or three matches. We never started the season saying we wanted to chase the leaders, but only top five and that is our target.

Our second target is to do all we can to be in the finals of GOTV cup, with an aim of winning it. GOTV is five matches and so it is the only target of a win that we have this year.

KS: What are the timelines for the `development project' and when can the fans expect the team to compete for trophies again?

We are balancing the two. There is the project which is long term but there is the fans' expectations which you have to address, which is why we have two targets for the year; one on the project and the other on winning the GOTV to show the fans that we are at least on the right track. So you satisfy the fans with some silverware but again you do not move away from the project. 

KS: You are very early in the transfer market, unofficially you are seeking at least two strikers, two midfielders and one defender to strengthen the squad. Unofficially again you are seeking very high profile players in these positions. How does this fit into the development project?

Very early into signing, that's true... it is one of the policies we have that every time we go into signings, we should conclude fast and focus on developing the team. How do the high profiles fit into the development?  Both Kitenge and Kizito, who you might be aware we are pursuing,  fit very well into our two targets for this year... Both of them are twenty and below so they are young players, and this is their second club in their professional career . On the trophy side, these are national team players; Kizito has more than twenty caps for his country so he is the kind of player who you are not bringing into the club to try and mature him up. So the two guys are players who are going straight into the first eleven and that should help us deliver the trophy that we want to.  

KS: Is it true that Leopards is in fact struggling to raise funds for its June transfer targets including the two you mentioned?

Very false. We do not engage if we don't have the capacity to do that... and the reason why we lost players last year was because we did not match the resources offered by other teams. This time, we have matched the resources and the appetite so the personal terms that we have agreed with players, we know we have the capacity to meet it. So there will be no issue about lack of money for payment.

KS: Have you put in mind the possibility of this project not maturing? 

There is that possibility. What happens is we put measures in place to ensure that this vision remains intact beyond the CEO, NEC and others. One of the things as I have said is to de-link it from an individual and make it owned by all club stakeholders.  I will be very happy to see candidates in the next elections campaigning on improving this vision. Second is to entrench it within the legal framework of the club and we are going to put measures including the proposal of some constitutional amendments in the next AGM.  It is not going to have an easy time but we remain focused. We are not chasing away the coach, we are not having legal battles and we have now matured. I am also happy with the way our membership has understood the vision and if we keep that up, I don't think we will be comparable in this region. 

KS: The club has previously been unable to pay players salaries... Should fans expect that to happen again this year?

There will be no salary delays this year. This is because our wage bill has been managed and contained to fit into our cash flow. So I can confirm today that no player will go without salary any month. It has not happened and I don't foresee it happening because we have contained  our wage bill. For allowances, we had issues last year but this year and as I speak, we do not owe any allowances to any player for this season. We have ensured that the leakages that we had are not there anymore. So we are pleading with our membership to remain focused and show maturity, as they have done so far. We are also very pertinent about following the due process in everything that we do. Again most importantly is to live within our means. We know what we receive so we don't want to promise a player that we will give him two million signing fees if we can't.

KS: The club membership has dropped in one year from approximately 5000 members to just above 500... What do you attribute this to?

We have made a number of changes to membership to make it a bit more strict for someone to be a member. A year ago, the qualifications were very different from the current ones.... You would only need to pay five hundred shillings and you would be declared a member. Today, you need to fill in an application form, attach a copy of your ID, sign to the membership code of conduct, attach your photo and pay one thousand two hundred shillings before committing yourself to be a member for one year. I don't think the numbers have actually dropped because we started this exercise in February and by end of April, we were at seven hundred.... By the end of the year, I see us going back to around four or five thousand members. Given the stringent nature of requirements now, it informs us that people want to see an organized team and they will be members. We are looking to have a membership of ten thousand and above in the next two years. 

KS: What efforts are in place to raise the club's membership numbers? 

One was to put up a membership framework which is clearly understood. Another thing is to establish strong branches which will help reach out to more people in different areas. We now have twenty branches across the country and they have targets to grow numbers every year. If we can grow the number of branches to fifty with one branch having a hundred members, that will take us to five thousand. If each member can bring in one other member over the next two years, we'll hit our ten thousand target. 

Another step we are now taking is to put together a membership value proposition which we are working together with the branches to do, which will entice people to come on board as members. That will distinguish a fan from a member. Right now that is more of sentimental value but we want to move it from sentimental to real value. 

We also want merchandise to be discounted for members because it is one area which we know branch members have a proposal they want to bring to the AGM, and it is welcomed.  We already have membership cards which we want to digitalize, which one should be able to put money in those cards going forward so that one will come and tap at the gate and enter into the stadium, without needing to purchase a ticket.

KS: The club has a kit partner, Right? How much is the club getting from this kit partner? While at it there have been issues of fake merchandise and the club seems to be silent about this matter...what steps are you taking to deal with it?

We do not have a kit partner. I don't know where you get that kind of information. We are in discussions with two kit manufacturers for purposes of securing a kit partner for 2018. For 2017, we do not have any. What we have is an arrangement where we buy. We have a supplier whom we have agreed  on terms for supplying us with specified merchandise. Going forward, we should have a decision by the end of August on one that will be brought on board as a kit supplier for 2018. 

KS: What is the club doing to increase the numbers in the stadium?

We have a very engaging arrangement with our branch network. Our branches have a target that they have given themselves in terms of ensuring that we grow match attendance and we engage with them on a weekly basis to try and see how to improve match attendance. Some of the things we are doing in the arrangement is organized transport to ensure that most people can afford and have a way of getting to the stadium. We are also developing a code of conduct for members of the club who travel mainly to ensure the safety of our fans and other people in the stadium is guaranteed. We want to have this safety discussion internally and punish those who are not abiding by it. So we are not going to compromise on the security of fans coming into the stadium. That should help us. 

KS: In the last elections, you were in Dan's coalition and part of what you promised the fans was that at the end of your term, the fans should ask you about a stadium... Two years to go now, Will AFC Leopards have a stadium in two years? 

It is true I was in Dan's team but we are not going to build that stadium. We have plans to build and develop a training ground for the club and we have a group of members who want to pursue the issue of building a stadium. We have given them the green light to put together a framework for achieving that so it is something that a section of the members want to pursue and we want to support them in whichever way possible. But for the office, we want to acquire and develop a training ground for the team.

How far have we gone with that? We have engaged one of the state corporations that has land to lease us some of the land at a reasonable rate on long term, to develop the training ground. So we have already had two meetings and the land that is being proposed is at a very strategic place and is a place where you can actually develop into a stadium. We hope that by the end of the year, we will have something tangible to put on the table so that going into next year, we move into the actual development of the facility. If that will not work, part of the revenues that will come from the new partners will be directed into acquisition of land to develop a training ground. 

KS: How much have you suffered as a club since the exit of SuperSport?

We had already engaged KPL and SuperSport to give us space on the  advertising boards to bring in partners who might not necessarily have huge financial muscles but they can pay in a certain amount of money to appear on those boards. We had already been given the go ahead to market seventeen boards in every match and we had now started engaging partners interested. So the exit of SuperSport  put a stop in those discussions and it has had a negative impact on us. The live transmission of those matches  enabled us to reach more fans than those who come into the stadium but the exit has now limited us. There are also revenues that come from broadcasting matches on SuperSport  and the revenue has now disappeared, so it eats in to our revenues. I know the KPL and FKF are working on a new frame work, which we support and want to be actively involved in negotiating. We are not going to accept another SuperSport kind of deal in broadcasting our matches, where we are restricted and given the same amount of money like the rest. As AFC Leopards, we are going to put our foot down that we must get a share commensurate to the value that we give to the league. They cannot go and negotiate a deal worth 200 million based on the value of AFC Leopards and then come and tell us that the revenue we are going to get is the same revenue as Nairobi City Stars. We are not going to accept.

KS: What is the compliance status of the club with the Sports Act?

The compliance status is 90%. Our constitution has some gaps we need to align with the Sports Act. There are about five items that were identified, we have had discussions with the registrar of sports and those five items will be up for approval by the AGM so that we are now in line with the Sports Act. We expect that by July, we should be fully aligned and registered but for now, we have an interim certificate. 

KS: What are your targets as the club goes to compete in the SportPesa Super Cup?

The target is to win. We really want that money so we want to win. But most important is to use it as an opportunity to re-invent our year, away from the pressure from fans. We want to get good results then come and build on those results in the league. 

KS: It's an election year. What role do you think AFC Leopards plays in National elections?

We want to shield the club from politics, especially this year's. Leopards has a fanbase from across the country and we do not want the club to take sides or be seen to be taking sides. We are a football club, not a political entity. As the leaders of the club, we do not want to take our members into divisions of  supporting sides. We are not going to take sides in the elections and every member is free to make his/her own decision in whatever way they want. So we are non-partisan and welcoming players from whichever political side to work with us.

KS: What is your parting shot to members and fans of AFC Leopards?

This is a very interesting and exciting time for the club, and I would encourage all those people who associate themselves with the club to come forward, engage and share their ideas with us. Our offices are at Vision Plaza on Mombasa Road, which are in third floor and is open from 8-5. We want as many diverse ideas as possible so as to move this club forward. We are on all social media platforms so let us use all these to interact with the club. Let us use this time to make the club bigger than we have ever seen and dreamt of, and it also an opportunity for us to chat a new direction for the club.

We should move away from just sitting, whining and complaining, and take up the responsibility of actively participating and shaping up the destiny of this club. As the CEO of the club, I promise that I will welcome all ideas and people, without fear of political or tribal affiliations. We want to be competing on the continental stage , so come and do your part. Come to the stadium, pay at the gate and support the club. We will win, draw, and lose matches but that does not mean the club is on the wrong footing. 

The Kenya Simbas have released the squad that will face Zimbambe in their fourth Rugby Africa Gold Cup match at the Hartsfield Stadium in Bulawayo on Saturday July 22,2017.

KCB's Jacob Ojee has been included in the starting lineup after being declared fit to play. There were concerns over his fitness when he was substituted the first half of last weekend’s clash against Senegal but has since recovered sufficiently to return to the team.

Bramwell Mayaka has also been reinstated into the team will cover the front row in place of Dennis Karani who is out of the squad due to academic commitments. 

Meanwhile, lock Oliver Mang’eni will link up with the side for the Namibia clash. Mang’eni missed the last two fixtures against Tunisia and Senegal due to personal and work commitments.

 

Simbas squad to face Zimbabwe

15.Tony Onyango(Menengai Cream Homeboyz), 14. Darwin Mukidza (KCB), 13. David Ambunya(SportPesa Quins), 12. Leo Seje(Resolution Impala Saracens), 11. Jacob Ojee(KCB), 10. Isaac Adimo(SportPesa Quins), 9. Samson Onsomu(Resolution Impala Saracens), 1. Moses Amusala(KCB), 2. Peter Karia(KCB), 3. Curtis Lilako(KCB), 4. Wilson Kopondo (SportPesa Quins,Captain), 5. Simon Muniafu(Resolution Impala Saracens), 6. Eric Kerre( Resolution Impala Saracens), 7. Davis Chenge (KCB), 8. Joshua Chisanga (Newcastle Falcons) Replacements 16. Philip Ikambili (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), 17. Oscar Simiyu (KCB), 18. Bramwell Mayaka (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), 19. George Nyambua (Kabras Sugar), 20. Martin Owila (KCB), 21. Lyle Asiligwa (SportPesa Quins), 22. Kenny Andola (KCB), 23. Dennis Muhanji (SportPesa Quins). 

Management: Jerome Paarwater ( Head Coach), Dominique Habimana (Forwards Coach), Charles Ngovi (Backs Coach), Richard Ochieng’ (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Chris Makachia (Physio), Simiyu Wangila ( Team Manager).

 

The GoTV Shield Cup resumes this weekend with seven fixtures set to be played across the country in Round of 16 of the competition.

On Saturday, defending Champions Tusker FC will continue their march towards defending the title when they host second division side Butterfly at the Kinoru Stadium on Saturday afternoon while minnows Eldoret Youth and Savannah clash at the Kipchoge Stadium for a place in the quarter finals of the competition.

It will be an all Premier league affair when Bandari clash with Nakumatt FC on Saturday at the Mbaraki Stadium in a repeat of the 2015 finals which the Dockers emerged victorious. 2014 GoTV winners Sofapaka will take to the field on Sunday to face league counterparts Kariobangi Sharks at the Nyayo Stadium with both team eager to proceed to the next round.

The last fixture in the Round of 16 will be on Wednesday between AFC Leopards and Bidco United at the Thika Sub County Stadium

Saturday July 22

Bandari vs Nakumatt (Mbaraki)-15:00

Sony Sugar vs Nzoia Sugar (Awendo)-15:00

Eldoret Youth vs Savannah (Kipchoge Keino)-13:00

GFE 105 vs Wazito (Kipchoge Keino)-15:15

Kakamega Homeboyz vs Vihiga United (Mumias)-15:00

Tusker vs Butterfly (Kinoru)-15:00

Sunday July 23

Sofapaka vs Kariobangi Sharks (Nyayo Stadium)-15:00

 

The Kenya Hockey leagues continue this weekend with twelve matches lined up. Six matches will be played on Saturday July 22, 2017 while the other six take place on Sunday July 23.

Women's league champions Telkom will be eyeing a perfect finish to the first leg when they host Kenyatta University Titans on Saturday at the City Park Stadium. Telkom were not involved last weekend but have won all their last nine matches to top the league table with 27 points.

Jkuat, who lost 3-1 to Strathmore last weekend will be looking to bounce back when they face University of Nairobi on Saturday at City Park from 11am.

In the men's premier league, KCA University who were 3-2 winners over Strathmore last weekend will clash with Western Jaguars on Saturday while Nakuru face KU Vultures in Nakuru on Saturday.

Saturday

Premier Women: JKUAT v UON -12noon, Telkom v KU Titans – 4pm

National Men: Wazalendo Youth v Dedan Kimathi – 2pm, Parkroad Tigers v Mvita – 6pm

Premier Men: Western Jaguars v KCAU- 3pm (Kakamega), Nakuru v KU Vultures 3pm (Nakuru)

 

Sunday

National Men: Daystar v Mvita – 9am, JKUAT v Dedan Kimathi – 1pm

Premier Women: USIU v UON – 11am, Sliders v Amira – 3pm

Premier Men: Western Jaguars v Sikh (10am) – Kakamega, Parklands v Butali – 5pm

 

 The national U18 team that recently took part in the IAAF World U18 Championships that were held at the Kasarani Stadium have each been awarded 100,000 shillings by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

8-time Diamond League Meeting Winner Hellen Obiri will lead five Kenyans in their quest for victory in women's 300 meters of the Diamond League that is set to be held on Friday July 21, 2017 in Monaco.

Asbel Kiprop and Elijah Manangoi will lead six Kenyans in the hunt for gold in the 2017 Diamond League that is set to be held on Friday July 21, 2017 in Monaco, France.

Asbel Kiprop is a 23-time Diamond League Meeting winner with his personal best coming in the same venue in July 2015 where he finished the 1500 meters in a time of 3:26:69. 

Kiprop who is the world’s most dominant miler has won four global titles, including the Olympic gold medal from 2008 when he was still a teenager. He is also the most prolific winner of the 1500m/mile Diamond Trophy, having won in 2010, 2015 and 2016.

Elijah Manangoi will be seeking to give Kiprop a run for his money when the two track giants meet on Friday night. Manangoi is the world 1500m leader, winning the IAAF Diamond League kick-off event in Doha. The world silver medalist has a 1500m best of 3:29.67 and finished third in last year’s Bowerman Mile.

Ronald Kwemoi is the other Kenyan tasked with giving competition to the two household names. Kwemoi is the Commonwealth silver medallist and has a mile best of 3:52.57. In May, the Olympic finalist destroyed a superb field over 3000m in Doha to win in 7:28.73, showing a turn of speed over the last 100 meters that will give all the other fast-finishers something to think about.

Other Kenyans that will compete in the race are Justus Soget, Timothy Cheruiyot, Jackson Mumba Kivuva and Andrew Rotich Kiptoo. 

 

Julius Yego and Emmanuel Korir will be eyeing splendid results when they participate in the Diamond League on Friday July 21, 2017 in Monaco, France.

Julius Yego will be taking part in the javelin throw and will be inspired by his season best time of 87.97 meters. The 28-year old posted a personal best time of 92.72 meters in 2015 at the World Championships to become the first Kenyan to win gold in a field event.

He will however face stiff competition from the likes of Germany's Rohler Thomas who won the 2016 edition of Diamond League that was held in Shanghai. Other stiff competitors include Jacub Vadlejch (Czech Republic), Vetter Johannes (Germany) and Walcott Keshorn (Trinidad and Tobago).

800 Meters

In the 800 meters, Emmanuel Korir will be the only Kenyan participant in a pack of eight athletes who will be eyeing victory. Korir's recent gold medal came in June at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in a time of 1:45:03. He will be hoping to replicate Kenya's performance in the 2016 edition of the event where Ferguson Cheruiyot led a 1,2,3 finish for Kenyans in the 800 meters race.

Korir will face stiff competition from Amel Tuka (Bahrain), Pierre-Ambroise Bosse (France) and McBride Brandon (Canada).

 

An underwhelming second half summarized KPL AllStars’ huge 4-0 loss to LaLiga 123 side Cordoba CF on Wednesday July 19, 2017 at the El Mauli Stadium in Spain.

Several dignitaries of the CEF held a special meeting on Thursday July 20, 2017 to discuss and agree on several issues involving African football. This was in the just concluded African football symposium held in Rabat, Morocco.

Some of the attendees were CAF President Ahmad and the President of the Federation Royale Marocaine de Football, Fouzi Lekjaa. FIFA President Gianni Infantino was the chief guest at the two-day event.

NFF President Amaju Pinnick (like Lekjaa a Member of the CAF Executive Committee), Vice Presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, former NFF General Secretary Musa Amadu and Director of Communications Ademola Olajire were also in attendance.

Below are some of the key issues that were discussed and agreed upon by the CAF committee:

CAF African Football Symposium

The CAF Executive Committee, at its meeting on Thursday, 20 July 2017, in Rabat, Morocco, reviewed the resolutions of the various working groups of the 1st CAF African Football Symposium held from 18 -19 July 2017 at the Palais des Congrès in Skhirat, near Rabat.

The Committee advocated the establishment of a working group to work on the implementation of the resolutions and propose short, medium and long term implementation timetables. However, a consensus emerged on a number of issues raised by the working groups;

Working group 1: AFCON - Competition and specifications

Increasing the Africa Cup of Nations to 24 teams as of the 2019 edition, and the tournament will now be held in the months of June and July. The competition will however remain a biennial event (every two years), odd years and exclusively held on African soil with African national teams.

Working group 2: Inter-club competitions

It was agreed by the Committee to maintain the current format, but to proceed in the future to a change in timing for interclub competitions which are expected to start from August to May.

Working group 3: Football development (Coaching, Refereeing, Medical)

The principle of increasing the indemnities of referees was approved. 

The Committee expressed its determination to explore all scientific and medical solutions that could eradicate the phenomenon of age cheating, likewise a research that can help to determine the causes of sudden death among footballers, of which majority of the victims are of African origin.

Working group 4: Youth Football

The Committee decided to organize zonal qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations for the youth categories (U-17, U-20, U-23), with the flexibility offered to each zone to propose a formula. The committee also resolved to strengthen medical checks in determining the eligibility of players.

Working group 5: International Partnerships

The Committee recognizes the urgent need for improved relations between CAF, its member associations, Governments and the African Union.

Working group 6: Communication and Media

The Executive Committee was clearly in support of suggestions made for the improvement of CAF's communication tools on the digital platforms and social media, in particular the creation of a website in line with the standards of CAF. The Committee committed itself, with a view to strengthening the specifications of the competitions, taking into account the expectations of the media.

Working group 8: Football players, Roles and Perspectives

The Committee endorsed the principle of creating a framework for cooperation with legendary African footballers and their greater involvement in CAF activities.

II - COMPETITIONS.

Total CHAN Kenya 2018

A new inspection visit will be conducted at the end of August 2017 to assess progress following the June 2017 mission.

Total AFCON Cameroon 2019

Inspection will be conducted in early September.

Total U-23 AFCON

Zambia formally withdrew from the hosting of the 2019 edition. The committee called for the opening of bids for the selection of a new host country.

Beach-Soccer AFCON

The Committee decided to grant the 2018 edition to Egypt, the only country which expressed interest in the organization at the end of the deadline for the call for applications.

Interclub Competitions

The Committee noted the lifting of the suspension of Sudan by FIFA and indicated that the Sudanese clubs engaged in the Total CAF Champions League and Total CAF Confederation Cup are not disqualified, but in accordance with the regulations, are declared losers of the Day Six matches of the group stage.

As a result, Sudanese club, Hilal El Obeid is qualified for the quarterfinals of the Total CAF Confederation Cup.

 

Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced changes in the African Cup of Nations that will improve the nature of the competition. The changes were agreed upon during the just concluded African Football Symposium that was held in Rabat, Morocco.

One of the changes in AFCON is that the number of countries to participate from 2019 be increased to 24. This is up from the 16 that have been taking part in the competition since its inception.

CAF also changed the dates of the tournament and it will now be held in June and July instead of January. The change of dates will come as a huge relief especially to European teams who have from time immemorial complained of losing African players to the tournament in January when the leagues have gained full momentum. 

 

New acquisition Romelu Lukaku was the star of the night as Manchester United overpowered their noisy neighbours Manchester City 2-0 early Friday July 21, 2017. This was in the ongoing International Champions Cup (ICC) in Shanghai, China.

The powerful striker was involved in almost every moment of the match, running through City defenders and connecting beautifully with Marcus Rashford and Henrick Mkhitaryan.

The first chance of the match went to United as City’s new goalkeeper Ederson was forced to push Herrera’s powerful shot over the bar in the 3rd minute. Blind and Mkhitaryan then also had their shots blocked by the city goalkeeper who reacted superbly to United attacks.

Ederson would however go on to concede the first goal of the night in the 37th minute, Lukaku beating him to a through ball before finishing it from a tight angle to take the Reds ahead. Two minutes later, Mkhitaryan produced a wonderful run in midfield before playing in Rashford who fired into the left corner to double United’s lead.

Romel Lukaku almost notched a brace in the 78th minute after he had scored but the goal was disallowed for offside. The two goals in a span of two minutes in the first half had however sealed the win for Manchester United against their fierce rivals on foreign soil.

Manchester United XI: De Gea, Valencia, Lindelöf, Smalling, Blind, Herrera, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku

Manchester City XI: Ederson, Adarabioyo, Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Touré, Walker, Foden, De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero, Roberts

Juventus have officially signed Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for an initial fee in the region of  €12.2million. If certain clauses are met in his time with Juventus, the transfer fee could however rise to €15.3 Million.

Szczesny has agreed a four-year deal which will see him with the Sere A Champions until 2021 and the former Arsenal man is well pleased with joining the team.

"I'm delighted to be at Juventus. I've spoken to Gigi Buffon – a true legend of the game. When you join Juve, it's because you've been chosen. I didn't hesitate one moment before coming here and I'm ready to take on this challenge. Juventus is the best possible choice for my career. I'm 27 years old and I want to win. At this club there's the right mentality to do so," he told a news conference.

The Poland international joined Arsenal from Legia Warsaw and made 181 appearances for the Gunners before joining AS Roma on loan for two seasons.

 

Arsenal took three points after beating Bayern Munich on post-match penalties after a 1-1 draw on Wednesday July 19, 2017. This was in the ongoing ICC Cup in Shanghai, China.

Bayern Munich however dominated most of the match and played more experienced players compared to the Gunners who gave match time to almost all their young players.

Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring for Bayern in the 9th minute from the penalty spot after Maitland-Niles was adjudged to have bundled over Bernat in the box. Despite complaints from Arsenal players, the referee stuck to his decision and Lewandowski stepped up to send Petr Cech the wrong way to give Bayern the lead.

Arsenal would however equalize late in the game from a terrific counter attack, Ramsey clipping a perfect cross in for Iwobi to head into the far corner and make it 1-1 in the 93rd minute.

Arsenal then went on to win the penalties 3-2, Iwobi the man again to score the winning kick with Emiliano Martinez saving two spot kicks to hand Arsenal the win.

 

Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice to inspire Borussia Dortmund to a 3-1 win over AC Milan on Tuesday July 18 in the International Champions Cup.

Nuri Sahin opened account for Dortmund in the 15th minute, driving a low shot into the left corner past Storari before Aubameyang made it 2-0 from the spot four minutes later. 

In the 23rd minute, Milan striker Carlos Bacca displayed an incredible solo moment, getting past a handful of Dortmund players from midfielders before beating Weidenfeller. In the 61st minute, Dortmund broke into a quick counter attack, with Pulisic being fed with the ball in the left flank before teeing up Aubameyang to tap the ball home and seal the win for the Bundesliga team.

BVB Statring XI: Weidenfeller, Zagadou, Bartra, Sokratis, Piszczek, Sahin, Castro, Rode, Aubameyang, Dembele, Pulisic.

AC Milan Starting XI: Storari; Abate, Paletta, Zapata, Rodriguez; Kessié, Mauri, Bonaventura; Borini, Bacca, Niang.

 

FIFA Vice President and head of the Spanish Football Association Angel Maria Villar has been arrested in Spain in an anti-corruption operation. 

Other people reportedly arrested include his son Gorka, secretary of the Tenerife Federation Ramón Hernández Baussou and Finance Vice President at the RFEF and member of Uefa's Finance Commission Juan Padrón.

Maria Villar was arrested for alleged misuse of the federation's finances including to support his re-election to the role for an eighth consecutive term. He has been the President of the Spanish Football Federation for 29 years and was re-elected less than two months ago for another term in the office.

In 2015, Villar was fined more than 20,000 Euros by Fifa for failing to co-operate with an investigation into the awarding of the controversial 2018 World Cup.

 

Francesco Totti has confirmed that he will be staying put with AS Roma, but this time as the Director.

Totti retired from football at the end of the 2016-17 season after 24 years with AS Roma and there were rumours that he has received offers to play in Japan from next season. The Italian international has however quelled those stories after confirming that he is indeed Roma’s next Director.

“The first part of my life as football player is finished, now a second part begins as director, and I am hoping to do well as on the pitch. Now begins a new phase and a new adventure.” Totti told Roma TV

“It will take time, step by step, to understand the role most suitable for me, and I will try to help all, from the youth team to the chairman. I don’t know how long it will take. There are people who think about their new role outside the field while they play; until 28 May I thought only about the field, he added.

The Italian international further revealed his eagerness to work with the entire Roma fraternity, stressing that he is confident that he will thrive in that position.

“Now I have the opportunity to work with AS Roma, with the sports director Monchi, the president [James] Pallotta and the coach [Eusebio] Di Francesco. I am lucky to know this club so well, I just have to understand what I want to do, and find the right role. At the moment I want to be everything and anything, an important character for Roma. I think that my future will be beautiful; I will choose a perfect role for me. Di Francesco? I have a great relationship with him.’’

During his 24-year spell with Roma, Totti made over 786 appearances for the clubs where he scored a club-record 307 goals and lifted the Serie A title twice. The 40-year old also also made 58 appearances for Italy with his most successful moment with his country being 2006 where they won the World Cup

Popular Articles

Those who love him, love him with so much passion. Those who hate him, also do so with the same gusto. If a book on ‘The most hated footballers’ were ever to be written, several chapters would be dedicated to him.

The gambling industry is growing rapidly in Kenya. We could be competing with the West African nations. Since last year, the country has witnessed over 10 bookmakers join the industry with each contesting for a piece of the pie.

Matatu culture is part of living in Nairobi City and the transport means used by all. Soccer fans use their own cars, buses and matatus for traveling to away matches.

Eric Ochieng' aka Cantona is one of most iconic soccer athletes to grace Kenya Premier League in the 1990s.

The day is September 26th 2010. Kenya U-20 coach Vince Ombiji brought on a young and promising player as the national junior side took on Lesotho. The rookie had an almost immediate impact, as he ran down the Lesotho defense rugged. Fleet foot works, pacy and pin point crosses made him a darling to the fans instantly. Kenya’s next big thing was alive.

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has landed 0.75 billion shillings from FIFA in a grant that is aimed to make the federation set up and manage their inhouse media activities.

Kenyanstar has learnt from sources privy to the deal that the world governing body has agreed to hand the Federation a grant of USD 7.5M to set up their own media production for the league matches.

The news coming barely weeks after Supersport suspended their broadcast deal with Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and later on laying off staff earlier on this week, will be welcome to the soccer industry.

FKF president has been in the news saying how FKF and the KPL would be produced in-house and availed for free to air (FTA) TV channels.

To reduce pressure in starting up, our sources say, FKF will absorb the staff that were working for Supersport to do the production and there is likelihood they may buy the studio Supersport had set up in Nairobi.

He is the Kenyan version of Portuguese super agent Jorge Paulo Agostinho Mendes. He is many things to many people, and recently added another feather to his cap by venturing into player and coaches representation. Starting off as a journalist, he grew through the ranks to become a Television producer, took the big risk and ventured into football administration, before jumping ship to start what has been a largely successful venture of talent management.

A terrific dribbler with an eye for goal. His skills and potential on the pitch have always left fans ecstatic. His dazzling runs and fantastic crosses have raised his profile in the local scene. He slowly grew through the ranks both at club and national level. He recently added to the statistics of players who have made the bold move from AFC Leopards to bitter rivals Gor Mahia where he penned a long term contract. 

Besides the magic on the pitch, critics have continually accused him of laziness and being a party animal. Is he? Kenyanstar sat with John ‘Softie’ Ndirangu and here is his story.

Kenyanstar: Thank you for your time. Tell us about your football journey so far.

John Ndirangu: I started playing competitive football at Nakuru AllStars when I was in form 2, by then the club was in playing in Nationwide League. I was with them all along, even when they got promoted in 2014 to the Kenya Premier League.  As a footballer, I have faced both difficult and easy times.

KS: Where did this nickname Softie come from?

JN: I rarely talk too much, and people say my face is soft. So, Softie.

KS: Please tell us about your time at Nakuru AllStars.

JN: It was a bit hard for me since there were the demands on the pitch and at the same time I was schooling. I had to carefully plan my time. However, sometimes it was difficult for me because I had to leave school for training and when I got back to class I was so tired and couldn't focus fully.  

KS: You made a name for yourself  while you were at Allstars. Tell us about your time playing there and your relationship with the players, coach, management etc.

JN: First, I would like to thank Robert Muthomi. He took me as his son, he took care of me,he used to advise me and  managed me well. I also thank everyone who coached me. During my time there, I learnt something from all coaches and this made me grow to who I am today. My teammates were also supportive, as football is a team sport and you support each other. 

KS: You would later join Bandari. However, you never stayed there for long...

JN: I would not wish to discuss about my time at Bandari. It was very difficult for me.

KS: What exactly affected you?

JN: Lack of play time.

KS: Well, you at one point joined Kariobangi Sharks. What necessitated the move?  

JN: After Bandari I went back to Nakuru Allstars to get my form back. However, at the end of the season the team got relegated and so we agreed with Robert Muthomi, the CEO,  that since I had already made my name and was still young, it wasn't proper to play in the lower tier. Therefore I joined Kariobangi Sharks. We agreed with President Nick Mwendwa that if the team won't get promoted to the top league he releases me and that's what happened when I joined AFC Leopards.

KS: Leopards - You joined the club, lots of expectations, but left. Kindly tell us about your time at Leopards.

JN: I enjoyed my time at Leopards and would like to thank the management and coaches. They believed in me and I wish them all the the best. In December, I was asked by Leopards to look for a suitable club where I would go on loan and I felt it was not good for me. Therefore I  asked them to just release me instead. As a team last season we were unlucky not to do well and meet the expectations but I personally think that I played my part and was very surprised when they suggested a loan move for me in the transfer window. 

KS: You have some serious football skills. Very good running, very good dribbles. What's the tactical secret for you?

JN: Apart from talent in me I do watch skillful players like Neymar, Ronaldinho and Cristiano and try apply what I see on the pitch. Besides, I also work very hard.  

KS: Harambee Stars: You have grown from U-23 to the senior team. Tell us about your time and experience so far at Stars

JN: Each and every coach has his style of coaching and the kind of players he wants. I think during Bob Williamson's time I was called several times to the national team. He liked my dribbling skills and speed and he would tell me to just do that in the pitch, since that is what made him like me and give me a call up.  

KS: We haven't seen you at the national team in recent days. Why?

JN: As I have said each and every coach has his style of coaching and kind of players he wants. However, while at AFC Leopards I earned a call up.  

KS: You made what many call a 'daring move' by switching from Leopards to Gor. Do you feel it was a daring move or just any other normal transfer?

JN: I believe if you have talent and you work hard everything is possible. Talent can never be hidden. Kama unajua unajua. For me I see it as a normal move. My time will come and I'll shine.

KS: Gor Mahia - How is life there. What are your targets/goals?

JN: I am enjoying life at Gor. They do things professionally and think that's what differentiates Gor with other clubs. My target is to play as many games and help the team lift the title and in future I go to Europe. 

KS: You have been accused of the following: Missing training at times intentionally, partying a little too much and alcoholism. Your response?

JN: In life you must have friends and enemies and for you to make in life you must have enemies. All these stories came up when I was at Leopards. When Ivan Minnaert left a Luhya coach took over and he only wanted Luhya players. Therefore, Ian otieno and  I decided to stay at home because no matter how hard we worked in training, we weren't being considered.  On the issue of alcohol, I even cannot tell how it tastes. Yes, I used to go to clubs and watch football while drinking Delmonte juice.  

KS: Any closing words? 

JN: I just want to thank God for the gift of life and talent. I also want to tell my fans that they should  not lose hope in me. I know they believe in me and I won't fail them. 

KS: Thanks for your time Softie!

 

READ: John 'Softie' Ndirangu: Major Transfer Or Forced Out? 

Following the news that Serena Williams was two months pregnant when she won the Grand Slam, Rev. Fred Nile MP, has called for the world champion to be stripped of the title, claiming “foetal personhood” means she was unfairly advantaged.

“She was playing doubles in a singles tournament!” Nile screamed at the ‘Day of the Unborn Child’ protest.

“I believe that ‘life at conception’ should be the law, and that clearly means two people won the Grand Slam,” said Nile, who is both an avid fan of professional tennis and aggressively campaigning to legislate how people use their uterus.

“That’s clearly against the rules!”

However, feminists argue Nile’s view that pregnancy is a sporting advantage shows ignorance to the realities facing those who are pregnant.

“Serena Williams was in control of her own body during the Grand Slam tournament, and as such has the right to her title, and the right, always, to bodily autonomy”, said Immy Grantson, an outspoken activist campaigning for progress on women’s issues.

“Williams, like all people, has the right to choose what she does with her body: whether that be powerful backhands, and/or be pregnant”, said Grantson.

This comes at a crucial time in New South Wales legislation. Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi’s End12 Campaign hopes to make it legal for world class athletes to choose whether or not they are pregnant.

When asked for comment by The Garter Press, Venus Williams, who lost to Serena Williams under the now contentious circumstances, said she was “excited to be an aunt”.

Tanzanian government have informed SportPesa Limited that they also want to see a Tanzanian team play against Everton on July 12 at the National Stadium. Gor Mahia are the ones with the opportunity after winning the SportPesa Super Cup finals.

Director of Sports Development in the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports Yusuph Singo confirmed that they have asked the betting firm to organize a friendly match between Everton and one of Tanzania's bigwigs.

``We have asked them (SportPesa) to organse a special friendly match between Yanga and Simba later this month,'' said Singo.

``If all goes well, the winner of the match will confront Everton at the National Stadium. I am sure many local soccer fans would like to see the English Premier League team face one of the top teams in the country,'' he added.

 

Former Inter Milan midfielder McDonald Mariga has come out to praise the Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino for the key role he has paid in developing the career of his brother Victor Wanyama.  

The Kenyan International skipper has been a vital part of the Spurs midfield, prove of just how much Pochettino trusts Wanyama. Big Vic first played under the Argentine gaffer at Southampton and were later reunited at Tottenham last summer.

“He (Wanyama) said Pochettino is the coach who has made him. He’s the one who, when Victor came to Southampton, he taught him what to do and how to play, all the things. He’s the one who taught him everything and made even more qualities for Victor. He gave him exposure and confidence. If you don’t have confidence from the coach, you cannot perform well. He’s helped him a lot,” Mariga told ESPN.

Pochettino’s favorite 3-4-2-1 formation has suited Wanyama perfectly as he provides cover to the wing backs when they move forward to attack, something that has put Wanyama in favor with both the manager and the Spurs supporters.

The midfielder will be expected to take his spot back in the starting XI for the FA Cup semi-final meeting with Chelsea at Wembley this Saturday evening after a minor injury.

As the title race stiffens and Spurs still on track for the cup glory, Wanyama may just be the rock Tottenham needs to win the first trophy in over years.

Everton are considering a pre-season friendly in Tanzania as part of their expected new sponsorship deal with SportPesa.

Drogba had been without a club since leaving MLS outfit Montreal Impact in November, after rejecting a move to Brazilian giants Corinthians in February.

However, the 39-year-old Ivorian striker has finally found a home in Phoenix, where he will also be part of their "MLS expansion franchise ownership group."

Phoenix are in their fourth season in the USL, 12th in the Western Conference with one win after three games.

"I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC," said Drogba.

"After seeing firsthand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch.

"I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS."

Drogba - a two-time African Footballer of the Year – scored 23 goals in 41 competitive appearances for the Impact, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League among other trophies with Chelsea.

"We want our club and our city to be synonymous with international excellence, and Didier Drogba is a testament to Phoenix Rising FC's commitment to that mission,” said Phoenix Rising club governor Berke Bakay.

"Soccer is an international language understood by sports fans all over the world, and we want to help inspire fluency among new fans everywhere we play throughout North America."

Work has been completed on the first proposed venue for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar - the Khalifa International Stadium. More than five years before the tournament kicks off, Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has confirmed extensive renovations on the 40,000-seater venue are now finished.

The renovations include the installation of revolutionary cooling technology promised during Qatar's successful bid, which will keep the pitch at an optimum 26 degrees and the stands somewhere between 24 and 28 degrees.

SC secretary general H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi said: "The completion of our first stadium more than five years before the Qatar World Cup begins is an important milestone that reflects our determination to deliver a tournament the entire Arab world is proud to be a part of.

"As we promised in our bid, our innovative stadiums offer an unrivalled experience to fans and players alike. I'm proud we can show these off to the world and welcome fans with the hospitality this World Cup will be remembered for."

The stadium, originally constructed in 1976, will first host the 2017 Emir Cup final on Friday and will also be the venue for the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Qatar Football Association (QFA) president Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani added: "Khalifa International Stadium is close to Qatari hearts and has seen some of Qatar's biggest sporting occasions over the years since it was first launched in 1976.

"It is therefore a fitting venue for the biggest match of Qatar's football calendar, the 2017 Emir Cup final between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd, and we look forward to welcoming fans into the magnificent remodelled stadium on Friday evening."

Former Tottenham striker Souleymane Coulibaly has accused the Egyptian club of treating him “like a slave” and “traumatising” his family.

Coulibaly joined Spurs in 2011 from Siena for £1.5m but failed to make any senior appearances.

He has played for Grossto, Bari Fc, Pistoiese, Peterborough United, Newport County and later Kilmarnock where he left in January to agree a three-and-a-half year deal with Al Alhy. He later returned to England without the club’s permission, prompting the Egyptian Premier League champions to lodge a complaint with FIFA.

The 22-year-old Ivorian has now claimed his actions were because of mistreatment while in Egypt, saying his family has been left “traumatised” by the experience.
Coulibaly added that Al Ahly had confiscated his passport which prompted him and his family to “flee” back to England at the first possible opportunity, and that he is willing to accept a ban from FIFA for his actions.

He said in a statement: “I’m not crazy, I left for a reason. I’m very sorry but I could not stay in that team anymore. My passport was held hostage. I was forced to do what I was told, for example bow down and pray every time I scored. I did not feel comfortable in the team and environment. I have tried my hardest for five months but I have reached my limit.

The team wasn’t welcoming. They never passed the ball so I had to fight and struggle in order to score. The coach forced me to play how he wanted me to play. I can’t play being forced to follow orders. If I didn’t obey the orders I was taken to the office and yelled at. My wife and kids are traumatised. My family is Christian and didn’t feel comfortable practicing their religion in the country.

I’ve been playing and working hard since I started without the right to a break. I left without saying because I had to flee the first chance I had a hold of my passport. They treated me like a slave all because of money. If FIFA are going to ban me I am willing and ready to accept the ban. My peace of mind and safety are what are most important to me.”

Al Ahly president Mahmoud Taher has since denied Coulibaly’s statement. Taher believes that Coulibaly’s accusation comes in response to Al Ahly’s complaint to FIFA and insists the club will not back down.

The club president’s statement read: “We deny all of Coulibaly’s allegations. What he claims never happened and he was never mistreated or abused by the club’s coach or players. Logically, if he was being abused he should have immediately spoken about this as soon as he left us, not after we filed a complaint to FIFA.

Al Ahly will not be blackmailed and will not back down until Coulibaly pays for what he did. This is a false accusation and a lie. He thinks that by saying this we will withdraw our complaint and back down but Al Ahly will not be blackmailed.”

Wilfried Zaha has rejected Gareth Southgate’s suggestion that he had imposed a timescale to be selected again by England, effectively holding the national team to ransom, and has defended his right to instead represent the country of his birth, Ivory Coast.

KPL

Upcoming Events

KS on Facebook