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. 

Bongi Mbonambi will make his first start for the Springboks against Italy in Padova, while Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the starting team for Saturday’s third Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.

Furthermore, the uncapped Warrick Gelant has been included on the bench and will make his Springbok debut should he go onto the field of play during the match.

The Springbok management decided not to risk Malcolm Marx for this weekend’s match, following the shoulder injury he sustained last week against France. This means Mbonambi, who has 12 Test caps to his name, will earn his first start on Saturday.Chiliboy Ralepelle will join Gelant on the bench.

Du Toit is fit again and picked at flank, where he replaces Siya Kolisi, who is not available for this match because of the birth of his second child. The versatile Du Toit suffered concussion two weeks ago against Ireland and as a result he missed the Springbok victory over France in Paris.

The rest of the team that edged the French in the Stade de France in the previous outing is retained.

“We decided not to risk Malcolm, which means Bongi will get a well-deserved first start in the No 2 jersey,” said Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.

“Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy, should he get a run.

“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value and I am very excited for the possibility of seeing him in action.”

Coetzee said the Italians will pose a difficult challenge at home: “We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge. However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.

“It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions,” said Coetzee.

Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the big lock has shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.

South Africa

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant

Zoo Kericho tactician Sammy Okoth has blamed their poor start in top flight football for a 12th place finish in the just concluded 2017 season.

Zoo, who were playing for the first time in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL), were unable to record a single win  in their opening seven matches, a run that saw them drop nineteen points in those two months.

`` A poor start to the season ended up costing us in the end. We lost about six games consecutively at the start of the season, and building back the confidence in the payers was a difficult thing that took a long while. Towards the second leg the payers picked up and we got some good results here and there, but we weren’t consistent and we found ourselves battling relegation,'' he said.

Okoth has however put the season behind him and shifted focus to the next campaign, stating confidently that they are now eyeing better performances.

``We have however learned important lessons and I believe that we shall perform better next season. Remember this was our first outing in the Premiership. It was a learning process and we have learned plenty.”

 

Nakumatt FC coach Anthony Mwangi is adamant that were it not for the financial constraints that his side has endured in the just ended season, they would have finished in a  much better position.

Nakumatt ended the campaign in 15th place with 39 points, just one more than the relegated Western Stima. They however had to undergo many challenges, with the most notable one being lack of finances to cater for their day-to-day activities due to the liquidation of their sponsors. 

Their participation in the league had also come into question at one time when the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) governing council confirmed their suspension before the Court of Appeal ordered their reinstatement.

“I think everyone knows that our club has dealt with the worst financial crisis since the club was formed. This is the major thing that affected our performance. If we would have had players training regularly and being well motivated like in previous years, I know that we could have finished in the top three positions. And I mean it. We have better quality players than many of the teams that have finished above us in the league and that is a fact. We even had our striker contending for the Golden Boot,'' said Mwangi.

``But when players are not motivated it becomes difficult to achieve results from them. Everyone from the players to the technical bench had to push themselves to do their job, but at least things are now looking up. Maybe next season things will return to normal and if that happens I know that we shall finish in the top half of the table and perhaps even challenge for top honours,” he added.

 

Gor Mahia FC head coach Dylan Kerr has given his thoughts about his first season in charge of the Kenyan club, expounding on his experience in Kenya and what he is planning for the league champions come next season.

Since taking over as the Gor Mahia head coach, Kerr lost only one match on his way to securing a 16th title for the team where they amassed a total of 74 points from 34 matches. 

“I am very grateful to the players and everyone for this achievement. Since I joined the club, it has been continuous hard work and good discipline and the results are here with us today. We deserve to win this championship,'' said the former English professional footballer.

``I had never stepped in Kenya before but I have come to love everything about the country. I now know every street in town (Nairobi) and I can tell you that I am here to stay. 

On matter to do with next season, Kerr said that he is seeking to beef up his squad so that they can be real competitors in local and continental football. The club has already been associated with a move for Ulinzi Stars ace Samwel Onyango and Ivorian forward Ephram Guikan.

``I need two strikers, one defensive midfielder, one attacking midfielder, a winger and a right-back. There are players the management and I have already identified and it's a matter of engaging their clubs. We don’t just want to dominate in Kenya, we want to compete in Africa and will accolades at that level too,” he said.

 

Harambee Stars' recent norm of depreciating in the World FIFA Men's Rankings has once again come to effect in the month of October, sliding a further nine places down in the latest standings revealed on Thursday November 23, 2017

Kenya, who were ranked 102 in October, now find themselves in 111th position. The national team was dormant in the last FIFA international week following  Zambia's withdrawal from a friendly that was scheduled to take place in Kenya.

Africa

In Africa, Senegal lead the standings, having  moved up nine places from position 32 to 23 globally. Tunisia, who have moved one spot up to 27, take the second place while Egypt (31), Congo DR (36) and Morocco (40) wind up the top five.

World

Germany meanwhile still continues topping globally ahead of Brazil and Portugal who retain the second and third spot respectively. Argentina and Belgium complete the top five in that order.

 

Harambee Stars' next 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match in which they were to face Ghana in March 2018 has been pushed to the weekend of 3-11 September 2018.

In a match that ended prematurely due to a power blackout, Greensharks propelled themselves to second place in the table standings following a 2-0 win over Chase Sailors in a Kenya Hockey Union men's premier league match on Wednesday November 22 at the City Park Hockey Stadium.

Sharks bagged the important victory courtesy of goals by Chris Wokila and Dave Kibe's penalty stroke, which extended their dominance over the struggling Sailors side.

 The match was however not played till the final whistle due to a rare blackout at the stadium with slightly two minutes left on the clock, prompting both sides to mutually agree on ending the game.

The win takes them to second place with 46 points at the expense of Butali Warriors who as a result slide to third. The result is on the other hand a growing worry for Sailors, who have not recorded a win in their last four matches.

 

Arsenal are set to enter negotiations to bring Schalke 04 midfielder Leon Goretzka in the January transfer window, as per reports in the Guardian.

Liverpool are also rumoured to be keeping tabs on the German international as he runs out of contract at the end of the 2017/18 season. The 22-year-old has seen a steep rise in stature since his move to Schalke from Vfl Bochum in 2013. Goretzka was one of the shining lights in Germany’s Confederations Cup victory in Russia earlier this year.

An attacking midfielder by trade, with an ability to pop in goals at crucial intervals, Goretzka has been earmarked by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger as a potential successor to Santi Cazorla and a possible replacement for Jack Wilshere.

Schalke’s sporting director Christian Heidel, however, remains confident to extend Goretzka’s stay at the club despite strong interest from Premier League clubs.

“I think if Schalke had no chance to keep him I would be the first to know that,” Heidel told German outlet SportBild. “But I haven’t received that kind of information until now.

“Leon will make a decision soon without us building any pressure on him.”

Germany’s national team general manager Oliver Bierhoff dropped a massive hint earlier this month regarding Goretzka’s future by suggesting that a move to England cannot be ruled out.

“We feel that England, because of the amount of money you have with TV rights, young talented players like Leroy Sané and [Schalke’s] Leon Goretzka are moving to England and this is not good for our league but also for the quality of our game,” he said.

Arsenal will be in Germany on Thursday to play FC Koln in a UEFA Europa League group stage fixture.

 

Bongi Mbonambi will make his first start for the Springboks against Italy in Padova, while Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the starting team for Saturday’s third Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.

Furthermore, the uncapped Warrick Gelant has been included on the bench and will make his Springbok debut should he go onto the field of play during the match.

The Springbok management decided not to risk Malcolm Marx for this weekend’s match, following the shoulder injury he sustained last week against France. This means Mbonambi, who has 12 Test caps to his name, will earn his first start on Saturday.Chiliboy Ralepelle will join Gelant on the bench.

Du Toit is fit again and picked at flank, where he replaces Siya Kolisi, who is not available for this match because of the birth of his second child. The versatile Du Toit suffered concussion two weeks ago against Ireland and as a result he missed the Springbok victory over France in Paris.

The rest of the team that edged the French in the Stade de France in the previous outing is retained.

“We decided not to risk Malcolm, which means Bongi will get a well-deserved first start in the No 2 jersey,” said Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.

“Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy, should he get a run.

“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value and I am very excited for the possibility of seeing him in action.”

Coetzee said the Italians will pose a difficult challenge at home: “We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge. However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.

“It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions,” said Coetzee.

Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the big lock has shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.

South Africa

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant

Arsenal are set to enter negotiations to bring Schalke 04 midfielder Leon Goretzka in the January transfer window, as per reports in the Guardian.

Liverpool are also rumoured to be keeping tabs on the German international as he runs out of contract at the end of the 2017/18 season. The 22-year-old has seen a steep rise in stature since his move to Schalke from Vfl Bochum in 2013. Goretzka was one of the shining lights in Germany’s Confederations Cup victory in Russia earlier this year.

An attacking midfielder by trade, with an ability to pop in goals at crucial intervals, Goretzka has been earmarked by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger as a potential successor to Santi Cazorla and a possible replacement for Jack Wilshere.

Schalke’s sporting director Christian Heidel, however, remains confident to extend Goretzka’s stay at the club despite strong interest from Premier League clubs.

“I think if Schalke had no chance to keep him I would be the first to know that,” Heidel told German outlet SportBild. “But I haven’t received that kind of information until now.

“Leon will make a decision soon without us building any pressure on him.”

Germany’s national team general manager Oliver Bierhoff dropped a massive hint earlier this month regarding Goretzka’s future by suggesting that a move to England cannot be ruled out.

“We feel that England, because of the amount of money you have with TV rights, young talented players like Leroy Sané and [Schalke’s] Leon Goretzka are moving to England and this is not good for our league but also for the quality of our game,” he said.

Arsenal will be in Germany on Thursday to play FC Koln in a UEFA Europa League group stage fixture.

 

Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have given Manchester United a huge boost at a crucial stage of the season by returning from injury, Juan Mata has told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview.

Ibrahimovic and Pogba both made their comebacks in the 4-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday -- Ibrahimovic after seven months out with a knee injury and Pogba after missing 12 games with a hamstring problem.

The busy winter fixture list will see United play nine games in December alone and Mata has revealed that Ibrahimovic, Pogba and Marcos Rojo, who has also returned after seven months out with a knee injury, have given the whole squad a lift.

"When you play for such a club, the expectation is amazing and you always have to win," he told ESPN FC. "You always have to play good and win, and, at the end of the season, lift trophies.

"The more that we are fit to play the better for everyone. Zlatan and Paul are experienced players, top players and they give us a lot of things on and off the pitch. It's a big boost for us.

"Zlatan and Marcos have been out for a long time and it's great to have them back. They trained hard, they fought hard to be back so it's really positive to see them on the pitch and see them performing well.

"With Paul the same. You know how much he likes football. He hates to be out of the football pitch, so it's been a great week for us in terms of injured players coming back. It's a big boost for the whole team and for the mentality of the squad."

Mata, 29, will celebrate his four-year anniversary at United in January and last season he added the Europa League and League Cup to the FA Cup he won in 2016.

After winning two trophies in his first season, Jose Mourinho brought in Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof over the summer to help challenge for the Premier League and Champions League this season. And Mata believes Mourinho has built one of the most complete squads he has known at Old Trafford.

"I think at United right now we have a fantastic squad," he added. "We have a good mix of experienced players and young players, players who know the Premier League really well.

"We have signed great additions to the squad. I don't know if it's the best, but it's definitely one of the most complete squads that I have been in. We play so many different tournaments, not just the Premier League, the cups and the Champions League and we need to be ready.

"We need to have a deep squad if you want to compete until the end in every single trophy so I think the manager if happy with the squad. As a team, we feel confident and really happy with each other. I think there is a good atmosphere in the dressing room. Hopefully we can do great things together."

 

On Wednesday November 22, the UEFA Champions League will host a total of eight matches from four Groups in different venues across Europe.

Below are all the matches (All times are in EAT)

GROUP A

CSKA Moscow 20:00 Benfica

FC Basel 22:45 Manchester United

GROUP B

Paris Saint Germain 22:45 Celtic

RSC Anderlecht 22:45 Bayern Munich

GROUP C

FK Qarabag 20:00 Chelsea

Atlético Madrid 22:45 Roma

GROUP D

Juventus 22:45 Barcelona

Sporting Lisbon 22:45 Olympiakos

 

Ethiopia national team coach Ashenafi Bekele has compiled a 27-member squad that is currently training in preparations for the upcoming CECAFA Challenge Cup.

The tournament is set to be held in Kenya from December 3 to December 17 2017 in three different counties namely Kisumu, Kakamega and Nakuru.

Nine players have earned their first national team call up and will be hoping to make the cut for the final 23-man squad list due to be announced in the coming days. The seven are Welwalo custodian Bereket Amare, Adama Ketema’s midfielder Knean Markneh, Wolaitta Dicha’s striker Tsegaye  Birhanu and Dedebit’s forward Abel Yalew.

Ethiopia have been placed in Group B together with Zimbabwe, Burundi , South Sudan and majority winners Uganda. They will take on Burundi in their first match on Monday December 4 at 14:00, with their last match against Zimbabwe on Tuesday December 12 being the last in the group stages.

Ethiopia provisional squad:

Goalkeepers: Tarike Getnet (Dedebit), Bereket Amare (Welwalo Adigrat University), Tekelemariam Shanko (Hawassa Ketema)

Defenders: Girma Bekele (Ethio-Electric), Amsalu Tilahun (Fasil Ketema), Abebaw Butako (Kidus Giorgis), Anagawe Badege (Dire Dawa Ketema), Temesgen Castro (ArbaMinch Ketema), Tewodros Bekele (Mekelakeya), Abebe Tilahun (Sidama Bunna), Henok Adugna (Jimma Aba Jifar).

Midfielders: Samson Tilahun, Mesude Mohammed (Both from Ethiopia Bunna), Tesfaye Alebachew, Biruk Kalbore (Both from Woldia SC), Knean Markneh (Adama Ketema), Endale Kebede (ArbaMinch Ketema), Behailu Teshager (Ethio-Electric), Yonas Geremew (Jimma Aba Jifar), Firew Solomon (Hawassa Ketema).

Forwards: Abdulrahaman Mubarak (Fasil Ketema), Abubakher Sanni (Kidus Giorgis), Addis Gidey (Sidama Bunna), Tsegaye Birhanu (Wolaitta Dicha), Amnauel GebreMikael (Mekele Ketema), Abel Yalew (Dedebit), Dawa Hotessa (Adama Ketema).

 

 

Ahead of their crunch Champions League clash against AS Roma on Wednesday, Atletico manager Diego Simeone has come to the defense of Antoine Griezmann over his goal drought and urged fans to support him so that he can get back to his best.

The French international is currently in one of the worst spells,  having gone for eight games without scoring a goal and has managed just three goals in all competitions. The poor spell made him subject to boos by fans at the weekend after failing to find the net in the derby stalemate with Real Madrid.

'Antoine is worried and it's normal because he wants to show us his best version and he needs to score for that, said Simeone in Wednesday's pre-match conference.

'It's also true that he did a great job in a lot of matches even if he didn't score but he had a great relationship with goals in the last years so now that he's not scoring he's suffering and so does the team.

'Also, the fans get angry because he has been our top scorer in the last seasons. The kid has everything, he's an awesome player, from our side we know that we just need to support him.

'Giving him the opportunity to play and trusting him because he's a player with goals in the blood so he will naturally find his way back to it.'

'The people of Atletico Madrid have demonstrated their affection and its critical when the situation gets very negative. People have shown great appreciation for him.

'How long has he been here? Four years! He has given so much its normal for that to happen, they demand so much of him, he is an idol of the club,'' he added.

Atletico desperately need a win in Wednesday in order to keep their dreams of reaching the last 16 alive. They are currently third in Group C with only three points, four adrift of second placed Chelsea and five behind leaders AS Roma. 

 

After seeing his side extend their winning streak to 17 matches across all competitions with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord on Tuesday, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has insisted that they are only focused on winning and not about the next round.

City had already progressed to the last 16 earlier this month but still found the energy to pip Feyenoord 1-0 thanks to Raheem Sterling's 88th-minute goal which eventually sealed a top spot for them t in Group F with a game to spare.

“We play to win the games and after that we will see how things finish,” Guardiola told reporters after the match.

”It is important that City have got 15 points at this stage for the first time and we are going to go now to Shakhtar to try to finish well and to try to go and win the game.

“In the last 16, it doesn’t matter which one (you get), it always will be complicated.”

They now shift focus to their final group match against Shakthar Donetsk on December 6 where they will be without Kevin de Bruyne, the playmaker having already picked up five yellow cards this campaign.

 

FIFA has dished out life bans to the former presidents of the Guam, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan football associations for corruption, its ethics committee has announced.

An investigation into ex-Guam FA boss Richard Lai, a former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) official and FIFA committee member, was opened this April when he pleaded guilty to fraud in the United States.

Lai's case is significant for two reasons: one, it represents the first time the US-led investigation into football-related corruption has extended beyond the Americas; and two, because it implicates one of the most powerful men in sports politics, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.

Sheikh Ahmad was not explicitly named in the Department of Justice case against Lai but the court papers clearly referred to him as the source of bribes paid to the Guam FA boss in return for support in AFC and FIFA elections. Sheikh Ahmad denies any wrongdoing.

The Kuwaiti resigned from his football positions - including a seat on the FIFA Council - a few days after Lai's plea but he is still a major player in Olympic circles and was instrumental in getting Thomas Bach and Gianni Infantino elected as presidents of the International Olympic Committee and FIFA respectively.

As well as the ban for Lai, former Venezuelan FA chief Rafael Esquivel and ex-Nicaraguan FA president Julio Rocha have also been banned from all football-related activities for life.

The ethics committee investigations into Esquivel and Rocha started in May 2015 when they pleaded guilty to fraud charges in the US, related to the awarding of broadcasting and marketing contracts.

These latest sanctions from FIFA come while three more ex-South American football bosses - Peru's Manuel Burga, Brazilian Jose Maria Marin and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay - are on trial in New York having pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, money-laundering and racketeering.

Now in its second week, their trial has already generated some remarkable headlines - including an alleged assassination of a businessman in Mexico and the suicide of an Argentinian official implicated in court - as well as shedding more light on how TV contracts and even World Cups have been awarded in recent years.

Popular Articles

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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? 

Rayon Sports Club have confirmed that former Sofapaka and Amavubi goalkeeper Evariste Mutuyimana is no more. Unconfirmed reports claim that a heart attack on Tuesday September 12 at his home was the cause of his death.

Mutuyimana started professional football with Rwandese side Kiyovu Sport before joining Police Kibungo in 2011.The 26-year old then moved to Kenyan side Sofapaka in June 2014 where he played for three seasons. He later moved to Rayon SC, where he was the reserve goalkeeper until his demise.

Mutuyimana has also featured for the Rwanda national team, his most notable appearance being in a 5-1 loss to Tunisia in an International Friendly back in May 2012.

“As Rayon Sports officials, we want convey our message of condolences to all the club fans and family following the death of goalkeeper Evariste Mutuyimana this Tuesday morning.” his club posted on social media.

 

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.

 

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

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.

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 Arsenal and Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor has described joining Crystal Palace as the “worst decision” of his career.

The 33-year-old Togolese striker is currently playing for Turkish side ?stanbul Ba?ak?ehir after being released by the Eagles in the summer of 2016.

Adebayor signed a six-month deal with Palace at the beginning of 2016 – a decision he says he would reverse if given the opportunity.

“I had some great experiences in England in clubs who are among the best in the country,” he told L’Équipe, as reported by the Daily Mirror.

“I was happy there, my family too. The only error that I made was to sign for Crystal Palace in January 2016.

“I did it just to please my entourage, who were saying to me: ‘Manu, you have to start playing again!’ It was the worst decision of my career.”

He would played 15 senior matches for Palace under then boss Alan Pardew scoring once in a losing effort to Watford.

It turned out to be his worst return for a single club since turning professional nearly 20 years ago with hometown side AC Merlan Lome.

Prior to relocating to Selhurst Park, the enigmatic centre-forward had already plied his trade with three different English clubs, most notably Arsenal from whom he joined Manchester City before returning to North London with Tottenham Hotspur.

In his first season with Ba?ak?ehir, the former Monaco man, has managed to register six goals across 11 league appearances including a hat-trick against Galatasaray.

 

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."

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