Gor, Leopards make mockery of preseason

By nesta kizito
Feb 01, 2014
  • Gor Mahia coach Bobby Williamson walks past AFC Leopards after a past game. The two teams are preparing for continental assignments.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

For the first time in a very long time, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards will jointly fly the Kenyan flag in continental football which gets underway in a week’s time.

This is so because for nearly two decades the two giants of Kenyan football had receded to the backwaters our national pastime and are only emerging from the dark years.

A one-two finish by Gor Mahia and AFC leopards in the 2013 season of the Kenyan Premier League signaled the return of the old order.

Yet, the manner in which the two teams have gone about gearing up for the task that lies ahead makes a mockery of the whole concept of pre-season preparation.

Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards may have finally crept out of the woodworks, but their modus operandi gives a strong suggestion that both teams are still living in the pre-medieval era. Here is the point.

For the umpteenth time, Gor and Leopards chose familiar locations as their get-away destinations for pre-season training ahead of the new season.

K’Ogalo chose the familiar Nyanza tour route which culminated in a brief sojourn at Oloitoktok (wherever that is!) while Ingwe, as usual, ended up in their tradition home in Mumias.

And when Gor Mahia finally returned to the capital all that they been engaging in are ‘testimonial matches’ against such nondescript sides as Super Loaf, Nakumatt, Moyas and Mumbi Nationale (this is the first time I’m hearing of this team).

As for Leopards, whatever they were doing in Mumias is purely a subject of speculation.

Giant clubs

Surely, for all its intents and purposes, what value does playing against lower division clubs add to clubs that will be playing in the same league as giant clubs such as TP Mazembe, Al Alhy, Esperance and Orlando Pirates, should they get past the preliminary stages?

Is it that those people mandated with the responsibility of running these clubs’ affairs don’t appreciate proper preseason training, or is for lack of funds?

I doubt either theory for one simple reason.

Since the arrival of transcontinental pay-TV sports channel SuperSport, the Kenyan Premier League has been touted as the strongest and best organized league within the East and Central Africa region.

Yet, just across the border, a few miles away from Gor Mahia’s preferred get-away, a Tanzania club by the name Yanga – yes, they of the ‘Ni hujuma’ weeping fan – could afford a two week training camp in the Turkish city of Antalya with four friendly matches against Turkish, Albanian and Azerbaijani opposition to boot.

But if arranging for a trip abroad is hard enough for Kenyan clubs, extending invites to foreign teams for friendly matches is much harder.

In his memoirs, Striking It High, AFC Leopards and Kenya international striker Allan Wanga recounts the culture shock he got when he arrived Angola in early 2008 and was immediately shipped off together with his new Petro Atletico team mates for preseason training in Brazil and later South Africa and Namibia.

At AFC Leopards, nowadays Wanga has to do with a preseason in Mumias.

More shocking is that the club is even planning to hold a Harambee to supplement their budget for continental duties. Seriously, a Harambee, in this age and time?

With such haphazard preparations, I cringe at the thought of a likely encounter between AFC Leopards or Gor Mahia with the TP Mazembe’s of African football. Lord have mercy on us!