Hall uncertainty clouds AFC Leopards’ preparations for Tusker tie

By alex wafula
May 26, 2017
  • Stewart Hall's future at AFC Leopards is uncertain ahead of a match against Tusker FC. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • AFC Leopards' fans have been disappointed by the team's performance. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Gor Mahia are the current leaders in the KPL. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

The future of Stewart Hall, the AFC Leopards head coach has topped talks within the club’s ranks as they prepare for their Kenyan Premier League clash against defending champions Tusker FC this weekend in Meru.

The tactician is said to be on his way out and the Tusker match might be his last. He only joined Ingwe towards the close of last season, taking charge of the last two games.

However, neither the club nor the tactician himself have confirmed of the imminent departure. “I have also heard of the rumors but so far officially, we have not received anything from him suggesting that he is leaving. As far as we know, he is still the coach of the team,” AFC Leopards committee member Saul Abwao told Sports News Arena.

The uncertainty over the coach’s future has caused some unrest and lost focus in the playing unit. A source close to the club has intimated the coach has already made the decision to jump ship with reasons unclear.

“We don’t know what is happening because all we hear are rumors that the coach is going. But he has not told us in training that he is going. We actually don’t know what’s going on,” one of the AFC Leopards players who sought anonymity said.

Efforts to reach Hall were futile as calls went unanswered.

Despite a positive start to the season Ingwe has had a rough patch of and their 1-0 loss at the hands of Kakamega Homeboyz last weekend saw them go for the sixth consecutive match without a win. The result leaves the club lying 11th on the log.

Their hope of redemption will encounter a strong stumbling block as they come up against a Tusker side which has won six straight matches and moved up to third on the log.

Good memories

The alemen will be playing at Meru’s Kinoru Stadium for the first time after it was re-opened following renovations. They have plenty of good memories from the stadium which will be their new home ground.

The last time they played at the stadium was in 2014, coincidentally against AFC Leopards in the KPL Top Eight final. They won that game 2-1 to lift the title. But George Nsimbe, the Tusker head coach is not taking the match lightly.

“They might be in bad form, but we should not forget they are one of the best teams in the country. We can’t go into the match blindfolded that it will be an easy tie. This is a tough game and we should give it our best,” Nsimbe said.

Over the last 16 meetings between these two sides, AFC Leopards has won only once, a 1-0 result in 2014. Tusker has won 10 of those meetings, underlining their dominance over the 13-time champions.

It will be a special match for Tusker’s Shafik Batambuze who will be playing his final match for the brewers before proceeding to Tanzania where he has sealed a two-year deal with newly promoted Singida United.

Meanwhile, log leaders Gor Mahia will take on Posta Rangers in Nairobi in a mouth watering clash. Both sides limp into the fixture with wounded skulls.

Posta Rangers saw their unbeaten run broken by Ulinzi Stars last weekend with a 1-0 loss in Nakuru. Gor Mahia’s ambition to stretch the gap at the apex were pegged back with a 1-1 home draw against Thika United.

Sammy Omollo, the Posta Rangers coach knows it will be no walk in the park against K’Ogalo. However, he says he will retain his tactical approach for the game, only saying he has worked on the team’s mental strength for the game.

“It is a tough game, one that needs players to be fully focused and have the strongest mentality. I know they are a tough team, but we can beat them,” Omollo noted.

He will be boosted by the return of defender Jockins Atudo whose absence due to injury last weekend was visible as they lost 1-0 to Ulinzi Stars.

Gor have been blowing hot and cold this season and after the Thika draw, a victory will be all coach Jose Marcelo Ferreira requires.

Midfielder Kenneth Muguna will return for the side having missed last weekend’s draw with Thika. Muguna’s impact in the middle of Gor’s pack has been massive especially with his creativity.

Gor haven’t won in both matches he did not play. Against Mathare United, they lost 1-0 while they drew 1-1 with Thika United.

Meanest defense

Against the league’s meanest defense, Muguna will be an integral part and Meddie Kagere who has shown some good form this season will be expected to battle up for goals. Posta Rangers have let in only four goals in 12 matches.

K’Ogalo have shown they have no problem in scoring as they have the league’s second best attack line having smashed in 17 goals in 12 games.

Elsewhere, struggling Mathare United will take their fight for redemption to the Ruaraka Complex when they play Nakumatt FC. The Slum Boys have lost four consecutive matches and Francis Kimanzi’s young boys are tip-toeing along the shores of relegation.

Kimanzi is paying the price of trusting his young boys to tackle the hugely competitive Premier League. However, the gaffer remains upbeat his charges will come out good.

“Mentally, it is something that has taken a toll on them. Losing four matches in a row takes out a bit of confidence so now that is the only thing we will need to work on,” Kimanzi said.

They play a Nakumatt side that seem to be finding their footing back having not lost over their last five games. They have drawn thrice and won twice.

Another struggling side that will be toiling to get their mojo back is Western Stima who will be at home to on form Kariobangi Sharks.

Western Stima are bottom of the log having lost three of their last four games.

KPL Weekend fixtures. (All games kick off 3 p.m.)

Saturday: Bandari v Kakamega Homeboyz (Mbaraki Complex), Chemelil Sugar v Ulinzi Stars (Chemelil), Nzoia Sugar v Sofapaka (Sudi Stadium), Thika United v Muhoroni Youth (Thika Sub County Stadium).

Sunday: Nakumatt v Mathare United (Ruaraka Complex), Posta Rangers v Gor Mahia (Nyayo Stadium), Tusker FC v AFC Leopards (Kinoru Stadium, Meru), Western Stima v Kariobangi Sharks (Moi Stadium, Kisumu), Zoo Kericho v Sony Sugar (Kericho Stadium).