AFC Leopards unveil Sportpesa sponsorship, go second on KPL table

By alex wafula
Mar 03, 2021
  • SportPesa sponsored AFC Eopards and will announce a partnership with Got Mahia. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Just hours after officially unveiling a five year shirt sponsorship agreement with local betting firm Sportpesa, AFC Leopards went top of the Kenyan Premier League table.

Ingwe beat Bandari FC 1-0, Kepha Aswani scoring in the fifth minute of the game. The win not only gave new coach Ivan Minnaert a win on his first match in charge, but also raises the morale of the players ahead of the highly anticipated derby against Gor Mahia on Sunday.

The derby has been christened by most as the SportPesa derby, with both sides sharing a sponsor for the first time in the derby’s close to five decade history. Gor Mahia are set to officially unveil their sponsorship on Friday.

Leopards will earn Sh45million a season, with the money increasing by 5% every year. Though the Gor package is rumored to be way higher than Leopards’, currently Ingwe’s financial status stands as the best and most lucrative in the Kenyan football market.

However, the most glaring anomaly during the unveiling ceremony was the absence of one of the leadership factions led by Mathews Opwora. It raised a few eyebrows as to whether really the management was united as they had purported late last week as they unveiled new coach Minnaert.

Earlier before the season began, the Opwora led side had gone on to sign an agreement with another betting firm, Betway, but it was nullified by the Sports Disputes Tribunal. “We are here today because this agreement is legal and binding and we are fully behind it,” John Ohaga the SDT chair said during the launch.

He further disclosed that he had been left to make a decision between the two partners after both sides failed to agree on one sponsor. “I was appeased by Sportpesa’s long term plan for Kenyan football and the detailed plan they have. To me, that was a very good plan,” Ohaga added.

Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa who was in attendance instructed the interim Leopards’ leadership to ensure elections are done at the club. He added his federation would ensure that the polls are done in a free and fair manner to once and for all stabilize AFC, the oldest football club in Kenya’s top flight.

Meanwhile, Dan Mule, Opwora’s co-chair in the interim committee lauded the new agreement as a ground breaker. “This sponsorship has come at a time when we had been ravaged financially and I want to thank Sportpesa for believing in us. The onus is now on us to ensure there is accountability and to use this funds to raise our team from the ashes,” Mule told Sports News Arena.

Ronald Karauri, the Sportpesa CEO said they started investing in Kenyan. “This is just but a token. We shall build a formidable soccer culture across Kenya. This is a ground-breaking sponsorship but we need a lot of responsibility to come along with it,” he said.

Leopards picked second league win

While the team still celebrated the news of the end of their financial struggles, the results on the pitch continued to show. Leopards picked up their second win in three matches as they beat Bandari 1-0 and remain unbeaten in the opening league fixtures.

The win takes Leopards to second on the log with seven points, same as Mathare United, but with a better goal difference. Kepha Aswani connected home a cross from Clifton Miheso in the fifth minute of the match as Ingwe started with a bang.

Twahir Muhiddin had made changes to the squad that played ST. Elloi Lupopo over the weekend, to rest to some of his key players. He admitted after the match that this was a wrong move. “The players we brought in did not do as much as we expected so I think those changes affected how we played. We lost our rhythm and the first half was not very good,” Muhiddin noted.

Leopards had taken control of the midfield with Bernard Ongoma and Andrew Tololwa winning most of the balls. Bandari had their first chance 18 minutes into the game. Edwin Lavatsa had managed to cut back a cross from a tight angle on the left but Meshack Karani missed in an attempt to shoot first time.

David King’atua of Leopards launched a counter from the botched attack, Allan Katerrega forcing Obungu into a full stretch save with a fine shot from distance.

Towards the break, Aswani had a chance for a double but his shot went straight to Obungu after picking up a sweet change of play from Miheso. Edwin Wafula came close to scoring against his former side but his header from a Meshack Karani cross twice bounced on the crossbar, Indeche well beaten.

Ingwe suffered a blow at the start of the second half, Tololwa failing to go on after picking an injury earlier in the first half. In his place, Kabemba Mata came in but his performance never impressed new coach Minnaert. “To me, he didn’t do what we told him to do. He lost a lot of duels and gave the ball away too often. He needs to improve and convince me that he is able to play in my team,” a disappointed Minnaert said after the match.

First change

Muhiddin made his first change, pulling out Karani for George Abege. The lanky Ugandan brought some effect into the team’s forward line, and he forced a superb save off Indeche with a shot from range on the hour mark.

Indeche pulled off another decent one handed save to deny King’atua 10 minutes later. Ten minutes to the final whistle, Anthony ‘Muki’ Kimani who had been a huge miss in Bandari’s midfield was finally introduced, coming on for King’atua.

David Gateri also came off after picking up a knock and his place was taken by Musa Mudde. Despite the changes and pressure Bandari could not find a way past the Leopards backline.

With the win, the side’s mental form is on top and should Gor fumble in Nakuru to Ulinzi Stars, then the derby promises to be a cracker.

Frank Nuttall, the Gor Mahia coach was at Nyayo Stadium to watch AFC play while Minnaert told Sports News Arena he will be travelling to Nakuru to see how K’Ogalo play.