Kenyanstar Of The Week - Ambrose Rachier

Lawyer Ambrose Rachier has been Gor-Mahia football Club's chairman for  close to 10 years, since 2008 and was given fresh mandate by the 'Green Army' in December 2016 to steer Kenya's most successful football club for another four years a period he believes will be his last term at the helm of the club. During his 10 years at Gor-mahia, and in particularly the last six seasons, Rachier has won the League three times and finished second in the other three making him the Kenya Premier League Limited Chairman for three straight years and Vice Chairman for the other three. Rachier has also tried on two occasions to ascend to football's top most office in the country but both attempts were unsuccessful. Ambrose Rachier gave an Interview for the Kenyanstar of the week column incidentally on the morning he was slapped with a ban by FKF for 'bringing the game to disrepute' ...

KS: In Brief for those who do not know you, who is Ambrose Rachier? 

I'm a loyal Kenyan Citizen, 68 years old, a family man, a lawyer, Scholar, Teacher, Sports enthusiast, A fan of Gor-Mahia but most above all a leader... Of-course i tried my hand in politics but swore never to go back there after the lessons i learnt.    

KS: How long have you been in football administration?

Since i took over Gor-Mahia leadership in 2008

KS:  Let's talk about Gor-Mahia, You've been at the helm for a long time now, This is the 10th year i believe... Has it been a success story for you. 

Gor-Mahia has had tremendous improvement! I Insist Tremendous improvement under my chairmanship and i can outline various areas where these improvements are there for all to see.

 When i took over the club had just a handful of active fans and no funds at all. We now have a phenomenal return of the fans or what we like to call the green army and you can see, this in itself is a source of income for the club. We've also had a number of sponsors come on board since then, We've had Tuzo, Sportpesa and Crown Larger.  

I took over when the club was narrowly escaping relegation, Our performance on the field of play has since improved and in the last six years we have either won the league or unluckily finished second. One of these league wins has been unbeaten the entire season.

We have improved corporate governance and introduced structures, we now have a fully fledged secretariat with a CEO running the club and we now hold well organized elections. 

We have been steadily improving player welfare through better pay and simple things like a club bus to ease movement. We are also acting like a spring board, providing young players with opportunities to play in better leagues out of the country. You will remember George Odhiambo, Aucho, Olunga and most recently Erick Ouma. 

Last but probably very key is that i helped in founding and setting up of the Gor-Mahia Sacco which is very key to the Gor-Mahia Family. The Fans, players and even officials can save funds and access credit facilities via the Sacco.  

KS: Some people... most people agree and are happy with your record but they think you have steadied the ship and should allow someone else to sail it to harbor. 

Of-course Samuel I'll not be Gor-Mahia Chairman forever, this is probably my last term and i still have a lot to offer a lot to offer especially if i get the tranquility in the last four years...

KS: What do you have up your sleeve? Say a five year plan...? 

Three main things that need to be done... 

For starters we plan to develop an academy and run a very solid youth team. Our football will go nowhere without investment in academies.  There is no country in the world that has done well in football without investment in academies, even the much talked about Ghana National team they have been playing together from a very young age. The big players you hear about, the likes of Mesut Ozil and his Germany Teammates have been in academies from the age of five years.   

Secondly i plan to launch a Gor-Mahia stadium project... And this is not just a stadium but a soccer village that will also include a residential area for our players and staff. So a player signing for Gor-Mahia would mean that among other things they get a house for the entire duration of their contract. Infrastructure is another very important necessity in football and unless we invest in Infrastructure we are headed nowhere. 

Lastly i intended to put a lot of effort into player welfare at Gor-Mahia. Things like insurance cover should be include on the sign-up package for Gor-Mahia. Football is largely about the players so if we don't invest in them then we will have no football to enjoy. 

All these are achievable and i intend to go forth with them, they are not just pipe dreams. 

KS: When you say solid youth team, what does it mean with regard to what you currently have? The one that takes part in the KPL youth Tournament.  

That is an Ad-hoc youth team that we recruit mainly from the schools and largely on a need basis. Most of the other times they are on their own. I talk of a youth team that will be part of the club with a substantial budget to run it. This will also lower our cost of recruitment because it is expensive to recruit players. 

KS: Gor has done well locally over the past six years, twice near champions, then champions three times in a row, unlucky not to make it four but then, What is the secret? What ensures you stay at the top level? 

I think it's good leadership, and not just from me but most of the people elected into office with me over the last years have shown great leadership so credit to all of us and also to those who have been electing. 

KS: Having said that, Why isn't this performance not replicated in continental competitions? Fair to say not just by Gor-Mahia but by most Kenyan teams with few exemptions?

Thank you, that is a very important question and there are two reasons for it ... 

First is our calendar. We need to align our calendar with all other major leagues. The thing is when continental competitions begin, most other leagues have been ongoing and are probably halfway while for us we haven't even started, we are just getting off pre-season. our teams are therefore playing teams that have already jelled and worked out functional formations. While not impossible, it is very difficult to win against a team that is already in rhythm while you are only starting. 

Second, is lack of support from the federation. It is very expensive to compete in the continental competitions and support from the federation would go a long way. Federations in other countries support their clubs. 

KS: You have been KPL Chair for three years, Vice Chair for another two and this year is your third as Vice Chair. The other chairmen on the council must also appreciate the challenge our calendar poses with regards to continental competitions, why hasn't this been fixed once and for all?   

Because this is the responsibility of the federation. 

KS: Mr. Rachier, What challenges do you face as the Chairman of Gor-mahia? What challenges does Gor-Mahia as a club face  

There are three main challenges; 

For starters finances are still a major challenge as we try to implement our programs and still compete effectively. 

Secondly hooliganism is a big challenge for us in two ways. One because it endangers the lives players and peace loving fans and two because it hinders the growth of our fan base in terms of the actual fans who would like to come and support the team at the stadia. 

The third challenge is the tendency by our fans to try and micromanage people they have elected into office. This is a big drawback to our corporate governance practices. Our fans need to be educated and to understand that  when you give someone a job you have to allow them to do the judge them on the Results, Do not give someone a job and show them how to do it at every stage.... Why then did you give him or her the job in the first place? 

KS: You mention Hooliganism, who does the back stop with?   

The law enforcers. The police need to provide security, arrest the few hooligans masquerading as fans and have them pay with their time. Unfortunately even when these people are arrested they are allowed to walk the next day. The clubs don't own the stadium so it is difficult to task them with security.  

KS: Most clubs only fire a non performing coach. A coach who can't win trophies for them. Gor-Mahia has parted ways with a few title winning coaches, One who won it unbeaten .....

Samuel, the circumstances are different for all of them for those we have fired over the last few years. I can mention a few cases without names. One, sometimes back we fired simply because he wasn't performing, Another one we lost to the National team so there was very little we could do and another one we fired on grounds of indiscipline mainly because in Cohort with a few fans he held the club at ransom with outrageous demands contrary to our agreement and contract. These kind of acts undermine our corporate governance efforts and we had to act promptly. 

KS: In addition to not winning the league, does losing all three pre-season friendly matches so far pass as underperformance for Ze Maria? Should we expect to see him fired soon?       

No you can't fire a coach because he's lost in pre-season friendly matches. Nonetheless I have had an elaborate meeting with the coach and he explained all these losses. He is still getting to understand our new players. In the first match he had just jetted in and very little training had taken place, In the second match it wasn't about winning, he actually played all the 26 players in that single match and in the third match, the one against the Ugandan side like i said this is a team playing in an ongoing league while we are still in preseason. We have however set target for the coach and we can only judge him or take action based on these targets. 

KS: Is it a good or bad thing when Erick Ouma leaves Gor-Mahia for Georgia? 

While i wish Erick all the best at his new club i still believe that this move is ill advised. In my opinion the best for him would have been to stick around, even if not at Gor-Mahia then locally for another one or two seasons to assert his game and probably attract better opportunities. One problem with our football is that we have people calling themselves agents who are not even registered and they are miss-advising these young boys. Sometimes you engage a player and the moment you invite him to take his sign-on fee he arrives with a bunch of people claiming to be his agents. 

KS: Gor-Mahia has won the league three times in a row... We still see your matches with a stadium only quarter full, what will it take to have more people attending Gor Matches? 

 The main issues here are our calendar again and the hooliganism. We cannot ignore the fact that we are competing against elite leagues like the EPL, Bundesliga, Laliga and others. By the time our league starts all these league have gained momentum and it becomes very difficult to convince someone to forget about chelsea and come watch Gor-Mahia even if you get everything else right. It would be much fairer competition if our league started at the same time with all the others. And like i said with hooliganism still an issue then most would be fans would rather stay away from the stadium. 

KS: AFC Leopards Vs Gor Mahia, is this rivalry just a fans conception? As the chairman of Gor-Mahia does it give you more pleasure when you win against Leopards than when you win against any other team? 

Football cannot be sweet without a derby so yes there is a lot of Joy in winning against Leopards and a lot of sadness when they win against us. 

KS:  Talking of AFC Leopards, they are one of the biggest clubs in the country, why do you think they have been struggling in the past few years? 

I think it goes back to lack of tranquility and not allowing elected officials to do their job. Every fan cannot be the club chairman so we have to allow elected officials do their job and replace them when the right time comes.   

KS: Talk to us about you FKF Presidency bid. What did you want to achieve as FKF president that you couldn't achieve as KPL Chairman. 

To answer this you have to understand the different roles of the two organizations. KPL is only the league manager... 

KS: So what did you have in store as FKF President? 

A lot of things and i hope they can still be done. Unfortunately i'm past my sell-by date because i don't think i'll run again but  my agenda revolved around four issues; Development of youth football, Development of Infrastructure, development of women football and Transparency in management. 

KS: Has you being past your sell-by date has anything to do with the ban you've been slapped with? 

No it's  a personal decision i made after my second unsuccessful bid. The ban does not benefit our football in anyway. It is not about individuals, If you ban me today and someone else takes my position tomorrow he will find the same same issues on the table. So the correct thing to do as a leader is to have a discussion with all involved parties and solve outstanding issues. 

KS: So would these same issues be on the table today had you been elected president? 

Not necessarily because what we are seeing today is lack of leadership. It is important that we emulate best practice as it is done elsewhere globally. We need to be very clear in interpreting roles  of KPL and the federation and we need to respect existing agreements because we have been discussing these issues with the federation for some time now. So if i were the president i would offer leadership and will not engage in this discussions with a fixed mind.

KS: Why is CAF licensing an issue for some KPL clubs?  

It is not an issue. The issue is it's execution. The rules are very clear on what should happen to clubs that fail to obtain this license. There are sanctions, penalties but relegation is not one of them! Relegation and promotion should be purely on sporting merit so we have to question the integrity of some of these decisions. Why for instance should a club that hasn't played in the league for all these years suddenly being fronted for promotion at all costs immediately someone becomes president? 

KS: What are the arguments against an 18 team league?  

The federation is in no position to set the number of teams to play in the league, it needs to take advise from the league manager and when deciding who gets promoted and relegated it has to be on sporting merit and not political expediency. We are not opposed to an 18 team league but we have shared with the federation the impact of the expansion  starting with the additional 66 matches. 

KS: So what would be your message to the FKF President when he reads this? 

I plead with the all powerful leader of football in this country to rethink his decision. We are powerless and do not want to defy him. We also do not wish to engage in a fight with him. We are getting late for the commencement of the league and any further delays will make it difficult for us to have a successful season. The constant wrangles are not good for football. We need leadership from the top. As a leader, you cannot be crying foul always. What is the problem? Good leaders bring harmony and find solution to problems

KS: These issues around sports administration across all sports federations and organizations in Kenya seem familiar. What do you think is the major problem? 

Samuel, There is someone who is the overall in charge of the Industry and answerable to the president, what has been his input so far? ..

KS: What has been the impact of the sports act on our sports and football in particular? 

I think there has been no impact and i also think most people do not understand it. I think there should be a complete overhaul of the sports act and simplify it for the benefits of our sports organization. 

KS: Thank you for your time Mr. Rachier ... 

After two weeks of inactivity, the UEFA Europa League resumes on Thursday November 23, 2017 with a total 24 matches set to be played in different venues across Europe.

Everton will be seeking to revive their Europa League campaign with a first win in the when they host Atalanta from 23:05 EAT. The Toffees lie bottom in Group E after suffering three losses and one draw.

Arsenal will meanwhile be eyeing qualification into the next round when they visit FC Köln in a Group H match slated to start at 21:00. A win for the Gunners will see them through as they currently top the group with ten points, twice the number of second placed Red Star Belgrade.

Below are all Thursday's fixtures (All times are in EAT)

GROUP A

FC Astana 19:00 Villarreal

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 23:05 Slavia Prague

GROUP J

Athletic Bilbao 21:00 Hertha Berlin

Östersunds FK 21:00 Zorya Luhansk

GROUP K

Lazio 21:00 Vitesse

Nice 21:00 SV Zulte Waregem

GROUP L

Rosenborg 21:00 Real Sociedad

Zenit St Petersburg 21:00 Vardar

GROUP B

Partizan Belgrade 23:05 Young Boys

Skenderbeu 23:05 Dynamo Kiev

GROUP C

Ludogorets Razgrad 23:05 Istanbul Basaksehir

Sporting Braga 23:05 1899 Hoffenheim

GROUP D

AEK Athens 23:05 HNK Rijeka

AC Milan 23:05 Austria Vienna

GROUP E

Everton 23:05 Atalanta

Lyon 23:05 Apollon Limassol

GROUP F

Lokomotiv Moscow 21:00 FC Copenhagen

Sheriff Tiraspol 23:05 Zlín

GROUP G

Lugano 21:00 Hapoel Be'er Sheva

Viktoria Plzen 21:00 Steaua Bucharest

GROUP H

1. FC Köln 21:00 Arsenal

BATE Borisov 21:00 Red Star Belgrade

GROUP I

FC Red Bull Salzburg 21:00 Vitória Guimarães

Konyaspor 21:00 Marseille

 

Western Bulls and former giants Mean Machine, relegated after finishing in the bottom two positions during last season’s Kenya Cup will be keen to start life in the second tier on a high.

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.

After two weeks of inactivity, the UEFA Europa League resumes on Thursday November 23, 2017 with a total 24 matches set to be played in different venues across Europe.

Everton will be seeking to revive their Europa League campaign with a first win in the when they host Atalanta from 23:05 EAT. The Toffees lie bottom in Group E after suffering three losses and one draw.

Arsenal will meanwhile be eyeing qualification into the next round when they visit FC Köln in a Group H match slated to start at 21:00. A win for the Gunners will see them through as they currently top the group with ten points, twice the number of second placed Red Star Belgrade.

Below are all Thursday's fixtures (All times are in EAT)

GROUP A

FC Astana 19:00 Villarreal

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 23:05 Slavia Prague

GROUP J

Athletic Bilbao 21:00 Hertha Berlin

Östersunds FK 21:00 Zorya Luhansk

GROUP K

Lazio 21:00 Vitesse

Nice 21:00 SV Zulte Waregem

GROUP L

Rosenborg 21:00 Real Sociedad

Zenit St Petersburg 21:00 Vardar

GROUP B

Partizan Belgrade 23:05 Young Boys

Skenderbeu 23:05 Dynamo Kiev

GROUP C

Ludogorets Razgrad 23:05 Istanbul Basaksehir

Sporting Braga 23:05 1899 Hoffenheim

GROUP D

AEK Athens 23:05 HNK Rijeka

AC Milan 23:05 Austria Vienna

GROUP E

Everton 23:05 Atalanta

Lyon 23:05 Apollon Limassol

GROUP F

Lokomotiv Moscow 21:00 FC Copenhagen

Sheriff Tiraspol 23:05 Zlín

GROUP G

Lugano 21:00 Hapoel Be'er Sheva

Viktoria Plzen 21:00 Steaua Bucharest

GROUP H

1. FC Köln 21:00 Arsenal

BATE Borisov 21:00 Red Star Belgrade

GROUP I

FC Red Bull Salzburg 21:00 Vitória Guimarães

Konyaspor 21:00 Marseille

 

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.

 

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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."