False Hopes; How Leopards' Season Crumbled

The Football Kenya Federation Arbitration Tribunal ruling on the case of former coach Ivan Minnaert opened the lid, and laid bare what has been an awful and failed season for one of Kenya’s most followed club - AFC Leopards. Ingwe, got off to the 2016 season on a flier, despite enduring a massive player exodus in the January transfer window.

Solid wins over Bandari and Gor Mahia set the club in the race for the league top spot, only for matters to start heading south, at jet speed velocity. While the club somewhat managed some famous wins on the pitch, all was not well. The goose was slowly but surely simmering. First, a John Ohaga-led tribunal had forced a marriage between two warring sides, led by Dan Mule and Mathews Opwora respectively. The two camps would later form the Interim Management Committee(IMC).

The infighting grew slowly. Soon, the club hired tactician Ivan Minnaert from Rayon Sports. Ivan announced his arrival with a bang, seeing off Bandari FC at Nyayo, before handing Gor Mahia a maiden loss in almost a year. A loss that led to the eventual departure of then Gor Mahia coach Frank Nuttal.

Interestingly, Ivan’s contract was not dated.

In their submission to the FKF Tribunal a month ago, the club claimed that Ivan lacked appropriate coaching papers, hence was not qualified to lead the club. The tribunal itself, found the claims strange, as the club had previously not made any attempts to check if the coach was qualified or not, almost 7 months into the job.

In their submission to the Tribunal, the club praised the team’s Technical Director Jan Koops, who they noted, in contradiction that despite lacking any coaching certificates or badges had overseen a great run of 23 matches unbeaten while at the helm of the club.

Interestingly, it’s just during the Tribunal hearing that the club openly came out to announce that Jan Koops was the club’s technical director. A role that the gaffer had assumed ceremoniously, according to various trusted sources.

In previous press interviews, Ivan Minnaert had displayed a sour relationship between himself and Koops, at one point referring to him as , ‘Unqualified.’

The club further sensationally claimed that Ivan’s appointment was bulldozed by one member of the IMC, Asava Kadima.

The club would continue to claim during the hearing, through a witness, the then Team Manager Joseph Milimu, that Ivan Minnaert did not start his work on the date claimed by the tactician. Milimu’s assertions were meant to justify the club’s assertions that Minnaert was hired at a separate date, from the one claimed by the Belgian.

Infact, contrary to what the fans and the media believed, the club claimed through Milimu that although Ivan had sat on the bench and assumed the role of head coach in the matches against Bandari and Gor Mahia, he was not responsible for the results posted. Milimu claimed that Ivan Minnaert was simply just sitting on the bench, and since he did not know the player’s names, he could not be responsible for the wins over Gor Mahia and Bandari.

Kenyanstar has learnt that despite Milimu’s claims, the club had submitted Ivan’s name to both Supersport and KPL.

AFC Leopards would soon start struggling, and the fans slowly but surely started losing faith in the team, which was largely composed of inexperienced players then. Noting that Leopard's league chances were going up in flames, Ivan went to the press, and called on the fans to be patient, as ‘winning the league was not realistic.’ He however, would soon be scoffed by Mathews Opwora in an email, where the co-chairman insisted that the club’s ambitions were to win the 2016 title.

In June, pressure was mounting on Ivan Minnaert. An email dated 18th April  from Maurice Osundwa had warned the Belgian in part that , ‘….If you keep losing, then be assured that heads will start rolling..’

The club’s supremo met as the June transfer window approached, and settled on signing 10 new players to beef up the team. The management resolved that should the coach fail to win in the club’s next three assignments, he should resign. This in itself, prove to be a threat, and clearly showed that the club had no intent of following due process in sacking the coach.

A number of key players targeted by the coach, amongst them Ismaila Diarra, Emmanuel Imanishimwe and Gilbert Fiamenyo all failed to get signed due to various reasons. Fiamenyo would later be signed, but failed to get clearance on time.

The failed transfers irked Ivan Minnaert, who felt that he had been sabotaged. The tactician, seeing that the club management was not willing to follow up on some transfers, took up the issue with the Football Kenya Federation. 

The club later complained in its submission to the tribunal that the coach’s action at the Football Kenya Federation amounted to undermining the management’s authority. The coach, whose job description included advising management on which players to sign, complained that his authority too had been undermined. Gilbert Fiamenyo would later fail to get clearance after all, and the club had to work with those players who had been recruited and registered.

All did not look rosy, and matters headed south. Dan Mule, soon got elected as chairman, with majority of his team members also getting elected. The IMC’s life was cut short.

The results got worse by the day. Ivan was accused of amongst other things, high handedness and favouritism. In fact, in AFC’s submissions to the FKF Tribunal, Minnaert was accused of insulting players and favouring some players, a factor the club says contributed to the dismal performance.

The arrival of new players amongst them Moussa Sissoko and rookie Bruno Kiyai did not sit well with some of the players. As AFC almost fell to Mumbi Nationale in  a Gotv tie,  an unnamed player would even be quoted saying, “The results are headed south because of the coach’s own making. It serves him right. You cannot replace all your old clothing, with new ones all at once…”

A good number of the players in the team fell out with Ivan. Some would miss training, and attend to their girlfriends instead. The former coach claimed in his submission. The club, through Secretary General Oscar Igaida, confirmed the claims of indiscipline that had rocked the team.

One player, had reportedly phoned assistant coach Ezekiel Akwana, to confirm if they would be in the matchday squad, so as to attend training.

Minnaert on his part had gone on to accuse some players of match fixing. Interestingly, the tactician had accosted the player in training, publicly accusing him of the vice. The club would however, report later on that investigations revealed that no money exchanged hands. 

A section of players openly rebelled. In several incidents, some players had refused to warm up during matches. This itself, is contrary to the Rules of Kenyan football which demand that a player must respect the coach’s instructions. The said players, went unpunished.

The dressing room too was split. Some players, reportedly being favoured by Ivan, were labelled the ‘coach’s sons.’ During the Tribunal hearings, it was noted that in one incident, the team had earned a penalty, which all other players save for one of the ‘coach’s son’s’ was allowed to take. The player, went on to miss, to the ‘delight’ of the other players.

The club on its part, accused Ivan of unfair player selection.

Minnaert’s  trouble wore on. As the fans thronged the stadium and hoped to witness some great goals and wins, some players missed training, the coach clashed with management and his technical bench.

Ivan Minnaert particularly wasnt reading from the same script with team manager Joseph Milimu. The team manager was failing in his duties, including ensuring discipline in the playing unit, and submitting match reports. The club, remained mum. Milimu clashed with Ivan Minnaert.

At one point, the coach was ordered to write an apology to the team manager, on accusations of using foul language. The coach declined.

In its submissions to the FKF Tribunal, AFC leopards claimed that another reason for the poor run of form was due to the fallout within the technical bench. Ivan was accused of failing to provide leadership, and not taking advice from his assistants. The club’s claims were supported by a letter written by then assistant coach Ezekiel Akwana. The letter, which to some extent contradicted the club’s claims read in part, ‘.....It is becoming very hard to win in our team because the head coach doesn't want to accept our views or my views as an assitant coach. We are loosing(sic) because the head coach only listen to what we tell him but what supprices(sic) me is that the coach tells us, especially me that all my ideas are wrong.’

This letter, the tribunal noted, was in contradiction of the club’s claims that the coach had failed to listen to his assistant's instructions. Kenyanstar has learnt that a good number of the club’s mid-season signings were recommended to the coach by his assistants.

After eventually falling to Western Stima in a 4-goal soaking, time was up for Ivan. Leopard’s only hope in the Gotv Cup had gone up in flames. Ivan, had to go.

The club served the coach with a letter on 29th August to show cause why his contract should not be terminated. A hearing was set for 31st August. The coach appeared before the NEC with his lawyer and one club member. The club member would later be ejected from the sitting, as Ivan accused the club of an unfair hearing.

Ivan, would later be dismissed and the reigns handed to Ezekiel Akwana, and Nicholas Muyoti. The two former Ingwe players, failed to win a match, sending the club further the relegation deep ends.

After push came to shove, the duo together with goalkeeper trainer Dick Francis and team manager Martin Milimu were shown the door. Charles Bruno, Kepha Aswani Lucas Indeche, Edwin Wafula and Yusuf Juma were also suspended on claims on indiscipline.

A new technical bench led by Stewart  Hall took over, as the club sought to rebuld, following a disastrous show in 2016.

With Hall incharge, the fans can only hope of better days. 2016 is certain a season they would love to forget; Undisciplined players, power struggles at the top, infighting in the technical bench and a lot of fans, who clinged on hope, expecting miracles, that never saw the light of day.

Zoo Kericho and Muhoroni Youth FC played out to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday in round 7 of the Kenyan Premier League.

Zoo Kericho suffered an early setback nine minutes into the game after Isaac Kipyegon came off with an injury, and was replaced by Dominic Ouma. In the 23rd minute, they were awarded a penalty which Mike Madoya duly converted to give them an early lead.
Zoo Kericho were on course to their first win this season but Muhoroni Youth equalized eight minutes from time through Robert Ouma to deny them three points. This was Zoo’s second point in seven games and they remain at the bottom of the table with two points. Muhoroni Youth go to ninth with eight points.

Jacques Tuyisenge was born 25 years ago on 22nd September 1991 in Rwanda. He is a Rwandan professional football player who plies his trade in Kenya for Premier League side Gor Mahia. At 180 cm in height, he is an ideal striker who plays the forward role, but is also efficient as a left winger.

Tuyisenge started his football career at Kiyovu Sports Club, where he harnessed his prowess in the attacking role and other clubs started scouting and hunting for his signature. He played for Kiyovu until July 2011, when he joined Rwandese side Police FC who compete in the National Soccer League. He instantly became a regular starter for the club and in his first season playing for Police FC, he went on to score 11 goals. During his time there, Tuyisenge was well known for his powerful header which always found the back of the net. He played for the Rwandese outfit from 2011 to 2015, where he had a fruitful time there and was loved by all Police faithfuls, while being dreaded by other teams’ defenders.

Tuyisenge decided that it was time to explore other leagues and in January 2016, Gor Mahia acquired his services for a club record fee of 4 million shillings. He announced his arrival to the Kenyan Premier league with a goal on his debut against Kakamega Homeboyz. Tuyisenge went on to play 24 league matches in the season for K’ogalo, netting 10 goals. In the 2017 season, he so far has two league goals to his name and it is his goal that handed Gor Mahia the Super Cup against Tusker FC.

Jacques Tuyisenge has represented the Rwanda National Team 33 times, scoring 9 international goals.

One of the most prestigious track and fields events is set to begin in 10 days time in Doha, Qatar. The IAAF Diamond League is an annual meeting that encompasses 32 Diamond Disciplines, following a championship style model. 

According to iaaf.org athletes will earn points in the first 12 IAAF Diamond League meetings to qualify for two final meetings where $100,000 will be at stake in each of the 32 Diamond disciplines, including $50,000 for each winner. 

In previous seasons, athletes accumulated points throughout the IAAF Diamond League season with the overall winner of each of the 32 events being the athlete with the most points, irrespective of whether they won the final.

The season is now a race to reach the finals with the winners crowned as IAAF Diamond League champions. As in a championship, the performance of athletes in the final alone will determine who the champion will be and the prize money won.

The Prize structure is as follows:

1st $50,000

2nd $20,000

3rd $10,000

4th $6000

5th $5000

6th $4000

7th $3000

8th $2000

This season's meeting in Eugene's 1500m womens' event will be historic as  it will see seven, out of 15, women who have ran under 4 minutes participate. The most sub-four-minute times ever recorded at the meetings. These women include Olympic medallists Faith Kipyegon and Hellen Obiri, the two fastest Kenyan women in history over the distance.

2017 IAAF Diamond League calendar reads as follows;

5 May – Doha, QAT

13 May – Shanghai, CHN

27 May – Eugene, USA

8 Jun – Rome, ITA

15 Jun – Oslo, NOR

18 Jun – Stockholm, SWE

1 Jul – Paris, FRA

6 Jul – Lausanne, SUI

9 Jul – London, GBR

16 Jul – Rabat, MAR

21 Jul – Monaco, MON

20 Aug – Birmingham, GBR

24 Aug – Zurich, SUI

1 Sep – Brussels, BEL

After the weekend round of fixtures Green Sharks lead the Men Premier League table with 14 points followed by Kenya Police and Wazalendo with 13 points and 10 points respectively. However, Sharks have already played 7 games, that is three more than both Police and Wazalendo. At the bottom of the pile is TUK with no point after 4 games. 

When it comes to goals, the most prolific player at the moment is Sharks' Chris Muchwanju with 4 goals. Players that have been regulars on the scoresheet in the Men League include:

Chris Muchwanjo (Green Sharks)- 4 goals

Festus Onyango (Strathmore Uni)- 3 goals

Kevin Simiyu (Green Sharks) - 3 goals

Dolean Mugaisi (Nakuru Athletic)- 3 goals

Nelson Shirako (Wazalendo)- 3 goals

Emmanuel Simiyu (Butali Warriors)- 3 goals

George Mutira (Chase Sailors) - 3 goals

In the Ladies category Telkom Orange dominate the league. They have a 100 percent record with 5 wins in 5, cementing their place in the summit of the league. JKUAT and Chase Amira follow with 8 points and 7 points respectively, though the two have a game in hand over Telkom. UoN and MSC are at the bottom of the pile with no points even though MSC have only played 2 games compared to UoN's 4 games.

In the scorers' chat Telkom ladies foster their supremacy as they have produced the top three scorers so far. Audrey Omaido leads with 6 goals, averaging to an impressive 1.2 goals per game. The top hitters are as follows:

Audrey Omaido (Telkom Orange) - 6 goals

Jackie Mwangi (Telkom Orange)- 5 goals

Maureen Okumu (Telkom Orange)- 4 goals

Susan Oketch (Chase Amira)- 4 goals

Caroline Guchu (Telkom Orange)- 3 goals

Lorraine Nondi (Chase Amira)- 3 goals

Pauline Naise ( Chase Amira)- 3 goals

Gilly Okumu (Strathmore Uni)- 3 goals.

Mary Keitany took 41 seconds off the women’s-only world record* at the Virgin Money London Marathon, running 2:17:01 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (23).

Keitany said in the build-up to this year’s race she was in shape to break Paula Radcliffe’s mark of 2:17:42 and while she demurred when asked about the possibility of bettering Radcliffe’s outright mark of 2:15:25, Keitany was running minutes inside Radcliffe’s schedule in the first half.

Keitany was paced by her training partner Caroline Kipkirui, who she was full of praise.

“I want to thank the pacemaker who was taking me all the way to 14 miles,” said Keitany. “From there, I started to go alone and see how my body was.”

Resolution Impala Saracens II successfully defended their Eric Shirley crown with a 13-12 win over KCB II in the final played at the USIU Ground on Saturday 22 April 2017.

This match was a close contest through and through, the teams heading into the interval locked 0-0. Collins Wanjala’s unconverted try after the restart gave KCB II a 5-0 lead but Quinto Ongo’s two quick penalties saw Impala II go 6-5 up.

Vincent Onyala landed a converted try as KCB II went 12-6 up but a moment of indiscipline saw them crumble, conceding a penalty try that handed Impala II the win.

Rugby enthusiasts around the country have a reason to be happy as they can now look forward to this years’ National Sevens Circuit set to start from late July to early November this year.

The circuit is a series of sevens a side competition taking places in various towns and cities in the country. It also brings together passionate rugby fans to mingle, have fun and of course enjoy some rugby.

Rugby in the country has grown popularity due to the National Sevens Circuit and the success of the Shujaa on the world stage.

This years’ schedule is as follows:

July 22, 2017- Mombasa Driftwood

July 29, 2017- Kabeberi Sevens, Nairobi

Sept 2, 2017- Prinsloo, Nakuru

Sept 9, 2017- Homeboyz

Sept 23, 2017- Christie, Quins

Sept 30, 2017- Dala Sevens, Kisumu

Nov 5, 2017- Safaricom Sevens, Nairobi

 

 

Kenyan football governing bodies KPL and FKF have confirmed that SuperSport’s decision to pull out of the deal of broadcasting Kenyan Premier League will not be revised after the sports channel company categorically reiterated the decision. The South African company has been sponsoring the Kenyan League for almost ten years but recently decided to terminate its relationship with Kenyan football

FKF had tried negotiations to see if SuperSport will change their decision but according to capital fm, they confirmed that SuperSport is gone for good. ``Yes, we got a response from SuperSport and the long and short story of it is that they are not coming back,’’ asserted FKF Chief Executive Officer Robert Muthomi on Monday morning.

KPL CEO Jack Oguda backed Muthomi’s words, who also said that there are other suitors eyeing the broadcasting deal. `` It’s an unfortunate event for Kenyan football but that doesn’t mark the end of football in our country. In the late 2000s, we didn’t have a broadcast sponsor but we still played football. For us, it’s a big challenge but what we are working on is to try and value the product properly to get more partners on board.’’

SuperSport’s decision had other effects apart from the league, with several people becoming jobless and the clubs’ monthly grants are also set to be reduced.

Muthomi said that they will be holding a Joint Executive Committee (JEC) meeting and also an FKF National Executive meeting to discuss the way forward and also discuss on some interests that have arisen. Oguda on his part suggested that they are trying to move forward with the issue. ``Our main focus at the moment is to see that we are back on TV and we get a good deal from whoever partner will come in,’’ he said.

 

After one season in the English Championship, Newcastle United secured an immediate return to the Premier League by beating Preston North End 4-1 on Monday.

Under Rafa Benitez, the former Liverpool manager who won the Champions League during his time at Anfield, Newcastle enjoyed an impressive season although two defeats and a draw in its last three league games led to a few nerves at the north-east club.

One of England's best supported clubs which regularly attracts crowds more than 50,000 for home games, Newcastle sealed promotion with two matches remaining.

Championship leader Brighton and Hove Albion secured one of the two automatic promotion places a week ago. Brighton leads Newcastle by four points.

Benitez was unable to save Newcastle from relegation last season after being appointed for the last 10 games, but decided not to activate a clause in his three-year contract allowing him to leave if the club was demoted.

The former Real Madrid manager, after meetings with owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley, announced his intention to stay in May and his decision has been vindicated.

Despite selling Dutch midfielder Gini Wijnaldum to Liverpool for a reported 25 million pounds following relegation, Benitez has acted astutely in the transfer market.

The signings of striker Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace and Scotland winger Matt Ritchie from Bournemouth have paid dividends, with Gayle scoring 22 league goals and Ritchie 12.

An awful start to the season when Newcastle lost its opening two league games was quickly erased with five successive wins, creating a momentum that stalled only in the past month, on the verge of promotion. It got there in the end.

Manchester City look set to pip rivals Manchester United to the signing of highly-rated Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy, according to the Daily Star.

Both Manchester sides are in the market for a new left-back at the end of the season, with City keen to strengthen in this area come the summer.

United, meanwhile, are looking to replace Luke Shaw at left-back, with Jose Mourinho prepared to allow the England international to leave at the end of the season.

Mendy has been mooted with a possible Premier League switch in the past, with Liverpool and Arsenal also believed to be interested in the France international.

However, the 22-year-old will only consider a move away from Monaco for another team in the Champions League, which puts City in pole position to secure his services.

Yamaha dominated the season's first two grands prix with Maverick Vinales, but Marquez won from pole in America and moved up to third in the championship, 18 points off new leader Valentino Rossi.

Honda ran first and second for most of the race with Dani Pedrosa and Marquez, while Vinales had an early crash from fourth, and though his pace faded Pedrosa was still able to finish third behind Rossi.

The Japanese marque will test at Le Mans next Tuesday with Marquez and Pedrosa, who will both be using the second day of their five-day allocation for the season.

All five of MotoGP's other manufacturers will also be present at the French track, with Aprilia also opting to hold a private two-day test this week at Mugello.

Marquez, who dislocated his shoulder at Jerez in February during his first private test day of the year, believes the Le Mans test will be crucial for improving the RC213V to be able to take on Yamaha.

"It's important [to win] because we are third again in the championship," said Marquez, who had crashed when leading the previous race in Argentina. "Before the race I was eighth, and I said 'OK, we need to start coming back.'

"Still I don't feel perfect with the bike, we are missing something. Now we have an important test at Le Mans and an important race at Jerez.

"We need to understand [the problem], because if we understand it there and fix this problem, we can fight strongly for the championship."

Marquez was unsure where Honda's improvement relative to Yamaha had come from at Austin and said he had not been comfortable with the bike even on the way to victory.

"I was playing a lot with the set-up, trying to find stability and have more confidence," he said. "For some reason we didn't find it, then I was looking to tyre life because the front tyre I was destroying a lot.

"On Friday with just 12 laps my front tyre was destroyed and impossible to ride fast. Then on Saturday we did a great pace, but we don't know if it was the temperature.

"[In the race] everyone suffered but we were able to manage quite well and I felt better. But still it didn't feel like I wanted."

Honda informed Marquez that Vinales had crashed via his pitboard, though the reigning champion said he had already seen a replay of the incident on the video screens.

"It didn't change my plan, which was to try and understand the situation," said Marquez when asked if knowing Vinales was out had influenced his subsequent riding.

"The mistake of Argentina was big and I didn't want to repeat it."

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”.

Serena Williams, who announced her pregnancy last week, reclaimed the No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour on Monday. The 23-time Grand Slam winner takes over the top spot for the eighth time in her career and 317th week overall, third all-time behind Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova. 

Williams will not play again in 2017 because of her pregnancy -- but plans to return in 2018 -- so her leap to the No. 1 position will be a temporary one. 

No. 2 Angelique Kerber will once again unseat Williams atop the rankings if she wins her first two matches at this week's Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart. 

Williams, who got engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in December, posted a photo on Snapchat last Wednesday, prompting widespread speculation that she was pregnant with her first child. 

The 35-year-old Williams took a side-profile bathing suit mirror selfie with the caption "20 weeks" that showed her baby bump. A representative for Williams confirmed the pregnancy to the media later in the day. 

On Monday, Williams wrote a moving letter to her unborn child in an Instagram post, sharing her excitement in reaching No. 1 again. 

"My Dearest Baby, You gave me the strength I didn't know I had. You taught me the true meaning of serenity and peace. I can't wait to meet you. I can't wait for you to join the players box next year," Williams wrote alongside a photo of herself in a swimsuit. 

"But most importantly, I am so happy to share being number one in the world with you.... once again today. On @alexisohanian bday. ... from the world's oldest number one to the world's youngest number one. -- Your Mommy." 

Williams holds the record for the most Grand Slam titles of any player in the Open Era, clinching her 23rd at January's Australian Open, her last tournament

Lionel Messi on Monday hailed Barcelona's dramatic 3-2 Clasico victory over arch-rivals Real Madrid as an "important step" in the race for the La Liga title. Messi's last-gasp goal marked his 500th for Barcelona and blew the La Liga title race wide open at Real Madrid on Sunday.

Victory takes Barca top of the table thanks to their better head-to-head record with both sides locked on 75 points, but Madrid have a game in hand. 

"We went to the Bernabeu to win and to continue to fight for La Liga," the five-time Ballon d'Or winner said on his Facebook page.

"There is still a long way to go, but we left with the joy of having taken an important step," added Messi, the top scorer in La Liga with 31 goals, alongside a photo of himself celebrating one of his goals.

Barcelona are bidding for a third straight La Liga and Spanish Cup double. They play Alaves in the Cup final on May 27.

There are no two teams in sports history with this much rivalry, there is no single match that amasses greater footballing talents in one pitch, there is not a better derby in world football, El- Clasico, where the Galacticos from Madrid clash with Barca from Catalonia in a backdrop of over 600 million spectators across 185 countries in the world, this is football at its prime.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have met for 233 official Clasico matches, a rivalry that has span across 115 years. Out of the 233 encounters Los Blancos have won 93 while Barca have 91 wins, 49 of the games ended all square. The matches has always been too close to call as in the last 5 league fixtures each has two wins with the most recent match ending as a draw.

When it comes to goals Leo Messi that is top of the scoring chats with 21 Clasico goals in 33 matches. He is followed by a Real legend Alfredo De Stefano with 18 goals, two more than Cristiano Ronaldo. However, Messi has been on a 6 game goal drought against Real and it is Neymar who has the best scoring and assist record against their rivals with 6 goals and 3 assists. Barca will clearly miss the services of the Brazilian attacker as his suspension is confirmed.

The best in the world have played in this fixture with the likes of Ronaldo De Lima, Luis Figo, Michael Laudrup and the current Barca coach Luis Enrique having played for both teams.

This editions Clasico will be as decisive as always as a win for Real Madrid will all but guarantee them the league title.

 

Who will be the Barcelona manager next season? One of the names linked with the job is Laurent Blanc. He was a player at Camp Nou, knows the club and is currently out of work. After leaving PSG he decided he wanted to rest, now, according to his agent Jean-Pierre Menes, he is ready to work again.

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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? 

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.

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”.

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

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."

Wilfried Zaha has rejected Gareth Southgate’s suggestion that he had imposed a timescale to be selected again by England, effectively holding the national team to ransom, and has defended his right to instead represent the country of his birth, Ivory Coast.

Bale and Ronaldo both played as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 yesterday. Goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro strengthened their grip on the La Liga title.

However, despite the victory, all is not well at the Santiago Bernabeu. Spanish outlet Diario Gol claimed yesterday that Ronaldo was fuming with Zinedine Zidane for substituting him late on.

The former Manchester United star provided the assist for Benzema's goal but was replaced by Isco in the 79th minute. It was said that Ronaldo believed Bale should have been substituted instead after an abject display.

But Diario Gol claim Bale was also angry after the game. The former Tottenham star's stock is rising in Spain after helping Madrid win the Champions League twice in the past three years. And the Wales international reportedly believes Ronaldo is preventing him from becoming the club's main man.

Bale has to play on the left wing due to Ronaldo's desire to play further up the field. He feels that Zidane is making a mistake by deploying him in that position as he prefers to play on the right, where he can cut inside.

Club chief Florentino Perez is now monitoring the situation as Madrid's two biggest stars aim to do outdo the other. 

"Victor suffered a big injury on his back and we’ll see now what happens. We’re sad for both players and now we have to wait," was Pochetino's response on Victor Wanyama's injury.

A friendly match between Ivory Coast and Senegal was abandoned after 88 minutes after crowd trouble spilled onto the pitch with dozens of fans invading the field of play and confronting players.

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