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.

Richard Omwela retained his chairmanship during Kenya Rugby Union elections  held late on Wednesday pipping Sasha Mutai by just two votes.

Shujaa will start their Hong Kong Sevens campaign with a Pool B clash against Canada at 3.18pm East African Time  on Friday 7 April 2017.

They will then complete their pool matches on Saturday 8 April, starting with a fixture against series leaders South Africa at 8.56am and France at 12.34pm respectively.

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is the seventh round of the 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series. Shujaa currently sit 12th on the log with 40 points.

Janet "Shebesh" Okello leads the overall try scoring charts. The Northern Suburbs speedster has scored a series leading 26 tries.

The most eagerly waited match by Kenya as a country;  if Stars could pull a surprise in Lagos then Stars would be near their dream of playing in their first ever World Cup and that would have been France 98.

Kenyan driver Carl Tundo has proved to be a real contender in the race for the African Rally Championship title after he finished third in the Kenya Safari Rally over the weekend in Nairobi.

The Safari rally is the third round on the 2017 ARC calendar. Tundo, who survived a roll in the last stage of the race, came third in his Lancer Evo10.

Tapio Laukannen became the first Finnish to win the 65th edition of the Kenya Safari Rally. He showed earlier intent for victory posting the fastest time on day one.

Another Kenyan Jassi Chatthe, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, who won the ARC title in 2015, finished sixth over the weekend, to go second with eight points, ten points behind Tundo.

The rest of the registered ARC drivers have not scored any points after three rounds. Ian Duncan and Ammar Slatch settled for second overall, 22 seconds behind the leader.

A total of 44 drivers started the Safari Rally that returns to ARC calendar after a hiatus two years. Safari Rally is one of the most competitive races on the African calendar.

Defending champion Don Smith from Kenya pulled out of the race at the 11th hour in protest claiming unfairness in the starting order. The final start list order released on Thursday had placed the 2016 champion as car number 33 yet the provisional start order had placed him at car number 2.

It means the rally revved off on Friday morning without the African defending champion. Yet, article 45.3 of the rules and regulations, gives the ARC contenders priority on a start order of a continental race.

Valery Bukera of Burundi and last year’s Mountain Gorilla victor was the best-placed foreign driver in 11th place out of the 30 finishers, while South Africa’s Geoff Bell was the best-placed two-wheel-driver in 14th place, driving a Datsun 260Z.

The fifth round of the ARC goes to South Africa for the Sasol Rally next month.

ARC Driver Standing

1. Carl Tundo (Ken): 18 points

2. Jassi Chatthe (Ken): 8 points

Safari Rally results

1. Tapio Laukkanen: 01:54:12

2. Ian Duncan: 01:54:34

3. Carl Tundo: 01:56:18

4. Onkar Rai: 01:57:01

5. Karan Patel: 02:01:13

The figure of Ksh. 600,000 released by Gor Mahia today, as the total gate collections for the Gor Mahia vs Zoo Kericho match in Kisumu are ‘stupid figures’,  Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Anyango has told Kenyanstar in a long ranging Interview.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech has been ruled out up for to a month with calf injury suffered in loss at West Brom, the scan has revealed.

The International World Games Association (IWGA) has announced that seven International Federations (IFs) have made bids for membership that meet its criteria, with their applications set to be discussed at the SportAccord Convention next month.

The International Basketball Federation (Fiba), International Triathlon Union (ITU), International Wushu Federation (IWUF), International Cycling Union (UCI), Union Internationale Motonautique (International Powerboating Union), International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) and United World Wrestling (UWW) have all applied to become IWGA members.

The federations have been invited to give a final presentation to the IWGA Annual General Meeting at SportAccord Convention on April 3 in Aarhus, Denmark.

The IWGA currently has 37 member federations. For IFs to become a member of the IWGA, membership of SportAccord is a prerequisite. Another requirement is that the sports, or disciplines of sports, proposed by the federations for inclusion in the World Games are not currently on the programme of the Olympic Games.

Wroclaw, Poland will stage the 2017 World Games from July 20-30, following on from the 2013 edition in Cali, Colombia. Birmingham, Alabama will be the first US destination to host the World Games since the inaugural event took place in Santa Clara in 1981 after it was formally awarded rights to the 2021 Games in April 2015.

The World Games - under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - showcases more than 25 sports, such as squash, karate, sumo and dance sport.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has signalled its opposition to the proposed reforms of the world game outlined by the International Cricket Council (ICC) stating they will “adversely affect” the very nature of the world governing body.

The ICC is set to make a final decision on a new financial and governance structure at a meeting in April after agreeing “in principle” last month to reverse a move to put the boards of India, Australia and England in a dominant position of the game’s administration.

The BCCI, along with Sri Lanka Cricket, voted against the proposal to perform a u-turn on the 2014 decision after failing to defer the vote during February’s ICC board meeting in Dubai. Under the proposed restructuring, a new revenue distribution model would seek to counter the imbalance favouring the so-called big three, with India the most influential voice in the world game.

In a communication of its preliminary observations on the proposed ICC constitution, reported by the ESPNCricinfo website, the BCCI said the changes were “vague” and “unclear”. The status of the reforms package was thrown into question last week by the resignation of Shashank Manohar, who has been driving efforts to limit the influence of the ‘big three’, as chairman of the ICC.

“The proposed ICC constitution seeks to convert the ICC from a members' organisation to a supra-national regulator,” BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri wrote in an email sent to ICC chief operating officer Iain Higgins. “This is a fundamental change in the nature of the ICC that adversely affects the autonomy of its members.

“Further, several of the proposed changes are vague and unclear in their purport and intended operation. Given that one of the stated objectives behind the proposed changes is to bring in clarity and transparency, it is imperative that there is complete clarity on all the proposed changes so that members can properly understand the same before formulating their position thereon.”

Johri also reserved heavy criticism for the new financial model proposed by the ICC, stating it is “arbitrary” and not “agreeable”. Under the current ‘big three’ model, full members receive a contribution cost for participating in ICC events based on their perceived value in the sport. The new model is set to remove these contribution costs and instead introduce a set figure allocated to each of the 10 full members, along with two second-tier associate members - Ireland and Afghanistan.

Johri said, according to ESPNCricinfo: “The ICC is seeking to change the existing financial model without having any scientific formula or technical analysis behind the proposed changes. It is a fundamental attribute of any resource allocation system to first collect information and then allocate resources based on the information, priorities and a defined methodology following appropriate principles. The move to propose changes to the existing financial model without carrying out the aforesaid exercise is an arbitrary one.”

He added: “Any discussion on the proposed new financial model has to be based on clearly articulated and acceptable principles which recognise the relative contribution of BCCI to the revenues of the ICC. For the above reasons, we are not agreeable to the proposed new financial model.”

France’s national railway company, SNCF, and professional and financial services group Deloitte have signed up as official supporters of France’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

SNCF will advise the French Rugby Federation (FFR) on transport and sustainable mobility options, and support the implementation of a ticketing strategy for the World Cup.

The company will also provide logistical support to the FFR during different stages of the application process while promoting the bid both nationally and internationally.

Deloitte’s French division will work with the FFR on drafting budgets and financing plans for the event.

FFR president Bernard Laporte said: “(We are) very pleased to be able to count on the expertise of these two companies with world-renowned know-how to help us in our application. This support again illustrates the strong mobilisation of the economic world behind #France2023.”

France faces competition from Ireland and South Africa in its bid to stage the 2023 World Cup. The World Rugby Council will select the winning bid on November 15.

Former Manchester United striker Ole Gunner Solskjaer is confident that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will want to play in the Champions League at Old Trafford next season. 

Jose Mourinho snapped up the veteran forward on a free transfer last summer and the Swede has been a talismanic presence at Manchester United this season, scoring 26 goals in all competitions.

Ibrahimovic is yet to extend his contract, which expires in the summer, but according to Swedish daily Expressen, the forward will sign on the dotted line soon to prolong his stay at Old Trafford for one more season.

And Solskjaer believes the Swede will want to experience Champions League football with Manchester United, if they qualify for next season, as he feels there is no better club than the Red Devils to represent on the biggest stage of European football. 

The former Manchester United striker told Expressen: “We hope that we can qualify for the Champions League next season.  

“Then I expect Ibrahimovic will want to play on the biggest stage for the best club.

“There is no better place to play Champions League football than at Manchester United.

"They are the biggest and the best club.”

Despite winning countless league titles and domestic cups in various countries, Ibrahimovic is yet to win the Champions League in his career.

Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin has described potential interest in him from Barcelona as "special".

The 22-year-old penned a new six-year deal with the Gunners last November but has been strongly linked with a move away from the Emirates this summer, with a number of top clubs across Europe thought to be interested.

Bellerin began his career as part of the Barcelona youth setup before leaving for Arsenal in 2011, and in recent days the La Liga giants have been linked with a £35m bid this summer as they continue to look for a long-term replacement for Dani Alves.

"It's nice there are a lot of big clubs that are interested in me, but if one of those is Barcelona that's special," Bellerin told Sport.

"I don't forget I grew up in that home and I will never forget my stay at Barcelona... I left Barcelona because I felt the club was not confident in me, I didn't feel valued, I was disenchanted."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has described speculation of Bellerin's potential exit as 'very difficult to take seriously'.

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France’s national railway company, SNCF, and professional and financial services group Deloitte have signed up as official supporters of France’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

SNCF will advise the French Rugby Federation (FFR) on transport and sustainable mobility options, and support the implementation of a ticketing strategy for the World Cup.

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FFR president Bernard Laporte said: “(We are) very pleased to be able to count on the expertise of these two companies with world-renowned know-how to help us in our application. This support again illustrates the strong mobilisation of the economic world behind #France2023.”

France faces competition from Ireland and South Africa in its bid to stage the 2023 World Cup. The World Rugby Council will select the winning bid on November 15.

The protracted saga of Arsene Wenger’s contract situation is nearing its conclusion – and it’s not the one Arsenal fans were hoping for.

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Multiple sources on Sunday night and Monday morning have reported that Wenger will tell the Arsenal board that he wants to stay at the club beyond this season – for either one or two more years – in a decision that will not be a particularly popular one if and when it is confirmed.

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