AFC Leopards SC has become a circus of sorts with the recent drop in form and finishing just above the relegation zone in 2016. Lack of quality, passion and focus in a side that has the second largest sponsorship package in the league has raised more questions than answers. When a team like AFC Leopards loses to every team in the league, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Being a leader within the Club at any level means that one experiences the drama in the system and becomes answerable. I have seen how Club members sacrifice to keep the institution alive but get let down by the very same leaders they elected or rather, who paid for them to elect them.
When John Ohaga, the chairman of the Sports and Disputes tribunal(SDT) called for a consultative meeting with Branches in March despite having declared the Club constitution inactive, I posed questions to him on his reasons of declaring the Club law dead but pulling out sections that only seems to paint his approach smart, answers were never given. It was a waste of time being in that boardroom that lacked lighting due to an unpaid electricity bill at the NSSF block. His reasons to call on Branches and their members when the Club constitution is dead baffled many at the time. At that point, many members resigned to the fact that Ohaga had no strategy nor order in bringing clarity to the Club leadership and membership problems. All he cared for was cameras and appearing in media piggy backing on the name of AFC Leopards. Until the AFC Leopards SC case, few people really knew who was in charge of the SDT. In the end it appeared like he was the hero who stopped Leopards leadership debacle but what few know is that it was his office and the registrar of Sports who created the worst section of the Club’s history at the end of 2015.
Despite the Ohaga interference, for AFC Leopards to change, the Club membership ought to adopt certain behavior that will guarantee the Club a future. Majority of the things are instigated by the Club leadership and perfected by the fans. Having been a Branch leader, there are habits that will need to be eradicated if AFC Leopards SC is to progress.
Members for Hire
The key to winning political contests is numbers. However, this has made Leopards members and fans lose sanity and become pawns and robots if not puppets- robots can think with a good programme though. Over eighty percent of AFC Leopards membership is a pack of members on hire. Their membership is paid for by officials in addition to buying them alcohol and holding feasts to appease each other. Majority of the Branches are made of voting machines and blackmail gangs ahead of elections and suddenly sink into oblivion after the voting day, and resurface at the next election.
Weak membership guidelines supported by myopic minds at the helm keen to recover their cash after costly elections and hold onto power albeit bogus performance. The Sports and Disputes Tribunal made matters worse and one wonders why John Ohaga can have the courage to speak in forums about order when he has demonstrated weakness and lack of impartiality in cases that have appeared at the SDT. Leopards became victims of this and the members for hire soap unfolded under full glare of a well respected law practitioner. Leopards currently is an outfit not recognized by any law even after the elections held in July. No returns have been submitted as the Club leadership still play tricks with media to confuse the membership on the truth as Club licencing guidelines set by CAF suddenly find the Club in a corner.
The Club was the only soccer Club to hold AGMs frequently with proper returns since 2013 but all those gains went down the drain last year after the ruling. The Club sank into disarray and has lost close to 10 million shillings in 2016 alone settling payments for sacked coaches and players in a culture that is slowly taking root.
Just like Brazilians who have become masters of hire and fire, Leopards’ greed for titles is catching up with them financially. Their last two careless dismissals of coaches has left them digging deep to repay the contractual obligations. There is need to have some stability considering the dramatic changes in playing unit and coaches that has been witnessed at the Club. Apart from the team doctor and kit men, the team has seen over six coaches from 2014 to 2016 taking in consideration caretaker coaches. This is a disaster for any Club seeking success. What befalls such Clubs is relegation to lower tiers despite financial strength. Funny enough, almost all sacked coaches Leopards has had are doing very well at their new Clubs. One wonders what a Club this one aspires to be. Players who lack technical ability to handle the emotional pressure an unstable Club like Leopards is considering its support base, suddenly find their way into the system and only worsen matters. Most of the time, push and pull between technical bench and Club management comes into force. Cuts and signing fee debacles surface.
Stewart Hall has his work cut out on this 2016 season transfer and will have to stamp authority. Timothy Lilumbi, Daniel Mule, Oscar Igaida et al will make his work easy if they only focus on providing a budget and keeping off the signing table and let the coach negotiate being an experienced figure with football in the region. The Club management in unison will need to settle on the best negotiators to handle the termination of some of the players through very smart evaluation- I am not sure they have this ability themselves. Leopards hope of being title contenders in 2017 will be premature. They could focus on 2018 as Tusker look likely to retain the title with GorMahia as their closest competition. Hiring and firing coaches and signing friends and hype will not help the Club. Luckily, their acquisition of former Kenya Women’s sevens team head coach Mike Shamiah as their fitness and conditioning coach will be a success if he is allowed to instill his methods and culture for a minimum of two years following his experience with KCB Rugby and international rugby.
The above two issues have been the weakness of the Club. A weak and compromised membership derived from a fan base keen on handouts to declare their love for the team worsens matters. Started by Alfred Sambu in the 1980s, the handout culture has officially been the real corruption in Leopards. The current office needs to create membership systems that will create and attract quality rather than quantity as the SDT did. There have been reports that the current management plans to lower membership to Ksh. 200! This is an amount equal to one match day ticket in the hot sun at Nyayo stadium on an ordinary match day when the stadium still attracts less than 1000 fans. The end result will be total chaos and a disorganized house that can barely pass anything and discuss Club affairs objectively.
Any fan and members’ dreams is seeing Leopards winning trophies through proper organization from the planning and preparation rather than fluke and momentary excitement. This will not occur if Mule and his team continue the trend the former official holders have held of listening to noise instead of learning from Clubs that have adopted structures across the continent as well as worldwide. That kind of success will not come by surrounding themselves with mediocrity but rather assembling very smart caucuses that will deliver like their recent coach selection panel. They have media, youth structure, financial and society issues to look into as well. But till then, the same person who blamed the foundations of the Club terming it tribalism, may just be the same one to feel it first hand when the owners come calling.
The goal of the Club is to make money and win trophies. The two if not well balanced become shadows to the glory hunting fanbase.
Victor Milimu is the outgoing secretary general of AFC Leopards SC Facebook Branch.