Stewart Hall: My Targets At Leopards Are Crystal Clear

One of the region’s finest tacticians. A  well traveled coach who has won titles. In his own words, when his principles are threatened, he leaves. He indeed he has parted ways with many suitors. 

At a time when Leopards was flirting with relegation, and all hope was lost, he made a surprise move to join the Den. Probably surprising himself. His wife too, was astonished, and almost divorced him. However, he took up what he says is his toughest challenge ever. This season has looked promising but he says his main mission is not to win the title.

His words speak more about the man that is Stewart Hall. Kenyanstar sat down with the Ingwe tactician and here is his story, his analysis of Leopards and the derby.

Kenyanstar: When you first came to AFC Leopards, what did you see and what did you say to the management then?

Stewart Hall:  AFC have had financial issues, everybody knows that. I think most clubs In Kenyan football have financial issues and it’s one of the biggest issues holding back Kenyan football. So they originally wanted me to start in January when we agreed the contract but then I suggested to the management that I come in early for the last couple of games last season…not with an objective of winning the games or changing anything but with an objective of doing proper audit of the club. It was to have a look at the training staff, work with the players in training so that I could have a look at their attitude, character and also their ability, have a look at their training facilities, have a look at the setup of the club and produce a report of the club which we could act on and move forward. In that time, I also started looking for new signings. 

So I came in and I knew that I needed new players because the league table never lies…if you are 13th in the league it’s because you are not good enough, it’s not because you were unlucky. My personal objective was to look for new players so what I was doing is I was taking training sessions in the morning to assess my own squad and then in the afternoon I was meeting players that I would like to talk to and players that I knew from my experience in East Africa. I was watching DVDs as well in the evenings and they got me a lot of SuperSport DVDs where I was watching KPL games for that season looking at players. That’s where I first picked up Isuza…I watched several DVDs of Mathare and I was also going out to watch games. There was a lot of Division one games going on at Camp Toyoyo, I was watching KPL games and I also went to watch under twenty teams to see if there were any players in our under twenty team. I think I would say that is the hardest I have ever worked at a football club for a short period of time. Those three or four weeks before Christmas, I think I probably put in more hours, did more study and more work than anywhere else in the world I have ever worked.

KS: What is the biggest transformation at Leopards since you came in?

SH: In that audit I did, I talked to a lot of people, I even talked to supporters…supporters would stop me in the streets and I would talk to them. I listen to everyone…some people talk absolute utter rubbish but it comes out at the back side but some people actually talk sense. I talked to everybody about what they thought the problems were not only last season but over the last seven or eight years because everyone knows that it’s a long time since AFC were actually competitive as a club. Talking to everybody, the thing that kept on coming up was the discipline within the players was very very poor…another thing that kept coming up was that the fitness levels were poor and they were losing games in the last fifteen or twenty minutes. So those two things became a priority for me: improve the discipline and improve the fitness… so I drew a list of objectives and then I started working. The first things I worked on were the attitudes and the discipline of the players…

I also worked on the fitness levels of the players and that’s why I brought Mike the fitness coach and started getting together my own technical bench. So even the players who stayed from last season have changed their attitude; nobody is ever late for training and nobody ever misses training, we have very strict rules concerning time keeping and missing training. For the friendly games if anyone was late for training I left them. We keep strict records of every minute a player trains and plays so that we can keep very good records. There were a lot of issues with camping, with girls, with sex orgies and all sorts of stories about AFC. I think we have changed all that.

KS: How would you describe the situation when you took over Azam FC to when you took over AFC Leopards?

SH: The biggest difference is money and facilities. In Azam I had everything…I could spend 50000 dollars on a player and no problem. I could give a player 25000 signing fees and no problem. Here I have had to sign a whole squad for less than that…that’s the reason why you get the TcheTches, Pascals and you get real quality players. So it’s a completely different challenge. One of the reasons why I came here is that I wanted to work without money, where you work more on your instincts, knowledge and your ability to coach players. Here you fix problems by working on the small pitch but at Azam you could fix problems by signing another player. I have worked before without money but I have aso worked in clubs where I have money…so I wanted to prove to myself again and that’s the reason why I came here. 

I didn’t come here for the money, everybody knows that…my contract here is not even 40% of my salary at Azam…my allowances and bonuses at Azam were more than my salary here. My wife thinks that I’m absolutely crazy, the fact that I came here nearly got me divorced. I saw AFC as a massive challenge: working without money, working at a club where there are always big problems, and working at a club where there is always one disaster after another because that is what AFC has been in the last years.

KS: How would you describe yourself as a coach?

SH: My advice to young coaches is that there are three different path ways you can take in coaching; you can be a coach for young players and say that I want to focus on players under the age of nineteen to twenty one and I want to develop young quality players. For that you have to have a different kind of temperament and you need to have different qualifications. You can then be a coach for senior players and say that I want to coach a senior or national team…that requires a completely different skillset. You can also say that I want to be a coach of coaches…I want to be an instructor so you have three different career paths that you can go. I have the highest qualifications in every career path; I have advanced youth awards for coaching young players, I have academy Director’s license which you have to have in England to coach an Academy, I have UEFA pro license to coach senior players and I also have my youth UEFA coach of coaches awards, the highest awards which means I coach coaches. I produced million-dollar players at Birmingham City and not one or two of them…I took Gareth Southgate on his A license coaching award, I was his coach instructor. I also took Roy Keane so when you’ve worked at all those levels, that helps you as a coach because you draw on all those things. If I am working with Vincent Oburu, I draw on my ability and experience to work with young players because he is eighteen and doesn’t want me to treat him like Paul Kiongera.

KS: As a coach, you don’t get theatrical on the touch line and you are always silent…Is it your nature?

SH: Because you are thinking about the game…you don’t need to jump around and dance around on the touchline, when you are doing that you are missing something else that needs to be done.

KS:You came to a club that hasn't done well over the years for many reasons. How important is progression to a team and what will it take to move AFC Leopards forward?

SH: In one of the interviews you did with me after the game, you talked about pressure because we lost… you said we probably started too well and people then get expectations. Like our own chairman, he said after three games that we are going to win the league unbeaten… I mean I have no control of what people say, but I am a great believer in keeping the pressure off your players so that they can perform to the maximum. The pressure has to come to me, not the players because when the players get under pressure, things shut down and they stop expressing and enjoying themselves. People have to realize that we are going to lose games…we are building the team, it’s a new executive committee, it’s a new set of players so it’s going to take time and people have to be a little bit patient.

KS: Money or time?

SH: If you have money you’ll do it quicker, if you don’t have money it will take longer.

KS: Have you dreamt success this season? If so, what would it be like…

SH: Well, I will tell you what I have in my contract…my objective on my contract with AFC Leopards is to be in and around the top three so that’s 100% improvement on last season of being in the bottom three. Some of the fans will say that is not good enough for a club like AFC Leopards but I think that with the age of the squad because the squad is very young and with the fact that we have signed very many players, next season Leopards will be stronger than this season. But we all realize this season because of the expectations of the fans so we still have to have a good season. My objective is to be top three in the league and to have a good run in the cups.

KS: Expectations - Do you feel the club has had too much expectations. If so, how are you managing that?

SH: Well there is… I mean you never know with fans, the fans have been very good with me, very supportive, they can see things happening and I think what the fans want to see is players fighting for the club… they want to see players fight for the badge and even when we lost to Sofapaka, the game was 94 minutes but even in the 94th minute we were still pressuring, trying to score and we still showed good desire and hunger so the fans want to see that. The fans don’t want to see players giving up; the fans don’t want to see players who are happy with losing. One good thing about this team at the minute is their fighting spirit and I think the fans appreciate that… yes we want to win but if you can’t win, you have to show everybody that you really tried and gave everything you’ve got.

KS: You were at Azam, where there weren't too many fans as is the case for Simba & Yanga. You also worked briefly at Sofapaka where there were not too many fans as Leopards. How important are fans to a team’s success?

SH: Very important. I saw that at Birmingham City when we were in the Premier League and we had 30000 people every game…you could not get any ticket because every game was sold out so there was pressure there and there were expectations. I think it is important to have fans than not to have fans even though they bring pressure and different problems. It is better to have fans because sometimes with Leopards as I have seen, the fans are capable of lifting the players… sometimes people say that the fans can be the 12th man and that is very true. I think AFC fans especially that first game we were playing against Nakumatt when everybody wanted to see this new AFC team, I thought the fans were fantastic and the players thought so too.

KS: Who is the best player(s) you have worked with, and why do they stand out?

SH: The best player I have worked with Christophe Dugarry. He was French and won a World cup winners medal with France when they beat Brazil in Paris…he came to Birmingham after that, was there for one and a half years and he absolutely transformed the club. The club was going to be relegated because we were in the bottom three in the Premier League….he came and scored like thirteen goals in the second half of the season and is without doubt the best player I have ever worked with.

KS: The modern manager has so much to contend with - social media, lifestyles etc. How have you managed this at Leopards?

SH: I don’t read. I have a rule, don’t get suicidal when you lose and don’t be too happy when you win. One of my great things is I study philosophy…there is a saying in Philosophy that don’t make promises when you are happy and don’t make threats when you are angry, so I transfer that into football and say don’t get too disappointed when you lose and don’t be too happy and get carried away when you win because both of those things will stop you from seeing the real facts. If you get really unhappy, you miss the real facts of the game because you are in a cloud and if you get carried away when you win, again you don’t see the problems. You have to be focused all the time so don’t read social media… I talk to fans but I am not really listening, it gets in one ear and comes out the other…I’m probably thinking what I am going to have for my dinner. I know that sounds harsh but you have to separate yourself from everything otherwise you don’t think clearly. 

Another thing, don’t talk about the game immediately after…after the game, I only talk about the game with media because it is your job to interview me and it’s my job to answer the questions to the best of my ability. I don’t talk to players or committee members after the game because you’re in an emotional state and you will say something that you might regret. If you have lost, you can hurt people and if you have won, you can make false promises. The players will tell you… we have our team debrief one or two days after the game… we never do it immediately after the game because the emotional state you are in is not right.

KS: Egos, big egos is an issue in many dressing rooms. How have you managed this at AFC Leopards?

SH: No…we don’t have it because you’ve got to be strong and make sure there is no. I signed fourteen players that I thought were right…people might not believe this because they know AFC Leopards and know what has happened in the past where the committee signed players or the CEO or the General Manager…that has not happened here, I signed all the players. What I do is that I come up with a list of players and then find out who is available, how much they are going to cost me in terms of salary and signing bonus and then the third thing I do which is really important is to check on their personality. Talk to somebody who has worked with him and knows him to find out as much background as you can…that way, you don’t get many bad characters and ego in your dressing room. Don’t sign a payer just because you think he can do what you want him to do in the dressing room…find out what he is going to do in the dressing room, in camp or on the team bus.

KS: KPL is quite a lucrative league in terms of money, exposure etc. Compared to the likes of the UG League. However, in terms of talent, it's not up there. Why?

SH: Well, I think it is the other way round. I am not an expert in Ugandan or Rwandan football although I’ve been there but I think out of the East African countries, Kenya has the most talent. That might surprise you but I think Kenya has the most talent. Kenya has more players playing outside than any other country. Tanzania only has Samatta and Uganda has a couple so they are maybe second to Kenya. Look at how many Kenyan players are playing in Europe, they are everywhere: Bulgaria, Slovakia, Sweden, Norway and even in the MLS. I don’t think any other country has that coverage so I think there is more talent in Kenya than in any other East African country. When I watched the KPL under 20 tournament at Christmas, we signed players from that tournament and I was really excited with the talent in that competition. I could have signed five or six players that I liked but obviously you can’t take too many so we signed three and they are in my first team and they are on the bench every week even though they are seventeen and eighteen years…that is how excited I am. I think Kenya is a hotbed of talent. 

The second part of the question you asked about what is holding it back….administration and lack of finance. What goes on between FKF and KPL is absolute nonsense…it’s like a Disney film, it’s a comedy…it’s nonsense and it’s holding back football. There is a big saying that when the elephants rumble, it’s often the grass that suffers and I think that is the problem. When FKF and KPL rumble, it’s the game and the actual football that suffers… I don’t think the players are supported enough in terms of financial, medical, coaching, facilities and the administration of the game... I don’t think the players are supported well enough.

KS: Your analysis of the team so far?

SH:  We need to score more goals… against Sofapaka we created six chances to score one. We dominate possession, even in Sofapaka you saw the game…we absolutely dominated possession. We’re not scoring a lot of goals and that’s the problem. We should be scoring a goal every three chances created.

KS: Youth or experience?

SH: Both. I like youth…youth give you vibrancy, enthusiasm and hunger. All these players who earn 25000 to 30000 shillings, they want a new contract…they all want to earn 40000- 50000 shillings. You can work that off as a coach by pushing them harder and demanding more. But you also need a bit experience. My experience is Mangoli, my captain and Kiongera, my vice-captain. They are my experience and they are only 25 and 26, but I always consult them in everything because I feel it is important that you get the support of the players and the players agree with. If I have an idea and there is two ways of doing something, I’ll discuss it with the two captains and then we decide which way we’re going to go.

KS:  Goalkeeping - Ian Otieno hasn't been as solid in goal. Not more than 3 clean sheets. Is he good enough?

SH: Ian has done well. Goalkeepers take longer to mature and he is a young player. The keepers we have are still immature and are learning. We also had an issue with the goalkeeping coaches at the start of the season. That has affected the keepers. In pre-season the keepers made many mistakes, since we didn't have a proper keeper trainer. We had Iddi who left for Simba, where he had a better offer, and brought in another coach who lasted for a week. Then we brought in another coach who we have now. He is doing a fantastic job and the performance has improved. Ian is also in the national team and that shows he is doing okay. All in all I don't think he is  a bad keeper.

KS:Paul Kiongera has won you matches this season. You also have crumbled without him. Is he your main player this season?

SH: Everyone knows our squad is one striker short. We have lots of young players - The suspended Vincent Oburu, Ingotsi - It’s been a little physical for him. That leaves us with only two strikers - Gilbert Fiamenyo and Kiongera. If I could sign one player tomorrow it would be a striker. Everyone knows I wanted Masoud Juma, but Kariobangi Sharks beat us to his signature. I would have loved one more experienced striker. I think Kiongera is influential in terms of his character. He is also very good with the young players. Him and Mangoli look after matters for me on the pitch.

KS: To win a KPL title, you need someone to give you 15+ goals. Is Gilbert Fiamenyo a man to win you the KPL  this season?

SH: Gilbert is playing with an injury from his old club. We need to look into it. In an ideal situation, he should be playing fewer football. Like he played 3 games in less than 8 days. He should have played two of those. Due to injuries, we have been forced to play him, but I don't want to. Sometimes he frustrates me, he doesn't score goals. He needs to work harder. He is a little too selfish with the ball. But he is a very strong, talented striker. 4 goals in 8 games by any standard is good for any striker. That’s a goal every two games.

KS: You currently have used your young players sparingly despite starting off the season with the hope that they could help you work out things. Have you changed your mind on young players, like Marcellus Ingotsi?

SH: No. The training at the moment is key for them than the match. They need to fill up a little bit. They have the ability to play KPL, but lack strength to play. If you put them up against the likes of Ulinzi, they just can't make it. If I leave them in the team, that kills their confidence. The supporters and press will have a go at them. What we do with them now is we put them on the bench. They have fitness and conditioning programs too. They will come back and will be a major part of the future AFC Leopards. 

KS: Injuries - How much have they slowed you down this season?

SH: We had a small squad, and injuries slowed us down. Add that to the banning of Oburu and Ndungu Samuel situation. Its cost us.

KS: Take us into your training sessions. What’s the routine?

SH: We do lots of tactical work on team shape. We do lots of tactical work on individual players. Players should have a picture in their mind, when I get the ball in a certain position, what happens next? That picture comes from previous experience and coaching. Most of our training is done in 11 against 11, where we start the game in different scenarios. If we lose the ball there, what is your job, what happens? We also do lots of tactical work on how our opponent will play.

KS: You have really focused on strength and conditioning. Why so and how is it working for you?

SH: The fitness coach Mike has done a fantastic job. The players are in great shape. Some players have individual fitness programs too. Some will work on agility, some pace, the young boys on strength etc. When I came and got all figures from the EPL, which is largely the most intense league. Players run between 11 to 12 kilometers in a game. In Kenya, they don't run even 8km. Why? In KPL why do players run less kilometers? Yet Kenya has fantastic athletes, but footballers don't run. Why? 

KS: Looks like 3-5-2 is your preferred formation. Is it working for you? Have players adapted?

SH: It is the preferred one currently globally, but in Kenya, all clubs play 4-3-3. Why? Because they follow the KNVB coaching systems. That's what is preached here. One holding player, two wingers. So that is what everybody plays. But the federations needs to be very careful with that, because  you are actually developing one direction coaches and players.

Gor Mahia played 3-5-2 with Nuttal, even in the Kagame Cup finals sometime back. Gor actually have over the last 3 or 4 seasons have had a little tradition of 3-5-2. Most of the teams here in KPL play that. Posta Rangers in our last match  played 4-4-2 with one of the strikers dropping into midfield especially when they lose position. So 4-4-2 becomes 4-5-1. That is the reason they don't give goals away. They don't give goals away because they play in a very negative fashion. The rest of the teams play 4-3-3; One holding player, two offensive, two wingers and that is how they play. That’s dangerous.

Sometimes for us we play 3-4-3; One holding player and two offensive or two holding players and one offensive, or four across midfield. Two wingbacks, and two holding like Chelsea play.

We have different formations of 3-5-2. You know the word pragmatic? You have to have a pragmatic approach to football. That is why Pep Guardiola will struggle to make it in England. You cannot play one system all the time, because it doesn't solve what the other team and game will throw at you sometimes. On Guardiola, if you got the best players in the world, which he had at Barca, with fantastic pitch and in a league you dominate, you can play in one way. If you are in a more competitive league, you can't play in one way. Because you can't beat Stoke City away, or Manchester United away. Jose Mourinho beat Chelsea, why? He changed his system totally and  man marked Hazard because he(Mourinho) doesn't have a philosophy, a preferred system.

In Kenya it's the same. How can you go to Thika and play football? The pitch is awful. I have said I can't keep goats there. How can you go and say, “My philosophy is 3-4-3, we will play on the floor..You will lose.”

KS:Which player(s) not from Leopards do you admire most and would sign if given chance?

SH: I told my Executive Committee if we sign young players, I promise you we will sell players and it will ease the financial issues. The quickest way to get money is sell players. I asked for young players to grow them, and polish them, then sell them. I think there are players in this team we can sell. Duncan Otieno is good enough to play in Europe as a holding midfielder. Robinson Kamura is good enough to play in Europe. And there are others.

I admire some players. The winger at Ulinzi, Samuel Onyango. He is good enough for Europe. I think Kenneth Muguna will be good enough for Europe when he develops, he still need sto add in something more. The goalkeeper at Posta, Patrick Matasi is very good in the air. Last weekend we put lots of crosses in their box, but he comes and catches most of them. He has a big physical presence and they like that in Europe. If you aren't 6ft4 you cant play in Europe. In Europe they also want keepers who can kick it. Matasi can kick it miles away. He can play in Europe without a doubt.

KS: You haven't overseen many derbies in your career? Gor Mahia coming up. What does it mean to you?

SH: No. It’s a game, but it’s not anywhere near Simba- Yanga, and am sorry to say that. It’s not anywhere near Azam -Yanga. Azam - Simba. You won't get 60,000 fans. When you play in Tanzania, the people there support their football more than Kenya. I mean paying money to get into the stadium. You can go to Songea, MajiMaji and there 10,000 people, and that is in the middle of nowhere. You won't get 10,000 people in Nakuru.

When Azam plays Simba, there will be 5,000 fans, and 30,000 Simba fans and 10,000 Yanga fans and will join with Azam fans for the day. I have been in bigger derbies, Azam vs Birmingham, where you have to  queue for a month to get a ticket. The one on Sunday is just  a game of football.

KS: How’s the mood around camp ahead of the derby?

SH: I think what you have to make sure in derbies is you play the game and not the event because if you play the event, emotions will take over… you have to play the game and say that is their team and this is our team, how are we going to beat them... what is going to happen here? . Don’t worry about the crowd, don’t worry about the Executive Committee, and don’t worry about the media expectations. Play the game and not the event… the event will get you carried away and if you carried away by the event you lose the game so just play the game.

KS: Gor Mahia not in the best form really compared to previous seasons and they look vulnerable. What’s your analysis of their season so far?

SH: They play a very similar system to us but they play it differently. I noticed that they have been changing the midfield a lot and from when they started the season, they have changed the strikers…their preferred front two  at the start of the season  was Timothy Otieno and Jacques Tuyisenge with Meddie Kagere on the bench. But then Kagere came off the bench in one of the games and scored the winner, and since then he has stayed on the team. They have also changed the midfield around a bit…they have got probably five midfielders and they can pick any three from those five because they have the biggest squad, they have more money than us and they pay more salary than us so they should be. They tend to keep the three full backs and the two wing backs very consistent so when we sit down and try to second guess what their team might be, you know the goalkeeper, you know the back three and you know the wingbacks. But I think you’ll be guessing three midfielders from five and the striker you’ll be guessing two from three so you pretty much know what to expect.

KS: From your analysis of the Gor  team, what do you think are their strongest and weakest points?

SH: I think their defense is their strength and if they get beaten is only 1-0 so defensively they are quite compact and I think they have a lot of confidence In their goalkeeper. If they score a goal, I think they are quite confident they can win 1-0…but they are probably like us, they don’t score a lot of goals.

KS: AFC vs Gor, who has  a better team?

SH: They have bigger names, more established players because they have more money and a bigger budget but man for man, I don’t think there is a lot of difference. The players know each other so well that they tend to cancel each other out, and that is why these big games for the fans don’t turn out as good as you think they would be.

KS: If you were to beat Gor Mahia, what do you think will work for you?

SH: Hmm..not sure really.

KS: What makes the difference in a derby? Preparation, form or tactics?

SH: It’s everything but I think in big games you have an additional factor, that is you have nerves and anxiety. You have people who get carried away and play the event, not the game. This week will be key in getting the pressure off the players.

KS: Does this match have a direct impact on the title race?

SH: No…it’s too early. I think so far what I have seen, I like the Kenyan Premier League every year there is five or six teams who can win the league and that is healthy for Kenya’s football because it makes it harder to corrupt it. Like in Tanzania, Yanga and Simba corrupt everything and they are the league is always won between the two. If you look now, Ulinzi, Tusker, Gor Mahia, Leopards, Posta Rangers will be top six and then you will get one team who will surprise everybody, and at the moment it is Sofapaka.

KS: How well do you know Ze Maria as a coach?

SH: I don't. I can second guess how his team plays. I have heard him speak, but I don't think that's an issue. You need to know the system and players. It can't be me against him.

KS: So far as coach of Leopards, any mistakes you have made? Or anything you could have done better?

SH: Sign another striker, but I didn't have the money. If I could turn anything back now, tactically and attitude we have been good. Looking back, its been good. The team will be better.

KS: I understand that you were to present a list of your transfer wishes to the Executive committee this week… Ha that happened?

SH: No…it’s too early. May is very busy and you are still finding out about your players…you might get a bad injury where somebody is ruled out for three or four months so that changes your thinking.

KS: Any  remarks ahead of the match and also for the season to the fans?

SH: All the fans want us to win the game so we have to our very best for them. Having said that, we have to make sure that it doesn’t turn into an event so that everybody is thinking rationally, logically and you give your best performance so that is important. We know we have a responsibility to the fans but we have to manage that in a way that it doesn’t spoil the game. At the moment the fans are happy because every player is giving his everything for AFC Leopard so we have to continue that. For the rest of the season, we have standard of hard work. All players give 100% and we want to keep that.

KS: You have been very modest…you’ve not told me if you are winning this match or not…

SH: Kelele mingi sana…let the team do the talking and I just do my job. If we win, we will not get carried away; you will not hear us saying that we are going to win the league and if we lose you won’t see any panic…that’s what you have to do, you have to stay rational.

KS: Thanks coach for your time! All the best ahead on Sunday and in the league!

Watch Video Interview here...

Rewind, briefly, to the point when GorMahia suffered their first loss of the season against a resilient Western Stima. Marcelo Ze Maria’s initial reaction to that slim defeat in April had been one of fury. He was livid, humiliated, crushed and looked helpless in finding a solution in what might have hit him and the boys that day. 

It took a while for those emotions to simmer down and rational thought to return but then, as he gave his back to the Moi Stadium pitch, reality seems to have sank in; the 2017 season was never going to be easy.

“We gave our all today but the goal couldn’t just go in. They (Stima) gave us a good game but we have to keep on working to ensure we win our next games. We know there are no easy games in this league but ours is not to lose focus,” Ze Maria said then

Now return to the present. Gor Mahia are currently a top of the log despite having been not at their best for the better part of the first leg but margins point to a title race that will be the tightest in recent years.

Adaptability

The same group of players who failed to find a way past Western Stima and later past a young Mathare United side have achieved eight wins; the most in the division. If there had been initial doubts in the demands being placed upon them by a coach who insists upon total commitment, then they have been  allayed. 

Plenty has been made of the switch in formation since his arrival, instigated in the latter stages of their game against Ushuru Fc. Adopting three at the back has clearly been a masterstroke and a tactical tweak that has hurt opposition.

“The change of formation must suit the players I have at my disposal. It will be a gradual process but I am happy that the team is willing to learn and implement my style of play,” Ze Maria’s sentiments months after replacing Frank Nuttal in the GorMahia hot seat last season.

Trust

Ze Maria inherited a filtrated environment after the unceremonious departure of Nuttal but despite the pressure that comes with coaching one of the biggest teams in the region, he has managed to keep his charges on toes; building trust and transforming some of his fringe players to beaters; Kenneth Muguna, Oliver Maloba, Wellington Ochieng and Timothy Otieno to mention a few.

“Tuyisenge will be out for some time but we believe we have players who can fill his void. GorMahia is made of more than one player and I believe those at my disposal would do the job,” Ze Maria prior to the derby match against AFC Leopards.

Trend Setting and Title duel

The quite celebrations conducted in front of the club’s own fans in the Mashemeji derby were a show of unity and reflected a remarkable transformation. “The boys deserve a pat on the back for the good performance. Considering the magnitude of the game, they gave their best but we have a lot of games between now and the end of the season so I can only urge them to maintain focus and replicate the same show in our forthcoming assignments.

His sentiments were however different when his side was held by Tusker FC and Thika United respectively; the Brazilian claiming that teams always came in their duels with a negative approach something he termed as a backward idea. His notion was, his side always set the style of play for his opponents who had a special plan they execute in only games involving his team.

“Every team comes to play GorMahia with a negative tactic. All they do is to waste time and the officials help this by not adding the appropriate time,” his sentiments after the Tusker stalemate. “I think our opponents today played for less than 30 minutes in the second half and the referee ought to have added more time." He added.

“It is still too early to say who will win the title because we are a head with a small margin. All we know is we have to concentrate on our games and take them as they come if we are to win the title,” Ze Maria said after their week 12 1-1 draw against Thika United.

The end to the first leg of the season is just a game away but one feels Ze Maria has tasted all the ingredients that he feels will help him wrestle the title. His team seem unstoppable on a good day, their conviction swollen and the manager a man inspired. 

READ: 

Ze Maria: When You Are At Gor Mahia, The Expectation Is A Win In Every Match

Simbas 15s Team Manager Simiyu Wangila has urged his side to proceed to Saturday’s match against Germany with utmost caution, as the German side is very strong and should not be underrated. Simbas face Germany on Saturday 27 May, 2017 at the RFUEA Grounds, with the two sides placed 23rd and 24th respectively in the rankings.


``We have to go into the match with a lot of caution….we respect the Germans quite a lot. If you look at their games during the European circuit, they have actually been featuring very well and it is a team that is not to be taken for granted. That is why we had to go down to South Africa and fine-tune ourselves,’’ said the team manager.


Wangila also talked on the importance of Wilson Kopondo and Biko Adema coming back into the team. Kopondo was out for a long period due to injury while Biko Adema was representing the country with the 7s team. ``If you have been looking at the Kenya Cup, Kopondo’s return has been quite a wonderful thing for us. He has also missed playing on the pitch with the national team and now he is back. For Biko Adema, the exposure he has got playing with the 7s team has been awesome and using him at the position that he has been playing, we want to give him a chance and see what he can give us after going through the sevens circuit. He is now back here and we are sure that on Saturday, he will put in a very good performance.’’


Wangila summed up by expressing what it means for the Simbas to win Saturday’s match against Germany. ``Winning that game is very important for us so that the confidence level of the team can be up there as we go into the African Cup and Elgon Cup.’’

 

Kenya 15s captain Wilson Kopondo conveyed his joy in returning to the Simbas squad after a two-year absence. Kopondo was named the captain for the 15s side and will be assisted by Darwin Mukidza.


Speaking to Kenyanstar during the team naming event on Thursday, Kopondo said that he is happy to be back in the team and to represent the country. ``It feels great to be back, that is for sure. I love the game a lot and being involved in it to represent my country is something that always makes me happy. I am also glad to be part of a team which has put in so much effort in recent months.’’


On the team selection, Kopondo was satisfied with the assortment of new and experienced players. ``I like the blend a lot; blending experienced players, returnees and the new talents who have been standing out regardless of the situation is a very good thing. Bringing together fresh new talent, experience and the Cape Town vibe is very nice.’’


The captain also detailed what they need to do to beat a strong Germany side, who are only one position below them in the rankings. ``Technically, they (Germany) are very sound so we have to be strict defensively and also quick on our feet. They are a technical team so we will try and disturb their rhythm…we will also try to run them a lot and see if they can be able to keep up with our high altitude.’’


Simbas face Germany on Saturday 27 May, 2017 at the RFUEA Grounds.

Kakamega Homeboyz coach Mike Mururi believes that his players have recently gained momentum and can match any team’s competition in the Kenyan Premier League. Homeboyz have not lost in three of their last league fixtures, winning two and registering a draw. Their most recent win was against a struggling AFC Leopards side.
The good run has seen them rise to 7th position in the table with seventeen points, and Mururi’s thought is that the players have now come together as a team and understand each other more. ``I must say the boys have picked up form. We want to maintain the same form in our next match, and the next. We are capable of competing with any opposition in the league and just need to be consistent. I think we have finally gelled together as a team, and the players understand each other more.’’
Kakamega Homeboyz next match is away to Bandari on Saturday.

5 debutants are lined up to make their debut this weekend, as Kenya 15’s Simba takes on Germany in a Test match on Saturday at the RFUEA Grounds.

Speaking during the naming of the squad, team manager Wangila Simiyu said, “We have a pool of 36 players and those who have been selected have merited to be in the team. With young players like Ikambili and Mayaka coming in, it shows that Kenya Cup is becoming a competitive league.”

Led by captain Sean Armstrong, the German side arrived in the country Tuesday, and will be looking to get things going over Kenya. The European nation is also in contention for the World Cup in 2019, and the match will be as key to them as it will be for Kenya.

Here are the squads for both sides.

Germany:

Sean Armstrong, Raynor Parkinson, Timo Vollenkemper, Kehoma Brenner, Jaco Otto, Jarrid Els, Harris Aounallah, Dale Garner, Michael Poppmeier, Jörn Schröder, Pirmin Stöhr, Luis Ball, Antony Dickinson, Chris Howells, Ben Ellermann, Daniel Cook, Jamie Murphy, Marcel Coetzee, Erik Marks, Damien Tussac, Tim Menzel, Mikael Tyumenev, Julius Nostadt, Christopher Hilsenbeck, Dasch Barber, Samy Füchsel, Mathieu Ducau, Felicien Vergnon, Marcel Henn.

Kenya Simbas

15. Tony Onyango (Homeboyz), 14. Darwin Mukidza (KCB, Vice Captain), 13. David Ambunya (Quins), 12. Patrice Agunda (Quins), 11. Jacob Ojee (KCB), 10. Biko Adema (Nondescripts), 9. Samson Onsomu (Impala), 1. Moses Amusala (KCB), 2. Peter Karia (KCB), 3. Dennis Karani (Impala), 4. Wilson Kopondo (Quins, Captain), 5. Simon Muniafu (Impala), 6. Eric Kerre (Impala), 7. Davis Chenge (KCB), 8. Martin Owila (KCB).

Replacements:  16. Philip Ikambili (Homeboyz)17. Oscar Simiyu (KCB), 18. Bramwell Mayaka (Homeboyz), 19. Oliver Mang’eni ( KCB), 20. George Nyambua (Kabras Sugar), 21. Kelvin Masai (Homeboyz), 22. Leo Seje Owade (Impala), 23. Dennis Muhanji (Quins).

AFC Leopards SC have made a clear intent to improve their fortunes in the league, first by replacing the departing coach Stewart Hall with Dorian Marin, but now have gone a step higher by a signing highly-rated striker.

Taxes on online betting firms will be lowered if recommendations of a House committee to reduce levies introduced in March by Treasury secretary Henry Rotich are adopted,  reports the Business Daily.

“The committee further adopted amendments to clauses… maintaining the status quo on taxation of betting, gaming and lotteries and having the proceeds go to sports fund,” noted the report from the committee.

Mr Rotich proposed in March to raise the tax rate for betting firms to 50 per cent of gross profits from 7.5 per cent.

The tax would fund sports, culture and the arts, he said.

This prompted an uproar from gaming firms which warned that the seven-fold tax hike would suffocate the fledgling industry and hurt supporting businesses including telecomms and media companies.

If adopted, sports betting firms will continue to enjoy lower taxes of between five and 15 per cent.

The companies have been paying five per cent tax on lottery, 7.5 per cent on betting, 12 per cent for gaming and 15 per cent for prize competition.
Apart from this, players in the gaming industry pay 30 per cent corporate tax.

Gaming industry executives said about seven million Kenyans have registered for betting services.

Dorian Marin will be the new AFC Leopards tactician replacing Briton Stewart Hall who has decided to part ways with the club. 

The Romanian, Marin, has had stints in Uganda and also Ghana at club level. Besides that, the 56 year old tactician has overseen a number of national football teams among them Eritrea. 

Kenyanstar has exclusively learnt that Stewart Hall had a hand in the appointment of the Romanian who was a front runner for the Sofapaka FC job in 2012. Besides that he was also one of 4 finalists who were set to take over the Egyptian national team job. 

Marin is expected to continue with Stewart Hall's project at the club and hence the transition should be smooth. 

Marin is further expected into the country anytime this week. 

Multiple reliable sources within the club have told Kenyanstar that AFC Leopards is in the process of finalizing its transfer business that include among others Wesley Onguso and two highly rated internationals.

Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo has left the club by mutual consent after one season in charge in which they finished runners-up, the former European champions said on Monday.

Usually known simply as Nuno, the Sao Tome and Principe-born coach was halfway through his contract when he departed one day after his team suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at Moreirense in their last league game of the season.

Porto finished second in the league, six points behind champions and arch-rivals Benfica. They kept up the chase for most of the season until their challenge faltered with home draws against Feirense and Vitoria Setubal.

They also reached the last 16 of the Champions League before losing to Juventus and suffered a shock elimination on penalties at the hands of Chaves in the Portuguese Cup.

"Porto and Nuno Espirito Santo reached an agreement on this Monday afternoon to end the coach's contract by mutual consent," said the club in a statement.

Porto won the Portuguese league nine times in 11 seasons from 2002/03 to 2012/13 but their dominance came to an abrupt halt, with arch-rivals Benfica winning the last four.

Since 2013, they have appointed Paulo Fonseca, Julen Lopetegui, Jose Peseiro and Nuno as coaches, while Luis Castro and Rui Barros have also been in charge on an interim basis.

Goalkeeper Nuno's playing career took him to Vitoria Guimaraes, Deportivo La Coruna, Merida, Osasuna, Dynamo Moscow and Aves, though he spent much of his time as second-choice.

He had two stints at Porto, the first from 2002-04 when he played second fiddle to Vitor Baia and the second from 2007 to 2010, when Brazilian Helton stood in his way.

Nevertheless, Nuno won a Champions League, Intercontinental Cup and UEFA Cup, four Portuguese league titles and three Portuguese Cup winners medals during those two spells.

His coaching career began as assistant to Jesualdo Ferreira at Malaga. He was named Valencia coach in July 2014 but was fired one year and four months later.

Chelsea's Antonio Conte was named Manager of the Year at a League Managers Association awards ceremony on Monday after leading his side to the Premier League title and FA Cup final.

The 47-year-old Italian, whose team finished seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, will lead Chelsea out against Arsenal in the Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.

Chelsea's 93 points was the second highest total since the Premier League began in 1992 and they became the first Premier League team to register 30 victories in one season.

"I think I've had a lot of incredible emotions in my first season here in England. I want to say thank you to all the people who voted for me. It's great to receive this award. I hope I deserved this," Conte said.

"It's fantastic to read all the names that won this trophy and to stay with these managers is a great achievement for me. I hope to continue in the best way," he added after receiving the award from former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Chris Hughton, 58, was named Championship (second-tier) manager of the year after guiding Brighton & Hove Albion into the Premier League as runners-up to Newcastle United.

Angel Maria Villar was re-elected as the Spanish Football Federation's (RFEF) president for the eighth consecutive time on Monday after he stood unopposed. The term of office for the 67-year-old, who got 112 votes with 11 abstentions and six spoiled ballots, will run until 2020, with Villar having been first elected in 1988.

The former Athletic Bilbao and Spain midfielder has presided over the most successful era in the history of the Spanish national team, who won successive European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and their first World Cup in 2010.

"We have received huge endorsement which has brought us an undeniable victory. We have worked and won cleanly, it is a legitimate triumph, ratified by a strong majority," Villar told reporters.

The president is elected by an absolute majority of the members of the assembly which includes 120 members representing the clubs, players, referees and managers/coaches, who in turn are elected by the federation's ordinary members.

The president's former secretary general, Jorge Perez, had said he would run against him for the post but instead brought a case against Villar to Spain's highest sports court over alleged irregularities in the election of the RFEF assembly.

Perez withdrew from the election in protest, deciding not to present his candidacy on May 5, and asked the Spanish Sports Tribunal (TAD) and Sports Council (CSD) to annul the election of the RFEF general assembly, which they did not do.

In response to Perez's accusations, the RFEF published a statement saying the assembly election process had been conducted with "absolute honesty and transparency" and that the criticism was "completely untrue and biased".

Inter Milan forward Gabriel Barbosa has apologised for storming off the substitutes' bench when he realised he was not going to be used during Sunday's Serie A match at Lazio.

The 20-year-old Brazilian has had a frustrating first season at Inter, making just nine appearances, all as a substitute, and playing a total of only 111 minutes since his 30 million euros ($33.71 million) move from Santos last August.

He has managed one goal and picked up three yellow cards in that short period on the pitch.

His frustration boiled over during the 3-1 win at Lazio after he was not among the three substitutes brought on by coach Stefano Vecchi in the closing minutes of the game.

Television pictures showed him angrily leaving the bench before the final whistle.

"Inter supporters and team mates, during yesterday's game I suddenly adopted a thoughtless and inadequate attitude by leaving the pitch before the end of the game," he said on his Facebook page.

"Once the heat of the moment had died down, I realised, in calmness and with the support of my family, that the incident was unsporting and contradicted my professional values.

"I recognise my mistake and would like to register my sincere apologies to all the Inter fans who always supported me and to my team mates."

Gabriel, whose made his professional debut as a 16-year-old in 2013, emerged as one of Brazil's great hopes during three seasons at Pele's former club as he scored 57 goals and impressed with his pace, trickery, skill and clinical finishing.

He scored on his Brazil debut against Panama last year, went on to play at the Copa Centenario and won Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro with the under-23 team.

Vecchi said after the game that he expected the club to take action, although Inter have not commented since.

James Davison said it will be bittersweet to fill in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday but plans to do his best despite limited preparation time.

Davison completed 88 laps on the sprawling 2.5 mile oval speedway on Monday, with a best speed of 223.670 mph. It was the first time in two years the 30-year-old Australian, who has two previous starts in the race, was in the cockpit of an Indy car.

"It's certainly mixed emotions," Davison told IndyCar of replacing Bourdais. "No racing driver ever wants to secure an opportunity under these circumstances.

"I got to know Sebastien a little better when I was living in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago, and we were teammates together at KV Racing in 2014 when I was a rookie. He was very good to me there."

The 38-year-old Bourdais slammed head-on into the safety barriers when his Honda-powered car lost control on Saturday during qualifying.

Bourdais, who drives for Dale Coyne Racing, underwent surgery for pelvic fractures, officials said on Sunday.

Team owner Dale Coyne told IndyCar that Bourdais may not race again this year.

"He's got a plate, screws in his hip bone and plate on his pelvis. ... So it's at least 12 weeks, which may get him ready for Sonoma (in September), but why run one race?" he said.

"Let him rehab for the other four months and get ready to go for next year. Have him out and in January start testing with him and go at it."

Sunderland manager David Moyes has resigned after the team's relegation from the English Premier League. The former Manchester United coach announced his decision at a meeting with the club hierarchy in London on Monday.

Owner chairman Ellis Short says "having worked tirelessly throughout the campaign to avoid relegation from the Premier League, David has chosen to leave the club without compensation, which is testament to his character."

Moyes lasted only one season at Sunderland.

The Scot says, "I wish the players and my successor well in their efforts towards promotion back to the Premier League."

The team line-ups for the Under-17 World Cup (17th edition) to be held in India between 6 and 28 October 2017 are now complete, after the CAF (African Confederation) qualifiers were over on Monday.

Victories in their final group matches ensured Mali and Niger progressed to the tournament joining Ghana and Guinea, who had already sealed their qualification.

Niger made history by qualifying for a first-ever FIFA tournament after defeating Tanzania 1-0.

The 2016 AFC U-16 Championship held last year ensured Iraq, Iran, Japan and North Korea qualified for the tournament from Asia. Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the United States of America recently qualified from the CONCACAF (Central, North American and the Caribbean) region.

England, France, Germany, Spain and Turkey recently sealed their places for the FIFA event after finishing as the best 5 teams from the 2017 UEFA European Championship.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay are the final CONMEBOL nations that will participate from South America while New Caledonia and New Zealand have qualified from the OFC (Oceania) region. Hosts India qualified for the tournament directly.

Welcoming the 24 countries, Tournament Director of the Local Organising Committee Javier Ceppi said, "It is very exciting to know the 24 teams that will be playing the World Cup. The line-up is superb, with established powerhouses in the category (such as former World Champions Brazil, Ghana and Mexico) and teams making their debut, among them the hosts India. Having seen the teams and knowing of their quality, football fans are in for a real treat in October and it is key that they can start getting their tickets now and book their place in history before is too late".

With the 24 teams in place, the attention now turns to the official draw, which will take place on July 7 and determine the fixtures for each team.

The 24 teams are:  India, England, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Japan, North Korea, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, United States of America, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand

Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid lift their 33rd La Liga title on Sunday as he scored his 40th goal of the season within two minutes against Malaga to put Real in the driver's seat in their bid of dethroning FC Barcelona.

Real Madrid were three points ahead of Barcelona on the La Liga table and needed a draw or win against Malaga to win the 2016-17 title. Madrid beat Malaga 2-0, thanks to goals from Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, while Barcelona won 4-2 against Eibar. It was Madrid's consistency throughout the season that eventually proved to be the difference.

Despite the happiness of winning the domestic title, Ronaldo slammed the media for projecting him what he's not, saying he's "not a devil."

Post the match, Ronaldo was asked about a gesture he made to Celta Vigo players midweek during Madrid's 4-1 win over the Galicians insinuating that Celta had been offered bonuses to damage Madrid's title charge.

Ronaldo hit back at the press for making a mountain out of a molehill.

"People say things about me without knowing a thing and it bothers me. You (the media) say things about Cris without knowing the truth," Ronaldo retaliated.

"I am not a saint, but I am also not a devil like many people think I am," Ronaldo added.

Ronaldo further said that he has a family and such negativity about him in public affects them.

"I don't like this type of thing because I have a family, I have a mother, a son, and I don't like that they say stupid things about me."

The smile was back on Ronaldo's face when he was asked about his form lately. With the goal against Malaga, Ronaldo scored his 14th goal in the last nine games.

"I've prepared to be in top shape for the end of the season," he said.

Ronaldo said he was glad to be of help to his team that won Madrid's first title in five years.

"I've helped the team with my goals, my decisions and for that I am happy," Ronaldo added.

Real Madrid have their eyes set for a European double now as they prepare to face Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final on June 3 in Cardiff.

Popular Articles

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.

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.

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 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.

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? 

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”.

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.

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."

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."

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. 

Ireland and Everton defender Seamus Coleman faces up to a year on the sidelines after breaking his leg during a World Cup qualifier against Wales.

The ever-present risk of serious leg injuries in football was unfortunately realised once again as Wales’ Neil Taylor was shown a red card for a poor tackle during the 0-0 draw.

Once he realised what had happened, Coleman held onto his damaged leg while waiting for help.

Coleman was given oxygen on the field as medical staff attempted to immobilise his leg before taking to and ambulance and then hospital.

The final score took a back seat to Coleman’s well-being  after the match.

“It’s a bad break. Seamus is a fantastic player and character - it’s a major blow for the lad, for his club and for us,’’ Ireland manager Martin O’Neill told the UK’s Sky Sports.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world - I haven’t seen it back - but naturally disappointed. He’s gone to hospital and I think it’s broken.

“I saw Seamus’ reaction - he was holding his leg up and it didn’t look good.”

The length of Taylor’s suspension is yet to the decided but one this is for sure – Coleman is facing a lengthy stint of rehab before his professional career resumes.

KPL

Upcoming Events

KS on Facebook