29 Jan, 10:45
AFC Leopards lost. Again. That might probably be the screaming headline on Monday dailies across the country.
Gor Mahia was in their element, running riot over Leopards, and earning their maiden 2018 title thanks to a modest scoreline that left the blue and white of Leopards thanking the heavens that one remained just that. Not 2 or 3. Leopards on their part were as dry as dust, and with just a few flashes of brilliance, it looks like Ingwe is about to start humming that infamous Arsenal song; Wait for next season and see how ruthless we shall be.
Since the last season when these two sides met, a lot has changed. A lot has remained the same. As we start the new season, a fresh derby is here with just the same old problems. A classic case of a football nation that never learns?
Here are some of the standout things that seem to never want to go away, or, we just do not want to change.
How many times shall we lament about the second-rate officiating in our game? The man who was officiating this contest, Peter Waweru (Dr.) made a mess of himself thanks to some poor calls made on the afternoon. Well, the linesmen too. Just as the match got underway, Gor Mahia deserved at least a penalty and neither of the 3 officials could spot that! The match was filled with flying tackles from both sides and even when Joash Onyango clearly deserved to be sent off, the referee turned his head the other way. There is famous line every time a referee commits the same mistakes as those of Peter Waweru: The ref doesn't want violence to erupt. How terrible! Doesn’t peace only prevail where there is justice?
It is 2018 and we still are grappling with where to stage our matches. It is so unfortunate that a high-risk stadium as Afraha would be hosting a high-octane match as the derby. Stadiums and training grounds are some of the key ingredients for a successful football nation. Here, we are days away to the start of the season and teams have to hassle for playing surfaces. Sad.
3. The Ingwe revolving door
When you pen your contract at AFC Leopards, it almost seems that you should start packing your bags. Only 5 out of 18 Ingwe players today featured for the club last season. The goalkeeper trainer and one of the assistant coaches too were replaced. Maybe some more changes again before the transfer window shuts, who knows? The hire and fire policy at Leopards that has seen them parade a new team every 6 months is finally here, again.
4. Amateur Leopard
That’s, in fact, the nicest title I could think of. Seriously. AFC Leopards fans were left bemused when their players walked onto the pitch with a spanking new jersey that was well-fitted, had the sponsors logo but lacked the club’s crest. Is it too early in the year for Ingwe officials to resolve that in 2018, well, from February 2018, no more beginner's bloops? The club, that has always struggled with kiting took it a notch higher by turning up in a kit with a different colour combo and no club crest.
5. Playing for pride
Raise your hand if pride and glory have ever paid bills for you. Anyone? Anyone? Last call. Anyone? Me neither. Only in Kenya, do football administrators still expect the old age theme of playing for pride to be motivation enough for football clubs. It is a big shame that a contest of this magnitude would be played without any prize money. That is so pre-independence. Football is big business. It is the money that now moves the game. Money was the catalyst for Alexis Sanchez to cross from London to Manchester, the Red side of Manchester where he would be one of the highest paid in the Premier League.
It would be so much injustice if I go without mentioning the not so old scoreline, that is soon turning into a habit; AFC Leopards losing to Gor Mahia is almost assured now. Locally or abroad. Well, we can hold that as we still have at least two more derbies to enjoy this season.