AFC Leopards' 'foreign, hire and fire journey' highlights Matano's return
Yes, 'The Lion' Robert Matano is back at the den a place he was in charge seven years back but failed to deliver any silverware in his two year stint. From then seven other coaches have arrived and departed some in controversial circumstances. This return forms part of the 'The Matano Cycle'.
Here is the list of coaches who have been part of the team and paved way for Matano's return to the den.
Matano was in charge of Leopards in 2010 and 2011. Matano is the only coach to have won Kenya Premier League titles with two sides Sofapaka and Tusker. 'The Lion' left the Brewers after 2013 season to join Ulinzi where he worked until the end of the season and left on grounds of health issues. Now in charge at the den, will he deliver title and become the only tactician to win titles with three different KPL clubs?
Jan Wepukhulu Koops
Koops left Leopards at the end of 2012 season after a poor run of results although he pushed Ingwe from relegation zone to fifth in the league. Coach Jan Koops was sent packing together with his entire technical bench that included Bernard Onyango (Team Manager), Mickey Weche, Nicholas Muyoti (Assistant Coaches) and Noah Wanyama (Technical Director). Before is exit however, the Dutchman led them to a 23-game unbeaten record before Tusker ended it in Mombasa in the 2011 season.
Jan Koops however made a return to the club at the start of the 2016 season after unsuccessful stints in Nairobi City Stars and third tier side Kolongolo FC. He served as the club’s Technical Director with Ivan Minnaert as head coach before being handed the Director of Youth Program role in October of the same season.
In April 2013, the Belgian moved to Kenya where he signed a short-term contract with Leopards taking over from Tom Olaba who was dismissed for what was termed as poor results by the former office led by Alex ole Magelo. He took charge of the club in April 2013 when the club was struggling at the bottom of the table to avoid relegation to the Kenyan National Super League. Eymael however had a troubled time with the club leadership, insistently complaining about life at the den and pushing for better terms for himself before eventually accusing the management of short-changing him and failing to implement his recommendations.
The club's NEC however traced the then poor performance to various issues including but not limited to the head coach’s high handedness and unending unreasonable demands confirming then Harambee Stars assistant Coach James Nandwa as the new man in charge, with former assistant Coach at the club Mickey Weche as his assistant to the end of the season. The team proceeded to win the GOtv Shield and represent Kenya in the 2014 CAF Confederations Cup where they were eliminated by Premier Soccer League side SuperSport United. Eymael is currently the manager of Premier Soccer League side Polokwane City.
Pieter De Jongh
Hendrik Pieter de Jongh formerly worked as the Rwanda national team technical director, has had stints in South Africa with National Division side FC Cape Town and was once attached to the Ulaanbaatar FC from the Mongolia. The Dutch joined Leopards in May 2014 after the departure of James Nandwa, leading the team to that year's edition of the CECAFA Nile Basin Cup. Ingwe went on to falter at the final hurdle to Victoria University in his first assignments at the club.
Ingwe had before his arrival agreed terms with Briton Trevor Morgan but the latter vanished in search of more greener pastures in Spain to leave the club searching for someone else after parting ways with the Harambee Stars assistant coach. The coach later opted out of the den in controversial circumstances; first going AWOL leaving then assistant Abdallah Juma and team manager, Willis Waliaula in charge of the team.
Ingwe settled on the ex-Gor Mahia Croat tactician on a two year deal on February 2015 ahead of the new season kick off. Logarusic made a comeback to the Kenyan League after guiding AFC Leopards’ rivals Gor Mahia to two trophies - Kenya FA domestic Cup and KPL Top 8 tournament – in 2012. The Croat is also remembered to have taken Gor Mahia to a record 22 matches unbeaten during the same period.
The run was not smooth in the 2015 season with players going for months without pay and top management unit wrangling over leadership undermining performance of the club in the league and other tournaments. On Sunday 25 October, Head Coach Zdravko Logarusic could not take the struggle anymore and decided to leave for his native land, Croatia citing inability to clear his house rent arrears.
Logarusic terminated his contract with AFC Leopards in Kenya after series of demand for unpaid salaries. He had already coached Simba Fc in the Kenyan Premier league before taking the Leopards job. He became a free agent on the first day of November 2016 after leading Angolan side Interclube to Seventh on the league log; a 30 match streak that saw them record 11 wins 8 draws and 11 loses.
Leopards appointed Minnaert as their new head coach on February 26 2015, for two years. Minnaert took over from Dutchman Jan Koops who was handed a new role within the club’s technical bench. The Belgian coach was sacked in September after a series of poor performance and according to the tribunal it was a wrongful dismissal going by the evidence he presented ordering the club to pay Minnaert Twenty Four Thousand United State Dollars.
Clashes against City Stars, Western Stima and Kakamega Homeboyz sealed Minnaert's tenure with the second most successive club in the country. The 3-0 loss to Stima that ended their Shield campaign thus ending the dreams of making into the continental football. Ivan Minnaert then made a return to Rwanda this time joining top flight side Mukura Victory Sports on a short term deal.
The club then installed former Kenya international defender Ezekiel Akwana as caretaker coach for the reminder of the 2016 Kenyan Premier League season but it was not long before Stewart Hall came into the picture.
Hall arrived at the den in October 2016 with Ingwe enduring one of their worst seasons ever in the top flight. Hall was one of the six candidates shortlisted for the Ingwe job and he seen off competition from the likes of Sam Timbe to bag the job. His arrival was met with high optimism and everything seemed to fall into place at the start of the 2017 season. Despite a bright start to the 2017 season campaigns, the journey for AFC soon hit rocky grounds seeing them drop points in seven Kenyan Premier League games and his last game 1-0 defeat to KPL reigning champions Tusker not making matters better on Sunday 28 May 2017 at the Kinoru Stadium. Losses to Chemelil Sugar, SoNy, Tusker, Kakamega Homeboyz and embarrassing Gor Mahia in the Mashemeji Derby and a draw against Zoo summarized Hall's tenure at the den. In his own words, he blamed personal and family issues to his departure in May.
Yes Dorian Marin, after taking charge of the team during the diaspora Mashemeji derby in Dar es Salaam, the tactician felt sorry for his charges as Gor Mahia drubbed them 3-0 again. Marin labelled his charges 'Monkeys in the field' as according to him, they were just jumping in the field without aiming at the goal. In the Kenya Premier League he led the Cats to a 0-0 draw against Mathare United at the Nyayo National Stadium and that was his first and probably the last taste of the league with Ingwe.
The former Eritrea national team coach situation was made worse after falling out with senior players and members of the technical bench. Shortest football tenure in Kenya? Yes it could be.
The 'Lion' took over from Tom Juma who was acting on the interim's basis and his first assignment in the was an away assignment against Bandari. Leopards did not disappoint the new coach as they grabbed a late goal courtesy of Marcelus Ingotsi. Will he live to the expectations of the club and deliver only time will tell.