Leopards hunt down Ulinzi

Friday March 11 2011

Chris Omollo | NATION INGWE BABES: AFC Leopards fans cheer their team during a Kenya Premier League match against Tusker at the Nyayo National Stadium.

Chris Omollo | NATION INGWE BABES: AFC Leopards fans cheer their team during a Kenya Premier League match against Tusker at the Nyayo National Stadium.  

By Charles Nyende [email protected] and Odindo Ayieko [email protected]

Winless Ulinzi Stars welcome rising AFC Leopards at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium in the match of the day on Saturday.

The tie offers an attractive phase-off between a struggling champion and a resurging wannabe champ intent on sending a message, and has been made more alluring by uncertainties of both benches.

First Ulinzi. After reports this week emerged that their league winning coach Benjamin Nyangweso had been sacked over a poor run by the military side, the club’s secretary Joe Birgen denied the development and in fact offered that the coach was going to South Africa for a three-month training course.

But it is now emerging that the Ulinzi football management met last and decided to sack Nyangweso and elevate his assistant Sammy Simiyu to the top position on the bench.

Nyangweso, the 2010 KPL coach of the year, did not want to get into the details of his rather unceremonious exit only saying: “I do not know what is going on. I have not been told anything but I am not with the team now. The truth will come out.”

Ulinzi, for whatever reason, have not officially announced anything. Perhaps, like the soldiers they are, they do not want to show they have panicked. But clearly Simiyu is now the man in charge, barely weeks into the season.

Over at AFC Leopards, their official head coach Robert Bollon has gone absent without official leave. The coach was reported in some internet sites to have complained over interference in his job.

The team’s technical director, Robert Matano, dismissed such talk attributed to the Belgian saying the coach should listen to advice from the rest of his team since he did not know the players well.

“We do not know where he (Bollon) is. For now I and Eliud Omukuyia are handling the team,” Matano said.

Matano, a league winning coach with Sofapaka in 2009, said he will not change the side that so emphatically beat Rangers 3-1 at Nyayo Stadium last week.

Restore confidence

Ulinzi won both fixtures last season but in their current vulnerable state, Leopards will fancy their chances.

The starting line-up should have team captain Nicholas Muyoti, Liberian Abraham Cokie, forwards Brian Masiolo and the Congolese duo if Laurent Tumba and Demonde Selenge. Ulinzi will be in desperate need of a win if only to restore some level of confidence.

With several internationally capped players the likes Francis Ochieng, Mulinge Munandi, Geoffrey Kokoyo, Lawrence Owino and Stephen Waruru they will offer Leopards a massive challenge.

“We beat Rangers last weekend and we are confident we can also beat the champions. Morale is very high in camp,” Muyoti said on Friday.