Leopards eject nine top players

Wednesday May 25 2011

By ODINDO AYIEKO [email protected]

Trouble is brewing at AFC Leopards after the 13-time Kenyan Premier League champions on Wednesday sacked nine of their first team players.

Their most expensive player and creative midfielder, Dimonde Selenge, is among those said to have been sacked over “sabotage”.

Club manager Bernard Onyango told the Nation on Wednesday some players had shown “lack of interest” in the club and had to be offloaded while secretary Anthony Walela said they “want to build a strong squad” that can challenge for the league title.

“The June transfer window is about to open and there are several players who have shown interest in joining Leopards. We want to strengthen our team,” said Walela.

Head coach Nick Yakhama, speaking from Kakamega, however said he was not aware of any sackings but confirmed the club’s management had instituted investigations into claims of sabotage by some leading players.

“The management began investigating some players over claims of sabotage,” Yakhama said.

Besides Selenge, others said to have been sacked are his Congolese compatriots Itubu Imbem and Hugo Nzoka.

Others are Douglas Okumu, Edgar Waudo, Gideon Israel, Laban Shimonjero, Shaban Ramadhan and David Kutswa.

Six of these players are in the first 11.

Also reportedly shown the door is goalkeeper coach Haggai Azande as the club seemed to be weeding out players signed by the former office of Julius Ochiel.

Selenge admitted there was bad blood between a section of the playing unit and some officials but added that he had not yet been served with a letter of termination.

‘Accusations just fabricated to fire us’

“They are accusing us of deliberately performing poorly but this is just a fabrication to fire us,” Selenge said.

“We are all very much committed to this club. We stayed with it even without salaries.

“It is wrong to sack players without hearing their side of the story. But if that’s the decision they have taken, then I am ready to move on. I am a professional and I can continue with my career elsewhere.”

He also demanded that the club honour his contract by paying him the six months remaining in his contract.

But a senior club official said they used an “exit clause” in their contracts, adding that they were not bound to “pay them for the remaining six months”.

Kenya Premier League Chief Executive Officer Jack Oguda said the players have a right to sue the club for the “unlawful termination of their contracts”.

Leopards is said to be targeting Rangers skipper Pascal Ochieng’, Francis Chinjili from Western Stima and Jimmy Bageya of Nairobi City Stars.

Due to problems in the dressing room, Leopards have not been training since the beginning of the week as the office summoned individual players and the technical bench to ascertain the root cause of the problem.

Leopards lie ninth with 16 points from 12 games after a second straight defeat in a fortnight. After going down to Thika United in Mumias, they lost 2-1 to Sony Sugar at the weekend.

The loss to Sony incensed some Leopards fans so much they threatened to attack players on their way back to the dressing room.