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‘Mashemeji’ derby in doubt over venue

Friday February 28 2020

Gor Mahia defender Joash Onyango (right) tackles AFC Leopards forward Hansel Ochieng during their Kenyan Premier League match at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on November 10, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Gor Mahia defender Joash Onyango (right) tackles AFC Leopards forward Hansel Ochieng during their Kenyan Premier League match at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on November 10, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

CECIL ODONGO
By CECIL ODONGO
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The much awaited “Mashemeji” derby between arch-rivals AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia slated for next weekend is now in a limbo due to lack of a venue.

The huge Kenyan Premier League fixture second leg tie is scheduled for March 8 with Ingwe the home team.

It is designated a high risk match by the KPL that can only be held at Moi International Sports Centre or Nyayo National Stadium.

Nyayo National Stadium is closed for renovations while MISC is certainly not available for AFC Leopards to use after Sports Kenya banned the club from playing there in November following damage to the venue facility attributed to Ingwe fans.

While acknowledging that the government ban was still in force, AFC Leopards treasurer Maurice Chichi insisted the derby will be played next Sunday.

“We are assuring our fans the derby will be played but I can’t tell where. We are still in talks with the ministry,” he said.

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Sports Kenya Chairman Fred Muteti on Thursday reiterated his earlier stand that Leopards will not be allowed to use MISC until they pay Sh2 million for damage caused by the fans during the last Mashemeji derby on November 10. Angry Leopards fans vandalised the stadium's facilities after losing 4-1 to Gor Mahia in a league tie.

Muteti said Sports Kenya will only consider allowing Leopards use of their facilities after the club has paid for the damages.

“AFC Leopards are not allowed to host any of their matches at Kasarani, whether it is a derby or not, because last time they destroyed stadium facilities and have refused to pay. Let them look for another venue or they give away the match to Gor Mahia.

“Their acts of hooliganism cannot be tolerated any more and we won’t relent in ensuring their fans are disciplined. We managed to change the behaviour of Gor Mahia fans and the same has to apply to them because our sporting facilities have to be protected,” said Muteti.

Leopards had earlier this month also sought to use Nyayo Stadium as their home venue but in vain.

Kenyan Premier League CEO Jack Oguda acknowledged that Leopards are in a bad situation since no other stadiums can host Mashemeji derby due to security concerns brought about by the huge number of fans who normally turn up for the game.

“There is nothing we can do since we act according to instructions from the home teams on the change of venues. In this case, it is tricky because thousands of fans attend the derby encounters and, due to security concerns, we prefer Nyayo or Kasarani,” said Oguda.

The official said the Super Cup match between the two rivals was played at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru in 2018 but KPL will only consider having the match there after receiving an official request from Ingwe, and the venue passing a security risk assessment.

Chichi ruled out the option of the match being played behind closed doors, saying it will deny them much needed revenue from gate collections.

Leopards have been playing their home league matches at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos, Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega and Mumias Sports Complex in Mumias.

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