ASHIHUNDU: New-look Leopards team is much stronger this season - Daily Nation

New-look Leopards team is much stronger this season

Monday February 5 2018

Dennis Sikhayi of AFC Leopards (top) overpowers Luis Khamadi of Posta Rangers during their Kenyan Premier League match at the Afraha stadium in Nakuru on February 3, 2018.The match ended 1-1. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO |

Dennis Sikhayi of AFC Leopards (top) overpowers Luis Khamadi of Posta Rangers during their Kenyan Premier League match at the Afraha stadium in Nakuru on February 3, 2018.The match ended 1-1. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN ASHIHUNDU
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I would like to tell officials, players and supporters of AFC Leopards who have remained loyal to the club that good times lie ahead.

I would like to assure them that Ingwe are certainly in better shape than last season because coach Robert Matano has recruited well.

I’m sure with the recent signing of 17 new players, the club is stronger than ever and Ingwe will be a more complete team in every game we play this season after the coach released a strong squad capable of springing surprises.

Matano, better known as ‘The Lion’ in local football circles, has unveiled a blend of experience and young players who must be given 100 per cent support and backing in every way possible.

Anyone who watched them against Posta Rangers on Saturday in Nakuru would agree with me the current Ingwe is ready to face any challenge that comes our way. I liked the fighting spirit at Afraha and for sure Ingwe opponents are in trouble!

Against Rangers who have kept their players together for long, Ingwe, who boasts a rich bench, showed more action in terms of attack and by 35th minute of the match, it could have been three goals for Ingwe.

Doubting Thomases should know that Ingwe will be competing at the top. Once every player gets used to the way Matano wants them to operate, the team will be a very successful side this season. 

It would be surprising should Ingwe fail to win the league this season after finishing eighth last season due to the shortage of players.

We lost the Super Cup match against our noisy neighbours K’Ogalo on January 28 in Nakuru, but Gor must prepare to face a stiff contest when we face them in the league!

Last season we started the season on a high but frequent changes in the technical bench and departures of regular players, including captain Bernard Mang’oli who moved to Sofapaka, affected the performance. At least we finished among the top eight and won the GOtv Shield.

Ingwe, Kenya’s oldest surviving club, will return to continental football for the first time since 2014 when they lost to SuperSport United of South Africa.

The team will represent Kenya in Caf Confederation Cup and having played two high-profile pre-season friendly matches against Ugandan side Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and Sudan’s powerhouse Al Hilal, the team will be out to emulate other regional giants, including Simba SC, Yanga and Azam to import strikers from West Africa to boost the squad.

Ingwe, who face Fosa Juniors of Madagascar in the preliminaries of Caf Confederation Cup, will meet the winner of the match between Cameroon’s Ngazi Sport and six-time Mauritania champions AS Port-Louis 2000 if they sail through.

KPL defenders are in trouble as the 13-time Kenyan league champions acquired the services of Ghanaian Prince Papa Arkoh and Nigerian midfielder Henry Uche Ifeanyi on one-year contract.

Captain Duncan Otieno, Salim Abdalla ‘Shittu’ had to play some matches with injuries because they did not have back-ups. At some time, Joshua Mawira had to play before recovering fully, while international Dennis Sikhayi had on many occasions moved from his preferred right full back position to play as a mark shift left full back.

Leopards’ new players include speedy left-winger Brian Marita from Western Stima, top striker Ezekiel Otuoma also from the Kisumu based side, goalkeeper Ezekiel Owade from Nakumatt, former Gor Mahia striker Ezekiel Odera who also played for Thika United, KCB and City Stars, left-full back Maingi Nassir from Kakamega High School.

Others are Moses Mburu (KCB) and Joseph Kuria (Posta Rangers) and Jaffery Owiti (Chemelil).

Other foreigners players joining the den are defender Eric Oduro from Hearts of Oak of Ghana, left-winger Baker ‘Bakerazy’ Lukooya from Uganda Premier League side Soana FC.