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Write off AFC’s title charge at your own peril

Monday November 18 2019

A female AFC Leopards fan dances along Moi Avenue, Nairobi on November 10, 2019 ahead of the Mashemeji Derby. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A female AFC Leopards fan dances along Moi Avenue, Nairobi on November 10, 2019 ahead of the Mashemeji Derby. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOHN ASHIHUNDU
By JOHN ASHIHUNDU
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Despite losing heavily to arch rivals Gor Mahia in the Mashemeji derby at Kasarani, we are still in the league title race.

We suffered a 4-1 loss, but it’s too early to write us off for this season’s league title since we have many games to play — the defeat leaves Leopards three points adrift of leaders K’Ogalo.

Currently seventh on the log with 15 points, we have time to recover. A win at Mbaraki Sports Club could see us return to the top four.

Leopard’s coach Andre Casa Mbungo and his technical staff have been rectifying the mistakes we made to make the squad better as we plan to return to winning ways starting with Bandari away on Thursday.

Against Gor Mahia, we played well in the first half but missed several chances, before collapsing towards the end to allow our opponents snatch an undeserved win.

We had genuine penalty appeals but the centre referee, Yassin Badir ignored us leaving the boys and Ingwe fans a frustrated lot.

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The same referee again frustrated us this season against Kariobangi Sharks and Western Stima in matches we drew 0-0 and 1-1 respectively. I will comment about refereeing another time but suffice to say they leave a lot to be desired.

In total, Gor Mahia have beaten us 29 times but we have beaten them 28 times. But Leopards have won the prestigious Cecafa Club Championship five times compared to Gor Mahia’s three.

With 25 games to go, a first league title since 1998 still lies tantalisingly within reach of Ingwe, but if they miss, next season is certainly going to be Ingwe’s.

Since they were last crowned champions, Leopards have not mounted a real serious bid for the title.

But things, you feel, are slowly changing. Leopards have lost only two out of the nine league games under Mbungo and fans have started singing “we’re going to win the league this season.”

I shudder to think of what other clubs will do, because once the fearsome AFC Leopards begin winning the Kenyan Premier League we will dominate it for the next decade and beyond.

Then, people who were born in the 1990s and beyond will truly appreciate what a glamour club really is and who indeed are/were the most supported football club in the country.

And unlike Gor, who have dominated the local league in recent years without translating this strength not only regionally but continentally, Leopards will become the kings of Cecafa and owners of African football.

I cannot wait for this era to begin. And as the Chinese say, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.

We have already taken several steps despite that small misstep of losing to our noisy mashemeji recently

However, to get back in step, Mbungo must get the boys to regroup. We have a big match against another ambitious side but with no pedigree to talk about — Bandari.

I hear they are annoyed with losing back-to-back league matches. No problem for us. With lethal striker John Mark Makwata as hungry as a stalking leopard, Bandari can forget about returning to winning ways. Leopards march on.

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