Former AFC Leopards star-turned-politician, Dan Shikanda has spoken out about the team’s chances of winning the KPL league title in the coming years. Shikanda, who spent five successful years with Ingwe and was part of the club’s last title-winning side in 1998, believes the team in 2018 is still some way from being considered title contenders.
Shikanda discussed the recent fortunes of AFC Leopards at the launch of a new partnership between AFC Leopards Sacco and CIC Insurance. Shikanda admitted that the club “is not in a position to win the league” in the upcoming 2018/19 Kenya Premier League campaign, which is sponsored by SportPesa, one of the leading sportsbooks with a license to operate in Kenya and also the primary shirt sponsor of the AFC Leopards. The season begins in earnest from 8 th December, with the Leopards playing host to Kariobangi Sharks on the opening day of the season. Nevertheless, Shikanda poured cold water on suggestions that his former side could compete at the KPL summit this coming year.
He insisted that “even if they sign Pep Guardiola or even Jurgen Klopp, they cannot clinch the title any time soon”. Shikanda, who also played a starring role for current KPL champions, Gor Mahia, believes several things need to improve for AFC Leopards to be in title contention once again. Most importantly, Shikanda believes that the Leopards’ squad need to look at themselves in the it’s “unfortunate that AFC Leopards can afford to lose four times in a row to Gor Mahia” and that this kind of record “never happened during [his] playing time”.
Not playing for the badge
In a somewhat scathing attack on the current crop of Leopards stars, Shikanda believes too players in the team “are not playing for the badge” and only “play because they want to be paid”. Whether it’s true that certain sections of the Leopards squad should be considered mercenaries remains to be seen. The 2017/18 KPL campaign was certainly a turbulent one for Leopards supporters, with their team ending the season without a trophy and having fired three coaches during the course of the year.
Charismatic Argentine, Rodolfo Zapata is the latest head coach in charge of the Leopards, who enhanced his reputation as a coach with an eye for talent during a three-year stint as
Head Coach of the United States Youth Soccer Association. Many of the players he recruited have since gone on to represent the US national side at numerous age levels. Zapata will hope he gets a fair crack at the whip, with a chance to mold something special with Kenya’s second most successful club.
One thing’s for sure, the Leopards will not be able to blame poor facilities on a dismal 2018/19 KPL campaign. Their 30,000-seater Nyayo Stadium has undergone significant refurbishment since 2017 and is due to be transformed into a world-class football stadium by March 2019. Zapata will be hoping that the new stadium will coincide with a title bid for his Leopards team.