For the umpteenth time, 13-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions AFC Leopards will end the season exhausted, frustrated and empty-handed.
This follows their 1-0 loss to Sofapaka on Sunday that tossed them out of the SportPesa Shield, the only realistic avenue for silverware within their hands.
The instructions from coach Rodolfo Zapata before the match had been simple: do everything possible to win and preserve hope of retaining the Shield that was won last year after overcoming Kariobangi Sharks 2-0 in the final.
Instead the big cats succumbed to a second half goal from Elli Asieche with just 11 minutes left on the clock.
So disappointed were the few fans who turned up to watch the duel that after the game, some of them stood shouting outside the team bus demanding that the players walk to their various homes instead of boarding the bus.
Zapata, reportedly gathered his players in the dressing room after the match and told them “It was nice working with you and I wish you the very best going forward.” He is said to be contemplating an early departure from the club.
Since his appointment in May, the Argentine said that he is building a team that will challenge for next season’s SportPesa Premier League title, but his employers had set him a minimum target of retaining the domestic cup title to pacify the long suffering Ingwe fans.
They will now battle it out with Ulinzi Stars for the Sh750,000 reserved for second runners up as Kariobangi Sharks and Sofapaka meet in the Shield final on October 20.
Sharks convincingly elbowed out Ulinzi Stars 4-1 in the Sunday semi-finals which left the soldiers’ coach Dunstan Nyaudo foaming at the mouth at Football Kenya Federation’s decision to change the venue of the match at the last minute.
The game had earlier been scheduled for Machakos before the tournament organisers moved it to the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani just three days to the match.
“As a coach you to plan for the game knowing which pitch you are going to use and when there is an abrupt change like it happened this week, it interferes with your entire plan. Kasarani and Machakos are two very different pitches and the reasons we were given for the venue change were not convincing at all,” a visibly frustrated Nyaudo said after the match.
The winner between Sharks and Batoto ba Mungu will represent the country in the CAF Confederation Cup next year and will also walk away with a cash prize of Sh2 million.