I followed the Kenya Premier League- now Tusker Premier League- keenly this year. This was mostly because my team, AFC Leopards, was poised to win this year’s title from day one. Although our opening match of the season was a 0-0 draw against Chemelil Sugar, who went on to defeat us 1-0 in the season finale match, we had a good run. There was drama on and off the pitch, with all the stakeholders involved in something or other. From the players, fans, technical bench and coaches, sponsors and the media it was an entertaining year in football.
Allow me to reminisce with memories from the 20-something matches I attended out of the 30 League matches this season.
Nyayo, 11th February 2012: AFC Leopards 0-0 Chemelil Sugar
This match was at Nyayo and it was the season opener. Spirts were high, we had gone for some matches undefeated from the 2011 season when we finished 5th and had defeated Gor Mahia in December to win the inaugural Peace Cup. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we didn’t let the 0-0 result bother us.
Nyayo, 19th February: Mathare United 0-2 AFC Leopards
With this match, we showed Mathare what we got. We won in style, defeating them 2-0 and remaining on top of the KPL table until midway through the season. Koops was the coach that everyone loved and was talking about. Jimmy Bageya scored our opening goal of the season and Bernard Mang’oli made it 2-0. Here’s a picture from the match showing the players doing a jig after the goal was scored.
Nyayo, 25th February: AFC Leopards 0-2 Oserian FC
Newly promoted into the premier league from Division One, Oserian FC were treated to a display of a higher class of football from AFC and we sent them back to their flower farm in Naivasha (in tears). We kept our scoresheet clean with a convincing 2-0 win and fans started speculating on the posibility of us winning the league already! Players started doing the isokonde- a kind of
sexy dance- after the match and we loved it.
Nakuru, 3rd March: Ulinzi Stars 0-2 AFC Leopards
A pattern to our winning was beginning to emerge, do you see it? We were winning by 2-0 each time! The match in Nakuru was spectactular, with a number of penalties awarded to each side. Matasi, our goalkeeper, saved one penalty and wasted the other! Ulinzi Stars is a Kenya Defence Forces team, but for that day the guns were blazing in our hands! Ulinzi Stars won the premier league in 2010.
And then we gave them the mocking salute:
Why lie, the Nakuru match probably tops as my favorite match of the season. It’s certainly among my top 5.
Nyayo, 11th March: AFC Leopards 2-1 Muhoroni Youth
Muhoroni definitely fought hard in this match. They marred our clean sheet, we had gone a number of matches without conceding any goals and Muhoroni were they first to mar that. However, we still won the match so in the end it was no big deal and we went home happy.
Nyayo, 18th March, AFC Leopards 0-0 Gor Mahia
We were going to win this match because we were picking up momentum, and a Gor player had just been red-carded. However, Gor Mahia goons decided to take this chance to throw stones and cause chaos and the match was stopped for so long that when it finally resumed, the pace had gone out of the game and it ended 0-0. I made a decision not to attend another AFC-Gor derby as long as I was still living although I did falter later. At this point, Gor was in the basement of the KPL table and we remained at the peak.
Mumias, 25th March: Western Stima 1-2 AFC Leopards
This was the first AFC game of the 2012 season that I missed. I think I may have been having exams around this time so couldn’t travel. The result of the match was very much celebrated although there were rumours of us having been ‘favoured’ because well, we’re champions.
Nyayo, 28th March: AFC Leopards 2-1 KCB
We still continued the trend of winning by 2 goals and sometimes conceding one in the process. I remember the goal scored by Baraza with his lethal left foot. It was a mid-week game and therefore could not really be well celebrated but by this time we were buoyed by our victories and our firm grasp at the top of the table. We began feeling invincible. Isokonde became a must dance after every game.Google isokonde dance, you can get a YouTube clip showing it.
An easily favorite game, where the goals rained although the 5-0 defeat over Thika United was another one full of goals! I traveled to Mumias for the first time, interacting with other fans and learning about local brews that could put the strongest of men/women to sleep in a few sips. It rained a lot during the match and at one time, it had to be stopped and when it resumed, fans and players used banners to drain water from the pitch for the match to continue. We humilated Rangers and cemented our lead in the premier league. We were on a roll!
One highlight from the journey there was a lorry carrying beer for export that had overturned and I got myself some two tall cans of Docks beer. Haven’t seen it around since.
Draining water from the pitch for the game to resume:
Thika, 14th April: Thika United 1-2 AFC Leopards
Thika had vowed to stop our unbeaten run, but we had the last laugh when we managed to score and turn the match round to our favour. Their pitch in terrible form then and the KPL should not allow any professional games to be played on it, I hope its condition has since improved. By this time, reporters could write their headlines way in advance, we were expected to win every match and we were proving everyone right.
Mombasa, 21st April: AFC Leopards 0-2 Tusker FC
You read that right, it was a loss.
Stunned we were, can you believe it?
Tusker FC have been our jinx for a while now. We took the game to Mombasa because we wanted to travel to the seaside, purely for amusement of the fans. We knew were going to lose and I still can’t believe how easily those two goals got in. I may have shed some tears and perhaps one my most expensive gadgets then saw the end of its life.
This game ended our unbeaten run and marked the turning point, for the worse, for our beloved team.
Naivasha, 29th April: Karuturi Sports 1-1 AFC Leopards
After the heartache and disappointment of Mombasa, we traveled to Naivasha to play Karuturi Sports. I didn’t make it for this match and was barely consoled by the 1-1 draw although we still remained on top of the premier league table.
Nyayo, 5th May: AFC Leopards 0-3 City Stars
I was at Nyayo that afternoon, and frankly felt nothing, I was numb. City Stars was near the bottom of the table and how they defeated us 3-0 is still something I wouldn’t want to think about. It’s like an old relationship you know was bad anyway so you don’t bother analyzing why it ended. So I won’t talk about this painful and humiliating loss to a lowly ranked team at the time.
Nyayo, 16th May: Sofapaka 2-1 AFC Leopards
This was one loss everyone admitted was just bad luck. The pace of the game was fast. We played really well, we had ball possession, accurate passes and finishes that would hit the bar or near-misses. It was heartbreaking because we played so well yet we lost to Sofapaka.
At this point, 14 games later (although most teams had played 15 games), the Kenya Premier League took a mid-season break. There was a lot of politics in the den- as we call the AFC community- about leadership and what not. I don’t like politics so won’t talk about it, but it was affecting our game, as you can see from the recent results. We needed to do something before we commenced the second leg.
Mumias, 20th June: AFC Leopards 1-1 SoNy Sugar
There is this guy in SoNy Sugar FC. He wears number 15 I think. Agwanda. Bulky. Dangerous. He scored the goal that put SoNy in the lead and I’m sure their coach Zico was happy. But Mumias is our second home ground and we couldn’t go out without a fight. We managed to score a goal in the dying minutes of the game to save face(!!) and it ended 1-1.
Nyayo, 27th June: AFC Leopards 1-0 Sofapaka
I must admit that it was tough, has always been, playing Sofapaka and when we managed the win by a solitary goal, we were happy. It meant 3 very important points and a much needed boost in morale.
Kisii, 7th July: SoNy 0-1 AFC Leopards
This also ranks as one of favorite matches. We believed we had returned to our winning ways, albeit by solitary goals instead of the 2-1 or 2-0 pattern of the first leg. I had a lot of fun in Kisii town, my hometown, partying like a rockstar after our win.
Paul Were had joined our squad from Tusker FC and the nimble midfielder’s (or is he a winger?) influence could be felt in the game.
Nyayo, 13th July: City Stars 0-1 AFC Leopards
After the earlier 3-0 embarrassing defeat, we failed to revenge in a similar manner but still got our win. And this was the third match we were winning by a 1-0 scoreline. However, it didn’t matter because getting the 3 points is what was was important at this stage.
Mumias, 21st July: AFC Leopards 1-0 Karuturi Sports
Again, a good match because we won, and by 1-0! I traveled to Mumias for the third time and bonded more with other fans who also never miss to travel. I mostly went on these trips with fans from Buru Buru Branch, quite organized, and sometimes fun.
The picture below probably makes us look very shady, which we might very well be.
Nyayo, 9th August: Rangers 0-0 AFC Leopards
Oh, I think I know why we drew this game. The game was played at 12 noon!!! The previous day, 8th, it had rained so hard that the game was pushed to the following day noon and I guess you win some, you draw some.
I didn’t attend this match because I was at work and was a new employee so hadn’t found a way to sneak around 🙂
This was the win with the biggest margin for us the whole season! After this, we felt like no one could stop us, we were inching closer to the league with about 10 games left. I left the Nyayo stadium so happy and so proud to be an Ingwe fan. Nation wrote the story beginning with: “Thika United became a highway of goals” he he, speaking of highways!
Nyayo, August 26th: KCB 2-0 AFC Leopards
Oh, KCB did us in with this game. We were playing pretty badly and the loss came as no shock and although we maintained a slim lead at the top of the table, Tusker, Gor, Ulinzi, were creeping up. We also lost our confidence and our play was shaky, made worse by the fact that we were meeting Tusker FC next.
Nyayo, 7th September: Tusker 0-0 AFC Leopards
I remember before the Tusker match, the image below was going round:
It was a floodlit match at Nyayo and no matter how hard we played, Tusker defenders were at their best and the game ended in a 0-0 draw. We got our one point and soldiered ahead.
Nakuru, September 15th: Western Stima 2-1 AFC Leopards
I didn’t make it for this match in Nakuru for some reason or other. By now, we had gone for like 3 matches without winning and this was the 4th and it was a loss! We were losing points and Tusker was catching up with us, Gor Mahia hot on their heels. We were no longer certain of winning the league.
Our next match was against Gor Mahia at kasarani on September 23rd and against my initial decision, decided to attend.
Kasarani, September 23rd: Gor Mahia 2-1 AFC Leopards
I won’t go all emotional on this game, all I can say is we played well and Gor wasted time and in the end we had gone 5 straight matches without a win, and three of them losses. There was talk of firing Koops but it was late in the league with only about 5 matches to go. I think he did get fired but later was reinstated.. I said I won’t talk politics! The game was peaceful although Gor goons ran into the field after the match.
Nakuru, September 30th: Muhoroni Youth 1-2 AFC Leopards
At last we registered a win after a 5 match dry run but already we had lost the grip on the lead of the table and now we struggling like any other team. However, while we struggled with our games, Tusker and Gor seemed to sail through, especially Gor. Not sure what Lugarusic has been telling his players!
Mumias, October 20th: AFC Leopards 2-1 Ulinzi Stars
Our wins were coming in a little too late, but they kept our hopes of winning the league high with only about 3 games to go. I didn’t make it to this match either.
Naivasha, October 27th: Oserian FC 1-3 AFC Leopards
I was at this match and the goal of the match was the free kick that Mang’oli netted, it was a perfect free kick. The hopes of winning the league were revived, even though Tusker and Gor were also demolishing other teams and raising our blood pressure.
Mumias, November 3rd: AFC Leopards 4-2 Mathare United
In summary, we sent the slum boys home packing and kept hoping Gor and Tusker lose their matches so we could breathe but they won their respective matches, making us get ulcers in the process of hoping we’d still win this league. It was like we had awakened but too late, with only one match left and Gor leading the pack, we tied on points with Tusker who did not have a net as leaky as ours (we had conceded more goals even though we had scored the most).
Awendo, November 10th: Chemelil Sugar 1-0 AFC Leopards
We exited the league with a whimper. Like a wounded leopard, in pride mostly, it hurt that we had come sooooo close that we had printed champions on our jerseys only to lose it with some spectacular losses to Gor, KCB, Western Stima, City Stars.. it still hurts.
The only consolation was that Gor Mahia lost the title too. Oh, they can console themselves with the FKF Cup and congratulations for that but still they don’t get the KPL bragging rights. Leave that to Tusker FC. Champions 2011 and now 2012.
For a detailed pre-match and post-match analysis of each game AFC Leopards played last season, please check out the blog Ingwe-Fan.
I look forward to the 2013 season! Here’s to AFC Leopards, ours forever.