If there was any other time the Kenyan game needed a much more glaring re-assurance of growth, tactical awareness, entertainment and more than ever proper organisation then it was at this year’s first leg of the Nairobi Derby.
A few critics of the Kenyan game in the past have always argued- the pinnacle of Kenyan club football has always been AFC Leopards v Gor Mahia- but always based their argument on the side flares and totally ruled out the tactical organisation and brilliance of play on the pitch.
For once I thought a whole country or rather a whole continent got something they would call value for money. Nothing on that pitch of play disappointed- actually the stands did disappoint in some occasions but it shouldn’t in any fans view overrule the fact that- something phenomenal has taken place on those training pitches and it won’t be long, football will be back to where it belongs.
It’s rare in any football match to term both teams as brilliant. I’m not ashamed to note that the AFC Leopards EC might have made it difficult for this team to assemble a well organised squad from the first day with coaching issues dogging the side as early as pre-season.
Whilst most clubs prefer to have coaching matters sorted even before a pre-season ball is kicked, at AFC Leopards it seemed the grave was dug, they plunged into it and by the time they tried getting out- the league had already kicked off and plucked a small chunk of pace off the tempo.
Olaba’s arrival as assistant didn’t for sure put him in the right frame of mind as head-coach and when he got the honours of managing such a big squad- like a surprised raffle millionaire; you always felt, he was fast running out of ideas.
Gone and out of the ‘MUMIAS SUGAR’ sponsored side- the player woes began. The whole country was watching a disaster in the making- and for a moment you thought; somebody is acting ‘bigger than the club’. A few of my friends always told me- who goes for training as a ‘big boss’, a ‘new boy’ and even as a ‘micro-legend’.
So somewhere along the way- One Luc gets into the picture. The press don’t really find anything fancy about it- I think it’s the idea that the hype they all expected doesn’t exist here. Loves doing his work behind the scenes- I don’t tend to see so much about him on the press or is it the results that dictate the number of interviews and attention seeking the cameras give you?
I tend to love his interviews- you first notice he paints a much more physical picture than a tactical one but the style he instils in his side I beg to say- confirms the latter.
The results might not yet be coming but the derby loss more than ever- needs to be the last stone over the paddle of water into the safety of the dry land. A few slips here and there- white trouser getting a bit soaked at the bottom- the sun is on the horizon, the dry land for the comfort and the short distance home- to ease off the pressure.
I watch a few shows on football weekly and on one famous African Football talk show- the pundits there speaking on derbies in Africa pointed out that a win in 36/38 matches and a loss in 2/38- the 2 being the main derby would earn a coach a sack. Much as we may be dismayed at this stat; it’s the glaring truth. For many fans who never watched the game, the score line alone speaks of a close affair with Gor Mahia slightly edging their rivals but on the pitch, I thought it was a little different.
I’ve always admired the passion the ‘INGWE’ faithful show their club even during hard times. Some Leopards fans even joke- ‘the best results this team ever experience always come when we have issues’. Much as they note they tend to thrive well when a cloud of uncertainty hangs over them- it would be football wise to build on the certainty that good results and good times are the perfect ingredient for a good fan’s day out.
Over to you the legion of AFC Leopards fans- this is the time to stand by your club. The EC- a little patience, motivation for the coach and proper stability will take this club places. Always aim for the structures, it should never be about now, it should be about eternity and service for your club. The players; shouldn’t be long- No player is greater than a club, will never be and shouldn’t be.
I like any other person- even those who hate this club would be envious of their level of achievements over a short span of time. The cutting edge seems to be simple- doing the little things right, the big things in style and sometimes the desire to be bigger overrides their ambition which I guess has far proved to be a good ingredient for success.
Talking about the successes in detail would be over writing a perfect script I wouldn’t want to do at this moment but once again, the Nairobi derby- soon I would rename in my mind the ‘great Nairobi Derby’ brought out the good and the bad of the side but overally- the best out-riding the bad.
My little knowledge of economics and utility in particular would best describe the past one year or so for Gor Mahia. The good (better organisation, good coaching ideas and player commitment) has been increasing as more as the total Utility (the level of success) also rises. Sadly though as the laws of utility dictate- the marginal utility usually decreases with each additional increase in the consumption of a good. What do I mean?
You always feel that level of football is almost at the peak- suddenly Gor Mahia look like they can be beaten and the curve suddenly seems to have reached an all-time high or practically almost on the high. A few coaches will tell you- this is the time; players feel they have given there all, coaches quit or start over hauling the team and new ideas need to crop up to maintain that gap between them and the level of competition they face.
Whilst it seems a slump is common in every team’s performance over a season and with several cup competitions punctuating the football- how best the team responds in such incidences matters. On Sunday- I thought the same about Gor Mahia. After a midweek defeat in the TOP 8 first leg semi, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a bounce-back but Dani and Rama came to the party in the twinkling of an eye and that’s the difference they needed alongside a solid Jerim performance.
My only scare though is what happens in the absence of a few squad members and the dip in form of a few. How best the balancing act is done and the difference in playing the perennial bench warmers over a few squad members have over the squad might be the difference as they seek to push in three different fronts and seek another way to continental football.
So much said- the derby surely opened our eyes to more than we know concerning players, coaches, team’s reactions, player abilities and for the record just so you know; the future of Kenyan midfield might have just been spotted in one of those midfield combinations.