At the tail end of it altogether, the AFC Leopards players shook hands, exchanged faint hugs and a few words with the Tusker FC players. If there were medals for them, they surely never came to pick them and if for sporting sake, they never stood to witness the Tusker FC players lift the trophy.
Such is the pain of losing a cup final, the evidence of the torture they were living through having lost two cup finals in the span of less than a month- both with the tolerance of a goal.
For AFC Leopards, the past few weeks have been a heavenly ride, the wheels, however, still shaky- for this final they came off.
Football lovers will look back at this day as the day a fresh chapter of KPL Top 8 football was written. Tusker FC having missed out on the first two finals have just put to rest the debate of dominance amongst her rivals with two quick triumphs, a first by any other team.
The ‘Ingwe’ story needed a triumph on such a day to raise any hopes of a Cinderella finish to their first leg. An Alwanga better, that from my angle looked like it would break Kasaya’s diaphragm means their first half of the season as they gear up for Western Stima will be exactly that- a hurtful story.
Looking back to the beginning of the season up until early May, AFC Leopards weren’t expected to be here chasing for a KPL Top 8 trophy, outside contenders they were.
Most times it’s very tough to look past failures, particularly when they come in quick sequence. AFC Leopards fans and players will be thinking how the two titles slipped through the digits of their clutches, though they can’t lie now on what wasn’t.
But just because AFC Leopards lost doesn’t mean that fans should hang their heads in shame and walk away. The GOtv Shield Champions proved time and again this season amidst little or sometimes no inspiration that giving up is never an alternative.
The final few minutes showed this as they went after the game and hoped for a (Thika v Tusker 2013 final) esque, that of a King’atua 2-2 equalizer, one that never arrived to the delectation of the Meru crowd.
Counting at the overall impression of the KPL Top 8 tournament this season, the margins have been tight. Save for the 3-0 hiding KCB received at the hands of AFC Leopards in the semi-finals, the balance of the scores were all within the margin of 1.
This blog has in the past pointed out that the KPL Top 8 is a reward for proper first leg dominance and why teams need to get hold of the first legs of any season in earnest. Apart from Gor Mahia who’s watched their season dogged by instability off the pitch, Tusker rightfully holds their place behind the KPL Top 8 2012 champions, one that would easily change once they meet their pending match in hand. AFC Leopards for their revival are already onto their 2nd/3rd/4th manager, depends on the direction you want to look at it- no recipe for stability.
The lessons are plenty, reasons awash in the contrast of excitement and disappointments and basking in the same brightness –a journey far from being achieved.
So as the debris settles on the KPL Top 8, the anger dies down on those who feel ripped off on issues of match venues and reality dawns on the winners that only a top 8 finish would guarantee them a defending champion position come 2015, what should be made of both Tusker and AFC Leopards seasons so far?
Can AFC Leopards deal with the reality that their first half the season has been dreadful and build on near misses to challenge for another KPL title as they mount a defence of the GOtv Shield title? How ever will Tusker, for all their appearance of early season dominance and stability, seek to rubber stamp their position amongst the elite with another title before the year ends?