Asembo’s Leopards chairmanship bid polarises The Den
Despite being vilified as the vice-president of the previous Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and once being ejected from the leadership of the club, Robert Asembo has thrown his hat in the ring for the chairmanship of AFC Leopards.
In 2011, the then Secretary General and Julius Ochiel who was Ingwe chairman were ejected from Nairobi’s City Stadium by irate fans in a Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clash against Posta Rangers and soon after, forced to quit his post.
In 2014, former FKF president, Sam Nyamweya ratified his appointment as his vice-president after he served in acting capacity since the elected holder of the office, Sammy Shollei was suspended from the game barely a year after the elections.
His tenure at the national governing body had nothing to write home about, with FKF plagued by scandals that saw sponsors flee the organisation leading to a cash-crunch that is still being felt today.
Naturally, his bid to retain his post at the February FKF elections saw him finish last as Doris Petra; the former NEC Member for Nyanza who had de-camped from the Nyamweya camp trounced all candidates to the seat.
However, the lawyer by profession feels he is the man to bring the struggling league giants back on their feet and bring Ingwe back to the glory days, his tattered leadership reputation notwithstanding.
Asembo developed interest with Leopards in the year 2007 and 08 season when the club was relegated to the second division.
“I was hurt when I saw Leopards being axed from the top league something that made me to move closer to the club and try and help. It made me vie for Secretary General Seat on 13th December 2009 and won the seat.
“Six month later I managed to participate in securing a three-year sponsorship from Mumias Sugar Company,” the Nairobi lawyer held.
During his tenure, Ingwe signed some crowd favourites including immediate former captain Martin Imbalambala, Bernard Mang’oli and Edwin Wafula who were instrumental in winning the Gotv Shield Cup in 2013.
Having served the team and federation, Asembo maintains he has the experience to run the club that is going through another turbulent season, falling from the KPL summit to 11th on 17 points, 12 adrift of leaders Tusker FC.
“I’m the best suited person because I have been exposed to how football is run not just here in Kenya but in the whole of Africa. I have seen how clubs are managed, how matches are organised, how competitions are run and how football is governed.
“I know how players are supposed to be managed, recruitment of players, sourcing players, how technical personalities are supposed to be hired,” the former secretary general asserted.
He dissociated himself from his erstwhile boss Nyamweya and the ill that plagued FKF saying he should not be made to bear his cross simply because he was working under him.
“I want to see a functional team and club that play good football that is visible in the league and region. I want to ensure that proper foundations are laid whereby even if we start a project it cannot be changed and can continue when I’m not in the office.
“We may not be able to be like TP Mazembe of Dr Congo or Al Ahly of Egypt but to borrow some few practices that they own but we will have our own way that matches them,” he added.
His candidature has drawn opposition from a section of the club’s stakeholders who deem he is not fit for the job owing to his controversial management past.
Leopards’ legend, George Sunguti, furiously rebuked the idea of recycling of leaders including Asembo at The Den. He called upon the Electoral Board to give former players an opportunity to vet the aspirants before they join the race.
“We are tired of the same leaders who never bring changes in the club. They have been here for so long and its time we now try new faces completely.
“I’m the one who saved Asembo from the wrath of fans who were baying for his head at City Stadium all because of poor leadership,” the former revered defender told Citizen Digital.
“Anybody who once held any position in the Den and never brought changes must not be allowed back again. There is a big problem in AFC right now and we need someone with a neutral mind with new faces behind him so as we may start afresh.
“Since I won the League with the club in 1998, we are still to get back to our glory days because of poor leadership,” he slammed.
In opposing his candidature, Sammy Seveni of Leopards Buruburu Branch in Nairobi alleged Asembo of plotting the club’s downfall when he was the vice-president of FKF during the dispute between the federation and KPL over the composition of the top flight.
“He is a joker. He supported Nyamweya in luring Leopards to play in FKF Premier League at the expense of KPL. Asembo even sided with Mathew Opwora with the aim of forming a parallel team and even gave him money to facilitate all this,” he claimed.
In March last year, it was widely reported Leopards had agreed to join the 18-team FKF-PL with players in club gear under former head coach, Jan Koops even holding training sessions at the Kabete Technical Training Institute grounds before the team continued participation in the 16-team KPL.
Opwora who is also eyeing the chairmanship is one of the co-chairmen of the Interim Management Committee constituted last December to run the club after yet another leadership crisis.
Tony Omusina of Eastleigh Branch declared Asembo unfit since ‘he has no interest of the club at heart.’
“After being ejected from office, Asembo went AWOL in matters Ingwe and he has never been heard or seen. Is it because we have a sponsor now that he wants to return?”Omusina posed.
Sammy Dutira of Kawangware Branch differs with the critics saying Asembo can steer the team forward.
“He has a democratic right to vie. He is a man of action and if we give him a chance he will push the club to the next level,” he maintained.
Ingwe will hold their elections on July 3 at Nairobi’s Safaricom Stadium.
-Report by Godfrey Ashiali