Juma warns Bandari as Mbungo entertains familiar foe
The last time Andre Casa Mbungo was on the pitch in a competitive Kenyan Premier League match involving AFC Leopards, he was the head coach of the 12-time champions.
On Friday, over a year later, Mbungo will for the first time meet Leopards in a match situation at the Mbaraki Sports Club Mombasa, this time round in Bandari FC colours who recently acquired his services as he made a swift return into the local scene.
An astute tactician who had won Leopards family hearts before his unceremonious exit after enduring over three months without pay, meets Leopards who are limping for off pitch but serious reasons while he is out to make a statement to his new employers.
Serious in the sense that for the first time since last season Leopards are fresh from a go-slow for unpaid salaries, and recently parted ways with their coach Anthony Kimani whose camaraderie with the current squad was working wonders –at least going by the results he registered.
The Leopards are also heading to the coastal city with a new coach, Belgian Patrick Aussems for his league debut amid the conundrum emanating from this week’s players strike. Of course, he would have loved a different way to welcome him at the den.
The recent setbacks notwithstanding, Leopards Operations Manager Tom Juma is firm that Leopards’ quest for the title is undented and Bandari should brace for a tough clash in their backyard.
“The go-slow issue is behind us, we have quickly shifted to what is ahead of us. You don’t dwell on the past in football, you keep looking ahead. We have trained today (Thursday) and that’s the bit players should do in preparation for a match meaning we are ready to go,” a confident Juma said.
The former Harambee Stars ace noted the go-slow that disrupted the team’s training on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was not a serious matter as painted, calling for calm among fans.
“It was sorted, it was just a problem of communication between the management and the players. We have very disciplined players and that’s why you have not heard of such cases for a long time now, including when everyone was crying during the long COVID-19 break.
“I therefore appeal to the fans to do their part which is supporting the team, as we do our part as the technical bench. We go for maximum points in Mombasa and there is no excuse about it. Should the result be undesirable, it must not be linked with what has happened because that’s an issue of the past” offered Juma.
To the former midfield maestro said the presence of Mbungo in the Dockers’ technical bench, having coached just a year ago most of the players Leopards will be parading against Bandari is a non-issue to them.
“Coaches come and go, that’s a constant reality in football. He was here and left and we have moved on. We go to play Bandari and not Mbungo, it’s nothing to worry us,” told Juma, further noting Aussems is already settled for the job.
“Aussems is a top coach and is not being introduced to anything new here. Of course the more he stays the more his influence in the team will be felt but he is ready for the job, including Bandari’s match.”
Bandari are on their end beaming with hope and buoyancy, Mbungo declaring war for his former team in his Thursday press briefing at Mbaraki.
“Our start into the season was somehow slow looking at what some of our opponents in the league have already bagged. We therefore must quickly catch up, and we want to win the next three fixtures to affirm our quest, starting with tomorrow’s,” the soft-spoken Rwandese said.
With Kimani set to join him at Bandari, Leopards’ could find Bandari well aware of their secret to their so far fine run, which places them fourth on the log.
“Kimani has really grown since I left him at Leopards. We had a splendid working relationship then, and he will add much value if he finally joins us (Bandari),” Mbungo told reporters on Thursday, close sources revealing the two have been in contact since his return to Kenya.
Kimani, left Ingwe who jetted out of Nairobi on Friday morning for the afternoon match, a fortnight ago immediately after the arrival of Aussems at the den.
A win will see the sixth placed Bandari go level on points with Leopards, 19, while Leopards have a chance to storm the top three if they seal maximum points.