SWILA: What Shikanda must fix to make the Leopard reclaim its spots

Isaac Swilasports editor

Dan Shikanda, the youthful AFC Leopards chairman has been dreaming big of late. In the last two months, perhaps driven by sheer ambition, he has not shied from explaining the roadmap the former Kenyan giants would want to take.

His mind is clear: time has come for the big cats to reclaim what is rightfully theirs by gate crashing into the fabled high table of Kenyan football to dine with the likes of Tusker FC and of course Gor Mahia, their age-long rivals.

So infatuated has Shikanda been with the dream that he’s promising to leave no stone unturned in a bid to reclaim the lost glory.

On this, the good doc who in his heydays had his fair share of success turning out for Gor Mahia and Leopards has been on record reminding anyone who cares to listen that come next term,  the 2020/2021 season , the big cats will roar to their first league title in 22 years and a 13th one in general.

You see, the big cats have experienced a title hoodoo that would break even the conviction of a dyed- in-the wool Catholic priest. Twenty-two years and counting without a league title is premium failure!

In this period, their arch-rivals Gor Mahia who had themselves gone on a 18-year title  lull before breaking their title drought in 2013 under Scot coach Bobby Williamson, have so far won  6 league titles – in  2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and  in the 2018/ 2019 season.

This dominance has been loud and of course too painful on the backside of Leopards, who guided by tradition must, in the scheme of things, fight hard to reclaim the bragging rights.

Shikanda, as an ambitious club boss, has every reason to dream big. His leadership should not just be seen to offer fresh air at a club that has hitherto been camouflaged in darkness in two decades but his words must be laced with action.

League titles are not won in the press. Nada! What is needed from Shikanda is a clear vision of taking Leopards to the top – a roadmap broken into short, medium and long term plans.

This vision must be shared by his executive committee while rubbing it onto the technical bench – technical director, head coach, assistant head coach, team manager and the players.

The playing unit must also operate as a unit and move in the same direction if this purpose is to be achieved, with the club president being the driver.

Secondly, Shikanda must have a tangible plan of how to make these dreams attainable.

For instance, let’s narrow down to just one: football success. To achieve this, Shikanda will firstly need to have a coherent playing unit, a squad boasting of players of immense pedigree; quality that can match Gor Mahia in every sphere.

But that is not all. Players are not robots. They will need an impeccable top-notch coach who understands the dynamics of the modern game and up to scratch coaching skills. This coach should, and be able and willing to let his charges buy into his football philosophy.

In interim coach Anthony ‘Modo’ Kimani, a former club captain, Shikanda and the Ingwe fraternity have just the right man for the job, only a fool can argue otherwise.

What Shikanda and his executive must now do is to unequivocally back Kimani in the transfer market with the quality players he needs to mount a serious title challenge aimed at dethroning Gor Mahia from the helm.

Quality players don’t come cheap, and this drives me to the fourth pillar of this success. Player motivation: Like everyone else, footballers need motivation and Shikanda and his executive must ensure that even before the new season begins everything should be in place to ensure that the players don’t face the uncertain times, which, shamefully, has become a hallmark of donning the club’s jersey in the past.

Cases of unpaid salaries, unpaid bonuses, and player go-slows, sad and painful reports of players locked out of their rented apartments due to late or lack of salary payment should be a thing of the past.

Employees, for starters, are the most important resource a club can have and Shikanda and his ilk must ensure his players’ welfare is safeguarded.

Fifth: rallying the fans to the stadia.

The influence and impact of the twelfth man can never be gainsaid. Like in the 2012 season when Ingwe adherents flocked to the stadia in their numbers covering the length and breadth of the country to cheer their team under Jan Koops – the spirit should be reawakened.

Former AFC Leopards boss Jan Koops. (PHOTO/Courtesy)
Former AFC Leopards boss Jan Koops. (PHOTO/Courtesy)

The ball, one may argue, lies elsewhere, perhaps in the fans court but I beg to differ. Shikanda, as the club boss, must ignite the flame. He must initiate the process by rallying the leaders of the club branches to back this cause.

Firing coaches left right and centre can never be a panacea to a team’s troubles.

If past records are dug into then it makes for a shameful if not a painful reading.

Ingwe, since 2012 to date – eight years to be precise – have been handled by 11 coaches, meaning that averagely, no coach lasts a season at the den.

Take the period between 2016 and 2018 for instance; Leopards were handled by six coaches – Belgian Ivan Minanert, Briton Stewart Hall, Dorian Marin, Robert Matano, Argentine Rodolfo Zapata and Serbian Nikola Kazovic-Serbian – all losing their jobs in quick succession hence making a mockery of the coaching job at the club.

Such archaic ways of running the club must be a thing of the past and Shikanda, being the sober head he is, must keep faith in the young and fresh talent in coach Kimani and offer him unwavering support.

Lastly, politics and useless leadership wrangles must not be allowed to rear its ugly head. The executive must pull in the same direction while Kimani should work hard to not only win the title and dominance of the local scene but also mould and produce the next generation of super players.

Ingwe fans long for the golden days gone by when they’d watch some riveting display from the club legends such as Boniface Ambani, Abbas Mahmoud, Tom Juma, Tony Lidonde.

Yes, Ingwe, it can be done!