Troubled ‘Gattuso’ Okoth wants out as odd Leopards union crumbles
AFC Leopards midfielder Collins ‘Gattuso’ Okoth has made a formal request to leave the Den just two months into his one-and-a-half-year contract with the domestic giants.
In an exclusive interview with Citizen Digital, Gattuso laid bare details of the genesis of his rapid fallout with the club and how his relationship with head coach Robert Matano disintegrated in just a few weeks.
The 31-year-old claims his ties with former club Gor Mahia FC have put him at loggerheads with his current employers, with his tribulations sparked by an innocent Super Cup moment in January.
“Fans told the coach I was spotted hanging out with Gor officials and demanded to know why I’m playing. In fact they wanted to beat him up after we lost to Gor in Nakuru but the police came to his rescue,” Gattuso said.
With the 1-0 loss laid squarely on him by the Ingwe faithful, the defensive midfielder says he approached Matano and told him to leave him out of subsequent fixtures which included a league clash against Posta Rangers and a CAF Confederation Cup assignment against FOSA Juniors.
Matano, who previously worked with the player at Tusker FC, obliged to his request as Leopards went on to draw 1-1 with Posta although the player a first half cameo against Malagasy outfit Juniors at the Bukhungu Stadium.
That first leg tie ended 1-1 as Leopards failed to hold to an early lead with Gattuso crediting himself for helping contain the visiting midfield and swinging the game back to balance when the hosts had appeared to be on the back foot.
“It got tough and he (Matano) had to introduce me to slow the tempo of the game. I got in and a few minutes later all was well,” he underscored.
That display was watered down as Gattuso went into Ingwe‘s bad books again nine days later at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as his side awaited to depart to Madagascar for their return leg clash with Juniors.
This time even Matano was not amused.
“While at the airport I was spotted having a casual chat with Chris Omondi (former Gor Secretary General who works at the JKIA Immigration department) before going aboard. Matano got mad at me and accused me of delaying the team to board the plane as they waited for me.. I tried to explain myself but he simply could not listen to anything I said,” the combative player remarked.
Consequently, Gattuso was excluded from the match-day squad in Madagascar but his worst experience in a Leopards shirt was yet to come. He claims team officials conspired to leave him behind at the hotel as they proceeded for an early morning training session.
According to the player, the morning practice session had been scheduled for 9:00am local time but later found out it was clocked back 30 minutes. He arrived at the reception only to find the team gone. An AFC Leopards official who declined to be named said they waited for the player for 15 minutes before the coach decided to depart without him.
“Gattuso should be truthful; we called him several times but he didn’t respond so we decided to call the hotel extension but still there was no answer. Matthew Ottamax (goalkeeper trainer) went to his room and knocked for almost 15 minutes but Gattuso didn’t open,” the official told Citizen Digital.
“I had to find a cab and paid for it with my own money but when I got to the training ground, the team was not there. They had gone to the beach beach first before heading to the stadium where we supposed to play. I was supposed to start that match but I didn’t even make the bench,” Gattuso said.
But according to the club official, Gattuso refused to even change for the game and opted to go sit at the terraces.
“We had nineteen players in Madagascar. I pleaded with Gattuso to even change and sit on the bench if he didnt want to play. He refused and told me he had lost psyche for the match. Can you imagine we had six players on the bench instead of seven? And this included two goalkeepers!!”
Leopards would later be held to a barren draw by the hosts as they crashed out on away goal rule, bringing a quick end to their continental run.
For Gattuso, that moment spelled his time with Leopards was up. He recalled how he ended up signing for AFC Leopards.
“Matano came to my house and requested me to join AFC. I had my own plans for my career which I had already told them. I didnt want to sign for Ingwe, but Matano convinced me. What I’m seeing at the den is not what I expected. I don’t know if it is something to do with my roots because I have no peace there,” Gattuso offered.
The former Gor,Tusker, and Sofapaka anchorman has earned the reputation of being an uncontrollable figure yet many fans had pinned their hopes on Matano, a strict disciplinarian, to bring the best out of him but even him seems to have hit a snag.
When Matano was contacted over the matter, his reply was brief.
“I’m too busy to talk about Gattuso. Call him and ask him why he has not been attending training.”
The embattled player Gattuso who was again missing as Leopards lost 2-1 to Sofapaka FC on Wednesday February 28 says he has already offered to refund the club of the KSh200,000 sign-on fee it paid for his services in return for his release letter. Instead, they have served him with a disciplinary letter.