Payment issues expected, but unwelcome distraction for resurgent Ingwe

22nd February 2024

Ingwe players refused to train on Wednesday as they demanded for settlement of their winning allowance.

PHOTO| AFC Leopards
PHOTO| AFC Leopards
  • Ingwe are currently on an 8-match unbeaten streak (W6 D2).
  • So good have the Leopards been since the turn of the year that if the season were to start in January, they would be sitting pretty at the top of the log.
  • They downed their tools on Wednesday demanding to be paid their four-match winning allowance amounting to 20,000.

By Stephen Ayoo

You knew that trouble was brewing in the Den, didn’t you? The real question was, when would it erupt?

If you have closely followed Kenyan football over the years, you can almost predict how the season will unravel for two of the country's most popular clubs: Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.

As part of the tumultuous narrative, the Mashemeji Derby typically sees crowd disturbances; one or both teams get banned from certain stadiums; a coach gets sacked sooner than later; there will be lots of misses in the transfer business (key word there being business); players will at some point go on strike due to nonpayment, et cetera, et cetera.

And after all that drama, Gor Mahia clinch the league title while AFC Leopards finish in a position that disrespects their rich history.

The season ends, and the cycle begins anew.

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Every narrative there warrants its own article. However, for today, I’ll dwell on the payment issues that, if not addressed amicably, could skin the Leopards who are having a resurgent second half of the season.

So good have the Leopards been since the turn of the year that if the season were to start in January, they would be sitting pretty at the top of the log.

They have been in the in-form team in 2024 and were on an un-Leopard-like five-game winning run before they were held to a barren draw at Kakamega Homeboyz last weekend in the Ingo Derby.

On a different day, that result would have been celebrated by Tomas Trucha’s side – they barely succeed in Bukhungu – but it felt like two points lost rather than one gained given the dash the visitors were in.

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Hardly had the dust settled from that encounter when reports emerged that the players refused to train until their outstanding winning bonuses were settled. These bonuses, amounting to Ksh. 20,000 each, accrued over the course of the winning streak.

This development evoked mixed reactions from football stakeholders. While some argue that every earned penny should be paid, others express discontent at the perceived ingratitude of the players, insisting that as long as their salaries are up-to-date, they should continue playing for the badge.

You have to give it to the players for at least getting the timing for their protest right. Leopards’ next assignment is a Football Kenya Federation Cup tie against PAC University on Sunday.

I know Cup ties usually throw an upset here and there but there will be absolute mutiny if Leopards fail to win this fixture, despite the go-slow. They should have enough artillery in their arsenal to brush aside the students and add to their winning allowances claim.

ALSO READ: Entitled Ingwe players refuse to train over 20k winning allowance

Anything less than victory and you feel everyone will be clamoring for the panic button.

The FKF Cup represents Leopards' most realistic chance of silverware this season, as it has in recent years. Last season, they bossed their way into the semifinal but lost to Homeboyz, their hopes of a return to continental football for the first time since 2018 dashed by two quick-fire first-half goals.

Leopards will once again be among the favorites, especially if they are to carry their league form into the Cup competition.

PAC University will undoubtedly put up a fight and aim to frustrate the big dog, but Leopards should emerge victorious.

That is in the short term.

In the long term, we wait to see how the bonuses blip, which has obviously strained the relationship between the playing unit and the management, will affect how Leopards perform in the league when they host relegation-battling Nzoia Sugar next Sunday.

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