James Magayi and Charles Thuku @PeopleSports11
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and Kenyan Premier League (KPL) have gone for each other’s throat yet again, this time the tiff involving the upcoming Harambee Stars friendly matches and the “Mashemeji” derby pitting Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.
FKF have scheduled the first of Stars’ friendlies against Swaziland in Machakos on Friday while the derby is set to take place at Kakamega’s Bukhungu Stadium on Saturday. Gor and Leopards have 10 players in the 24-man Stars squad named by new coach Sebastian Migne.
FKF insists national team duties supersede league matches with federation boss Nick Mwendwa adamant there will be no derby on Saturday as it will compromise Migne’s assessment of all the players he has summoned to camp.
“Gor and Leopards have between five and seven players in the national team and it would thus be untenable to have the teams be involved in the derby. Remember, Kenya is playing Ghana in September and coach Migne need ample time to gauge the capability of each player,” said Mwendwa.
But KPL would have none of it. “Since the friendly matches do not fall on stipulated dates by FIFA, we ask the federation to use available players so that the derby can be played. Already, Gor Mahia have accumulated games and there is bound to be others since they are still in the CAF Confederation Cup. We don’t have time,” said KPL chief executive officer Jack Oguda.
Leopards have also waded into the issue, saying as the home team, they are already finalising preparations for the match and nothing is going to change.
“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the statements attributed to the FKF president that the match will not be played in a “Funny stadium”, didn’t he know that Bukhungu was a “Funny stadium’ when Cecafa was hosted there? We are going ahead with preparations and we shall not participate in “Funny Friendlies” which do not fall under FIFA calendar for the national teams,” read a statement sent to the press from Leopards secretary general Oscar Igadia.
Owing to the importance of the derby, both Gor and Leopards would pull their players from national team camp to participate unless KPL reschedules the league match to pave way for the players to take part in the friendlies.
Clubs are not obligated to release their players for such fixtures, meaning Gor and Leopards players’ participation solely relies on goodwill and understanding between FKF and KPL.
Meanwhile, former Gor and Poti Kolkheti left back Eric Ouma has made his comeback into the national team since being frozen out a year ago by then head Stanley Okumbi.
Ouma, who moved from the Georgian club to Albanian outfit FK Tirana, linked up with the Harambee Stars squad which pitched camp yesterday for the two friendly matches.