Football Kenya Federation Division One side Shabana have warned SportPesa Premier League giants AFC Leopards not to expect an easy run in Saturday’s SportPesa Shield Cup at Kisumu’s Moi Stadium.
In what will be a meeting of two of Kenya’s oldest soccer rivals—a first in 19 years—they have had contrasting fortunes in the recent past with Leopards suffering relegation 10 years ago before coming back while Shabana have never managed to hit the heights that made them so revered in the 80s and 90s.
If fact, Shabana have been going from bad to worse as they were relegated from second-tier National Super League to Division One last season even though they have been showing signs of life in recent matches.
It is that good run of form that coach Andrew Kanuli is counting on ahead of the meeting with 12-time league winners Leopards who have not been doing well in the top flight.
“Football is won on the pitch. We respect AFC Leopards as defending champions but we don’t fear them. The team has conceded in every game but they have also scored in every game. We hope to exploit their weaknesses,” he said.
He, however, regretted that the game will be played in Kisumu and not Shabana’s home ground Gusii Stadium which is currently undergoing renovations ahead of the Kenya Inter-County Sports and Cultural Association (Kicosca) games in August.
Shabana captain Wycliffe Nyangechi echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying: “We can beat Leopards. We go into the game as underdogs but we are confident of pulling an upset.”
Former club chairman Jared Nivaton has also promised the players Sh125, 000 if they beatLeopards which is set to act as an extra source of motivation for the cash-strapped side.
“This is one of the most important games for the team this season. You can do it even though most of you have not played at that level. I have seen lesser sides fell giants before,” said Nivaton, who has also given a bus to fans who will travel to Kisumu. Shabana fans’ chairman Boniface Ntabo said more than 10 buses will ferry fans to Kisumu.