AFC Leopards’ Kimani excited ahead of first derby as coach

Antony Kimani played two derbies in his brief stint as an AFC Leopards player, winning one, a Cup final and losing another, a league tie. On Sunday, he will be stepping up on the touchline in a different capacity, that of the head coach.

The 38-year old was an assistant to Rwandese Casa Mbungo last season and was asked to take charge after the latter resigned and has helped stabilize Ingwe’s ship. But it is on the derby where his young coaching credentials will be highly scrutinized.

It is always a special feeling to be involved in the derby as a player but it is an even greater privilege to lead the team as a coach.Antony Kimani, AFC Leopards coach

“I am definitely excited at the prospect of facing one of the best teams in the country at the moment. It is a big challenge but I am up to the task,” Kimani says.

“It is always a special feeling to be involved in the derby as a player but it is an even greater privilege to lead the team as a coach. But it will definitely be different this time as a coach but I will try to bring in the experience I picked up as a player to help the guys prepare well for the Sunday game.”

Kimani’s derby day joy was during the 2013 FKF Cup final where they beat Gor 1-0 at the Nyayo Stadium with the current coach putting up a sterling display in defense to thwart a potent Gor attacking line. He wasn’t lucky in the league tie that followed as his side lost 1-0.

The tactician who honed his playing skills with decades of experience at Mathare United has helped push Leopards to the top half of the standings despite seeing almost half of the team leave during the January transfer window.

Leopards have won four of their last five games and are placed sixth in the standings with 40 points, 11 behind their arch rivals who lead the log. But, Kimani says he is not worried with the points difference between the two rivals.

“The derby knows no form. It is a game of pride and anyone who takes their chance best on the day will carry the day. Every player wants to put their best foot forward and it will not be different for us,” Kimani added.

He added; “We have worked hard on the mentality of the players because most of the times we have matched Gor tactically and technically but the mental part of it has always been a problem.”

Leopards has not beaten Gor since March 2016 when they won 1-0. In the subsequent 10 meetings, Gor has totally dominated, winning nine and drawing one. Their last meeting was in November 2019, K’Ogalo totally annihilating Ingwe 4-1 with a masterclass display.

“We know they have dominated in the last several meetings but we are determined to break that dominance and win that game for our own pride and for the fans too. We have prepared very well, the players are focused and everyone is looking forward for three points,” AFC skipper Robinson Kamura stated.

Meanwhile, Gor will be keen to continue their dominance over their rivals though head coach Steve Polack does not expect it to be easy.

“Teams always come tough against us and I don’t expect them (AFC Leopards) to be any different. It will definitely be a tough game but we are focused and every player is working hard. There has been some concern over the way we concede goals but we have tried to work on that and I think we are ready,” Polack noted.

Ahead of the game, Gor will welcome back defender Joash Onyango who has finished serving his two match suspension while the tactician hopes winger Clifton Miheso can shake off a knock he picked up in training.

For AFC, midfielder Marvin Nabwire will miss with injury while Clyde Ssenaji will be serving the first of his two-match suspension after receiving a red card during last weekend’s 1-0 win over Chemelil Sugar.

Players to watch:

AFC Leopards: Elvis Rupia – On loan from Wazito FC, Nine goals this season, four in five games since joining AFC.

Gor Mahia: Kenneth Muguna; Seven goals this season, with 13 assists.

Source: Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF)

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