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EXCLUSIVE: Why AFC Leopards stripped Eugene Mukangula of captaincy

AFC Leopards chairman Dan Shikanda says midfielders Eugene Mukangula and Peter Thiong’o were stripped off the captaincy on disciplinary grounds.

The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League club confirmed on its social media pages on June 7, 2023, that Mukangula and Thiong’o had been stripped off the leadership roles within the playing unit.

The club statement, however, stopped short of spelling the reasons behind the decision.

And in an exclusive interview with Nairobi News, Shikanda, a former footballer, explained the two players failed to show leadership during the recent row between the players and management.

In the stand-off, the players went on strike and refused to honour the league match against Vihiga Bullets in what Nairobi News understands is a pay dispute. It took the intervention of club officials for the players to board the club bus for the western Kenya trip on the eve of the game.

The result of the stand-off was a surprise 2-1 loss to the already relegated Vihiga Bullets at Mumias Sports Complex Stadium in Kakamega. The result was received by anger by a section of the supporters, with some of them turning their frustration on the players with not so pleasant comments.

The pay dispute occured when the players demanded all their May 2023 salaries before boarding the team bus. The club had paid 75% of the salaries. Shikanda says the club management expected Mukangula and Thiong’o to rally the players to honour the match.

“They failed to show leadership and we cannot have them continue serving the club at these two key positions. The money they were striking for has since been paid and we regret things went the way they did,” said Shikanda.

“The strike tainted the image of our sponsors Betika who have religiously supported the club in the last 11 months. Our fans are also angry and you could see that via the reaction in Kakamega. Striking was a big embarrassment and did a lot of damage to this club thus we can’t tolerate the conduct of the two players,” the club official added.

Shikanda further explained the management had given Belgium coach Patrick Aussems a free hand to pick the next captain and assistant before the next league match.

“Our former captain Robinson Kamura (now at Kakamega Homeboyz) steered this club during our worst financial moments but such issues were never witnessed. Now for the whole season players have been recieving their pay on time and we also explained to them why only 75 percent of their salary were paid. It was not fair to strike and the loss to Bullets was embarrassing.”

After the loss to Bullets, angry Leopards fans lead by one famously known as Pastor read the riot act to the players, telling those who are recking the club from within to ship out.

AFC Leopards monthly wage bill is Sh4.2 million. The only prestige Leopards have had this season was beating Gor Mahia 2-1 Mashemeji Derby last month to end the seven year jinx of not edging out their Mashemeji brothers.

Leopards are not in contention for the league title and was also edged out of the Mozzart Bet Cup semi-finals by their brothers Kakamega Homeboyz.

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