Zapata’s headache as striking Leopards players refuse to travel
New AFC Leopards coach Rodolfo Zapata has been handed a reality check at his new workstation after senior players at the club went on strike on Friday morning.
The Argentine coach, who is barely a month into his new job, risks having what should be his debut in the Kenyan Premier League in charge of Ingwe marred by the latest players’ boycott.
Leopards, who have blown hot and cold in recent weeks, have a date with Chemelil Sugar in Kisumu on Saturday, but now Zapata could possibly watch helplessly as the club forfeits crucial points after his players refused to travel to the lakeside city on Friday morning.
The players are demanding accrued winning bonuses for league wins over Mathare United, Wazito FC and Kakamega Homeboyz in March, amounting to Sh700,000.
By 10am on Friday, the team was yet to depart Nairobi for the eight hour journey to Kisumu.
A player who spoke on condition anonymity for fear of victimization explained that the players would only honour the fixture if the club meets their demands.
“We are not boarding. Now the club has the money and we do not see any need for the delays in payments. Besides there are reports that most of us will be dropped in June. We are ready to leave but with all our dues,” the player told Nairobi News.
Interestingly, Leopards only recently sealed a Sh150 million three year sponsorship deal with SportPesa, and it was hoped this development will arrest the consistent financial challenges facing the club.
Zapata only officially joined the club last week, his first assignment at the dugout was to oversee a 5-4 penalty defeat to arch-rivals Gor Mahia in the Hull City Challenge in Nakuru on Tuesday.
Formerly in charge of Gaborone United in Botswana, the Argentine coach was hoping to debut in the league against bogey side Chemelil this weekend.
This is the second time inside a month that Leopards players are striking and threatening not to honour league matches.