Open the way, Leopards and Shabana are coming!

Sichenje Ronald (right) of AFC Leopards vies for the ball with Shabana's Aduda Abisolom

Sichenje Ronald (right) of AFC Leopards vies for the ball with Shabana's Aduda Abisolom during their Football Kenya Federation Premier League match at Ulinzi Sports Complex in Nairobi on October 1,2023. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The sold-out Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKF-PL) match between AFC Leopards and Shabana on Sunday at Ulinzi Sports Complex in Nairobi illustrated the potential of Kenyan football to attract big crowds once again.

The 7,500-capacity stadium was filled to overflow as the two community clubs clashed for the first time in over a decade.

Shabana made a return to the FKF-PL this season after 17 years in the wilderness They were promoted to the top flight league after winning the 2022/23 National Super League.

As early as 11am, the traffic flow on the busy Langata road, which leads to the heavily-guarded facility was at a snail’s pace, as the supporters of the two teams, journalists and other interested football enthusiasts trooped to the venue to watch the match.

Some arrived in private cars and hired buses but a majority used the popular matatus plying the route. There being only one entry point to the complex for fans, long queues were witnessed at the parking space in front of the stadium’s gate. Police had to intervene at some point as impatient fans tried to force their way in.

“The high-profile fixture was chosen as the premier of the e-ticketing platform for stadium access towards the sustainability of our club. The ticketing progressed smoothly without system failure,” Leopards said in a statement.

“Shabana fans accessed the stadium in an organised manner unlike a section of our supporters who were very impatient , warranting the security to use some force to restore order. We have however picked lessons from this first experience and reassure you that e-ticketing shall be smooth in the coming matches.”

In accordance with the electronic ticketing system that Leopards introduced on September 24, the fans were required to purchase the match’s ticket online.

Regular and VIP tickets were going for Sh200 and Sh500 respectively.

Sports CS Ababu Namwamba and Kisii Governor Simba Arati were among the dignitaries in attendance.

Shabana fans were the noisiest in the match until in the 13th minute when Brian Yakhama put 'Ingwe' ahead from the spot. Shabana salvaged a point through Peter Ongechi’s equalizer in the 21st minute.

Speaking to Nation Sport on Monday, Leopards’ Secretary General Gilbert Andugu heaped praise on fans for showing up in large numbers for the encounter. He said they were in the process of computing the match's attendance and amount raised from the gate collection, which they will release to the public by close of business yesterday.

Shabana coach Sammy Okoth has demanded more from his strikers after collecting three points from five matches to lie 16th on the 18-team table.

He said that he was misquoted last week saying he would resign.

“I said that if we continue to concede easy goals then I will not be part of a team. We are trying to rectify the mistakes but if there will be no improvement, then I think it will be right for someone else to come and try to make things work.”

Winless Leopards are 15th with four points.

Meanwhile, 2009 champions Sofapaka have parted ways with Burundian coach Francis Haringingo following a string of poor results.