At Leopards lair, extortion is the norm – former coaches claim
By Chrisphine Magak
Startling claims have emerged that may punch holes on the integrity on the part of leadership of 12-time Kenyan Premier League champions, AFC Leopards.
Two European coaches who formerly handled the club before a fall-out have now come out, claiming that some of the club’s officials are engaged in behind-the-scene extortionist game, where new players have to part with a percentage of their sign-on-fee in exchange for places in the team.
In disturbing claims laid bare in an online interview with Citizen Digital, Briton Stewart Hall who handled the club from September last year before prematurely throwing in the towel early this year, and Romanian Dorian Maria, whose troubled stint didn’t last beyond three weeks, have come out to spill the beans, saying that there are “some corrupt officials within the club with a tendency of chopping off a percentage of the players sign-on fee”.
The two coaches have linked the club’s treasurer Oliver Napali and Organizing Secretary Timothy Lilumbi to the scheme.
However, in a rejoinder, the accused, together with the club hierarchy, have pleaded innocence, adding that their reputation is being soiled.
In separate online interviews, the coaches claimed that some players including a goalkeeper, and four midfielders, paid 10 percent of their sign-on-fees to the officials before being admitted to the club.
Dorian, who insisted that he was the club’s coach when he was disowned in June this year after a bitter fall-out with the senior players and club’s hierarchy, claimed that two midfielders were signed during his tenure in a manner that raised eyebrows.
He says the two agreed to have their fees sliced by the officials thus fast-tracking their signing process, while other potential players who refused to play ball were left out.
“No foreign-based player hired by AFC Leopards was accepted without sharing at least 10 percent of his earnings. That was the signing condition for the local payers as well. I think that explains the continuous player movements in and out of the club. Oliver Napali and Timothy Lilumbi are the ones doing this business,” the sharp shooting Marin, hitherto known for his savage tongue, said: “Just to confirm what was happening, I proposed (Ugandan) Geoffrey Sserunkuma, who knowing his value, did not agree on sharing his salary. He was therefore not signed and instead the club brought on board other foreign players on the same pay or bigger salaries,” he claimed.
Marin, who formerly coached the Eritrea national football team claimed that the duo colluded to ‘eat’ a percentage of some coaches’ salaries too, citing his case.
Marin added that a number of officials came calling in attempts to get a share of his money but never succeeded because his ‘appointment’ was done straight by the club chairman Dan Mule; and not through an agent “as is always the case” at the club.
“This trend affected me too. I remember we had a meeting on June 14 and the board said my sign-on- fee was a lot but I knew that if I called Napali and promised a cut, it could have been paid.
“Since I didn’t do that, I was not paid but shockingly, two new foreign players received their fees on the same day,” he added.
On his part, Hall, an assured coach who has over the ages earned respect due to his meticulous coaching skills, and who coached Leopards between October 2016 and June 2017, said he spotted an instance where the treasurer and organizing secretary could have influenced the signing of about four players to the club. He asserts that Ingwe can do better if some of its officials avoid making corrupt decisions.
“Everybody says they (the officials) are corrupt. During my time, they signed three or four players where it (corruption) could have happened. I remember the signing of a goalkeeper and a midfielder. I think the treasurer and organizing secretary are highly involved in this,” the Briton who has a distinguished coaching record the Tanzanian moneybags Azam, helping them to a Cecafa Club Championship crown in 2015, said.
When contacted, treasurer Napali declined to delve into the accusations, insisting that “he is not mandated to talk to media whatsoever”.
“I don’t respond to the media. I think I need not to discuss with you. Any communication from the club has to come from the CEO or the Secretary General,” he said.
Secretary General Oscar Igaida, for his part, admitted that most players don’t receive their sign-on fees in lump sum due to financial constraints bedeviling the club, adding that he is not aware of instances where part of a player’s salary ‘go to other people’s pockets’.
“Personally I’m not aware of such an incident; what I know is that sometimes we don’t pay players in full because of lack of funds. We usually sit as NEC and make agreements then pay the players directly. If they cut and give someone else, I don’t know,” he explained.
Leopards are currently sponsored by a leading bookmaker who pumps in about Sh 40 million a year in shirt deal.
Meanwhile, Lilumbi, who has had a love-hate relationship with the club fans, being voted in and out in his fairly long stint in the club leadership, has read malice in entire development, insisting that he’s clean by virtue of not operating in the club’s financial docket. According to Lilumbi, the two coaches are instruments being used by ‘enemies’ to bring him down.
“That’s bullshit! I don’t operate in the finance department at AFC Leopards so there is nowhere I touch money.
“I suspect this is just another plan to discredit my name and reputation as has been the case in my many years in this club. Surprisingly, at some point, I had suspected that coach Stewart Hall had colluded with a member of national executive committee during his reign to sign their preferred players so as to get a cut but I did not raise the question because I never had evidence. So I know such things might happen but I’m not in it,” he fumed.
Club chairman Dan Mule also defended his officials, ruling out the possibility of anyone slicing players’ salaries at any point. He says his team has worked hard as a unified front to put Leopards on its feet and that anyone trying to talk ill of the administration is simply an enemy.
“Dorian was there for a few weeks. He has never been here when we were signing players so I fail to understand how he claims to know all these. I think someone is feeding him with false information in a bid to destroy some people’s reputation,” Mule said, adding that, “I cannot agree with someone who says my treasurer receives money while signing players, because he(treasurer) has used over Sh 1 million from his pocket to help the club. My office is working in unity and I will not allow anyone to come between us. As the chairman, I strongly deny that such corrupt acts have ever happened at the club,” he said.
The exit of the duo paved way for the re-appointment of local talent, coach Robert ‘The Lion’ Matano, under whose leadership, the club lifted the 2017 GOtv Shield to qualify for the 2018 Caf -Confederation Cup tournament.
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