Exclusive: Inside Leopards at 60. Could This Mark the Awakening of the Sleeping Giant?

In an interview with SportsBoom, AFC Leopards celebrates 60 years with an array of events, including an international friendly against Associacio Esportiva Ramassa. Join Chairman Dr. Dan Shikanda as he discusses plans for structural improvements and partnerships with European clubs.

Exclusive: Inside Leopards at 60. Could This Mark the Awakening of the Sleeping Giant?
Louis Hobbs

Written by: Louis Hobbs

(Senior Sports Writer)

Reviewed by: Naim Rosinski

(Content Manager)

Last updated: 2024-03-27

5 minutes read

AFC Leopards, the oldest football club on Kenyan soil and the second most successful outfit after record league champions Gor Mahia FC turned sixty years old on Tuesday, March 12.

To commemorate 60 years in existence, the African sport club has organised a series of events and activities throughout the time in which local football competitions, precisely the top tier, take a break to pave the way for the FIFA international week. 

International Exchange: AFC Leopards vs. Associacio Esportiva Ramassa 

The icing on the cake will be an international friendly match pitting Leopards against Spanish team Associacio Esportiva (AE) Ramassa on March 24 at the Nyayo National Stadium located less than two kilometers on the south of Nairobi Central District (CBD).

Ramassa who are domiciled in the Spanish fourth tier will jet into Nairobi on March 22 ahead of the biggest day for the Leopards faithful and by extension Kenyan football.

The last time a European football club set foot in Kenya was in July 2019 when English Premier League side Everton toured and played Kenyan club Kariobangi Sharks in an international friendly match.

Kenyans from all walks of life thronged the Kasarani Stadium, the largest sporting facility in the country to watch the game in which several Everton stars played.

The planned Leopards vs. Ramassa friendly has been drawing massive attention and has been likened to the one Sharks played against Everton and the one pitting Gor Mahia against Hull City played in May 2018 in Nairobi.

"Our visitors are scheduled to arrive in Nairobi two days to our mass celebration at Nyayo Stadium," confirmed Leopards’ chairman Dr. Dan Shikanda. 

Building for the Future: AFC Leopards' Structural Revamp 

The thought of Leopards facing off a Spanish team is one that definitely thrills the fans and potentially presents a rare opportunity for the players and technical bench members to pick lessons from their counterparts.

Leopards' bosses are however eyeing more and looking beyond the friendly match if Shikanda's revelations are anything to go by.

"We have been benchmarking and borrowing heavily from a good number of successful teams on the continent. One of the constants in the success stories of such clubs on African soil is having partnerships with European clubs," said Shikanda.

The Leopards chief says striking an exchange program with Ramassa and tapping technical support is an item on the table the two outfits are still deliberating on.

"Ramassa has amazing youth structures and are head and shoulders above as far as technical setup is concerned. We hope to seal a partnership that will be of mutual benefit," he said, letting the cat out of the bag. 

Image Credits: The Standard 

Image Credits: The Standard 

Friendly Matches and Rivalries: Uniting Football Icons 

Apart from the Leopards vs. Ramassa friendly penciled for the D-Day, two friendly matches are lined up for the day at the same venue.

The organizers intend to have a friendly match between Leopards and Gor Mahia legends in the morning with the respective clubs’ women's teams locking horns shortly after the lunch break.

Leopards and Gor Mahia are the two oldest clubs in Kenya and enjoy the lion's share of support. The rivalry between them is simply unmatched.

"Apart from the contest between our main team and our visitors from Spain, we will have two friendly matches on the day. We have invited the Gor Mahia legends and their women's team. They will play our legends and women's teams respectively. Yes, Gor Mahia are our biggest rivals, but we share history with them, and we are the foundation on which Kenyan football sits on," said Shikanda. 

Future Prospects: Transforming AFC Leopards 

One might wonder why Leopards who are christened Ingwe are planning to hold grand celebrations in which invitations have been extended to the President, and his deputy among other dignitaries yet the club's structures are in tatters.

Shikanda, a former Kenyan international during his active years as a footballer says the main aim is for the club to right the wrongs done in the past and lay a firm ground structures-wise.

"This is a moment for the Leopards fraternity to join hands and get some things right. It is a shame that we are 60 years old, yet we are a briefcase club. We don't have a training ground, or physical address among other important things. The celebration will be our turning point as we have ideas which we are planning to implement for the sake of the future of the club," said Shikanda who joked that the only tangible asset the club had is a good bus and a rich history. 

Engaging the Fanbase: Membership Growth Initiatives 

Through the celebrations, Leopards hopes to grow its membership from 6,000 to millions.

"We are the most followed team in the country, but our members are slightly over six thousand. During the ceremony, we intend to tell our supporters the benefits of being more than a fan and the significance of registering," expressed Shikanda.

Meanwhile, Leopards kicked off the celebrations with a visit to the Shangilia Mtoto Africa Children's Home located in Kibagare in Nairobi on Tuesday morning.

The club is expected to conduct more Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in the course of the week and beyond.

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Louis Hobbs

Louis Hobbs

Meet Louis Hobbs, our esteemed authority on all matters sports-related. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Louis effortlessly emerges as our go-to expert. His particular expertise in the realms of darts and snooker sets him apart and brings a level of insight that goes beyond the ordinary. Louis also holds a deep affection for all things related to US sports, with a special emphasis on basketball and American football, which stand out as his particular favorites. His content may not resonate with you, if you don't consider Lamar Jackson the most skilled player in the NFL.

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