NAIROBI, Kenya- Two-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and domestic cup title winning coach, Robert Matano, has urged AFC Leopards SC to come out clean on his position if the club does not harbour ‘personal vendetta’ against him.
Speaking to SportPesa News on Wednesday, Matano who took charge at the Den last July for his third coaching stint following his spells in charge of the domestic giants in 2010 and 11 maintained he was formally aware of any decision to suspend or sack him as widely reported in the media.
The man known as ‘The Lion’ for his no nonsense approach to coaching and getting results maintained he had discharged his duties at the club professionally and asked the top management at Ingwe to deal with his future using the same approach as opposed to the matter playing out in the media.
On Wednesday reports filtered through that Matano who led Sofapaka FC and Tusker FC to the 2009 and 2012 KPL titles had been sacked.
When contacted, Leopards Secretary General, Oscar Igaida, said the team would communicate to their coach on Thursday in an effort to put to rest the confusion that has been simmering for a fortnight since Matano was requested to stand down to the team that was travelling to Sony Sugar FC.
In his absence from first team coaching duties, assistant coach, Dennis Kitambi, has led the team to three successive KPL victories, 2-0 away to Sony, a scintillating 4-3 thriller against Mathare United FC and on Wednesday, another 3-2 spectacular against new boys Wazito FC.
“I don’t know anything about those reports. I cannot understand or explain because I cannot explain things I’m not aware. I’m hearing reports Matano has been suspended, Matano has been sacked or Matano has no papers.
“I’ve not been officially informed I have been suspended or sacked. All what I’ve heard is speculation. I have not been given any reason (by the club) for my suspension or sacking,” the respected coach offered with a laugh.
“Whenever you are suspended or sacked, a letter should be written explaining the reasons behind the action and detailing the period. Without such reasons, there nothing to explain and I have a two-year contract.
“In fact, they have emboldened me because they are communicating to me through the press. There are laws to be followed and Leopards is a big team that should conduct their affairs professionally, not through rumours,” Matano who won the 2010 domestic cup with Sofapaka and Leopards last year stressed.
The seasoned coach said attempts to taint his image through the media would come to a cropper since his record speaks for itself.
“They should come and explain what wrongs I have done to deserve what is happening but it has nothing to do with performance. We cannot say its about not winning. Most of the players are new and I recruited them when we did not have money through my influence.
“Some of them were called rejects but I took them because I know what they can do and they are today performing,” he added citing keeper Gabriel Adira and striker Ezekiel Odera who have starred for Ingwe this term.
According to Matano, their preliminary round exit in the 2018 CAF Confederations Cup for FOSA Juniors FC of Madagascar on the away goal rule when the tie ended 1-1 on aggregate (0-0 at Bukhungu Stadium, 1-1 in Antananarivo) should not be used as a reason to dispense with his duties.
“Losing and winning is part of the game. Losing one match which we did not prepare well for continental and we struggled to make sure we did not lose at home and we lost honourably in the end.
“Some of the players are new, some of the players are not exposed but they came up well and I when I saw them (FOSA), I knew they could not beat us and we did not retire in those matches.
“We prepared as we could for these matches but no one can say that Leopards went to camp or we scouted our opponents ahead of the game, therefore, no one should blame the team because after that, we won a tough match against Ulinzi,” he insisted.
Having opened the 2018 KPL campaign with a big win against fellow domestic titans, Ulinzi Stars FC, Leopards lost 1-2 to Sofapaka in what was Matano’s last game in charge on February 28.
“I know how well we played in the second match but lost the game because any team can lose. After that, we went to Sony and I was told not to go for training. The team has been winning because of the spirit we built in the team and the person in charge is now being considered a good choice,” the former midfielder charged.
“I have no problem with being sacked. It will not be the first time and if it is the decision of the management, I do not think they have a good reason. If they had, I would have personally felt I have done a mistake. You can be removed from a position because they don’t like you, not because you are not performing,” Matano emphasised.
“The best way for anyone to ask you to step aside from your position is through a letter. That is what I know and I’m not aware of anything else out there regarding what is being said,” the tactician stressed.
Matano returned to Ingwe in July last year with the club facing relegation following the ill-fated stint of Romanian Dorian Marin who led the team to the finals of the inaugural SportPesa Super Cup in Tanzania where they lost the final 3-0 to arch rivals and KPL champions, Gor Mahia FC.
The former midfield stalwart at Leopards led the club from hovering above the relegation zone to the safety of an eighth finish in the 2017 KPL on 45 points and won the acclaim of the Ingwe faithful when he led the club to their record equalling 10th domestic cup when they beat Kariobangi Sharks 2-0 to lift the GOtv Shield.
After losing the 2018 KPL Super Cup to Gor, Leopards embarked on their first campaign back on the continental scene since the 2014 Confed Cup but their run ended at the first hurdle when Ingwe came unstuck against FOSA.
That is when reports of unrest at the Den resurfaced when Matano was reported to have clashed with ex-Gor midfielder, Collins ‘Gatusso’ Okoth who had been offered a new lease of life by ‘The Lion’ to re-establish his flagging career.
The player was suspended at the club and failed to attend showdown talks with the team on Monday according to reports having hit the headlines last Friday when he was accused of threatening to kill a journalist who penned an article he viewed in bad light.