The inclusion of Kenyan internationals Paul Were and David Cheche Ochieng to AFC Leopards’ roster midway through the current Kenyan Premier League (KPL) campaign was a masterstroke in uplifting the team’s fortunes as has been alluded too by head coach Andre Casa Mbungo, who is hoping that the two players can remain with the club beyond the current campaign.
Leopards endured a catastrophic start to the season as they spent a majority of the first-half of the campaign languishing in the drop zone. A situation that lead to the firing of Serbian Marko Vasiljevic and the appointment of Rwandese national Mbungo.
It is Mbungo who sanctioned the signings of Cheche and Were, two players that had previously played for the club and were coming in with loads of experience from playing abroad.
Though the two deals were merely stop gaps as the duo penned contracts until the end of the season, their presence has gone a huge way towards seeing Leopards claw their way out of relegation to their current league position of 9th and Mbungo would love for them to commit their futures to the club.
He said, “They are very good players and they have improved the team. They are very hardworking and have the winning spirit which has been key for us. I would love to have them in the team next year but it is really up to them now that they signed short term contracts.”
Since returning to the club, Cheche a centreback by profession, has been mostly deployed in midfield to help screen the defence while Were has netted once.
Having started his tenure at The Den with four straight losses, the former AS Kigali tactician has only tasted defeat three times in his last 13 games and is hoping to power the 13 time Kenyan champions to a respectable top half finish so that they can build from there for next season.
“My main focus now is to ensure the team finishes strongly and immediately embark on pre-season plans. We need to add a few players in specific areas and also plan for the future. AFC Leopards is a big team and we, therefore, must plan for the long term, not just the next match,” he said.
It is believed that Leopards have been impressed by Mbungo and have already began negotiations to have his two year deal extended by a further year.
Leopards will this weekend play the season’s second installment of the Mashemeji Derby when they play host to rivals Gor Mahia on Sunday at the MISC Kasarani.
Leopards haven’t won against their perennial rivals since 2016 and lost 2-0 in the first-leg fixture in February in Mbungo’s second game in charge.