Sunday, the third of November was the day which had failed to come for many a season. Eighteen seasons if you are keen on counting. To their credit, Gor Mahia players, officials and fans kept the faith, swallowed the heartache and kept believing.
Finally, in 2013, they could say, actually with a couple of games to spare, Giniwasekao (this thing we have taken it) and Ginimarwa (this thing is ours).
Given that the team styles itself as Sirikal (the government), the trophy presentation ceremony was dubbed a state function with a promise of a spectacle worth remembering. There were rumours of suits being measured, limos being hired and conflicting reports as to who between Raila Odinga and President Uhuru would present the trophy. It was a moment of history in Kenyan football.
I got to town at 1400HRS and Tom Mboya Street was engulfed in a carnival atmosphere. Green and white was everywhere. Fans actually got suits! White with a trim of green or green with a white shirt was the preferred style. Ladies were also not left out with some donning green figure hugging dresses while others went for green and white kikoys.
Unfortunately, what would have been a delight to marvel in was ruined by the sense of entitlement exhibited by some of the the fans. Both vehicular and human traffic was at their mercy as they wailed, chanted and hogged the street. One fan shouted, “Make way for Sirikal and if you have a problem, go to your house.”
By a stroke of luck I got to the road leading to Kasarani just as the convoy of limousines carrying the players made its grand entrance. It was impressive with the four stretch limos complimented by Mercedes’ and several four-wheel drive cars.
Sadly, what was a great idea was ruined when someone decided to allow the limos onto the stadium track for a celebratory lap of honour. Never mind that there was an ongoing KPL match. The fans went berserk and stormed the stadium. This lead to numerous injured fans, a damaged ambulance and it was awhile before sanity was restored.
The arrival of Raila Odinga made the fans go wild as did the stadium walk-around by the K’ogalo players who were dressed in suits.
The choice of music was Ohangla and it blared from the mega speakers positioned around the stadium with fans dancing and singing along. Kenyan and American flags blew in the wind as a whiff and at times a cloud of marijuana smoke wafted around the stadium. Flares were lit and the noise levels were phenomenal.
Words fail to do justice to the atmosphere inside Kasarani. Personally have never seen anything like it and I felt as though this was more than just a trophy celebration.
Several images stood out for me:
There was a feeling of defiance and achievement with one placard capturing this by simply declaring: “This is a victory which you cannot steal from us.”
Gor Mahia fans are no slouches in the dressing department but the fan who took the cake was clad in white underwear, long socks and green sports shoes. All through the match he danced – perhaps to keep warm as a light drizzle and a chill engulfed the stadium – while clutching a portrait of prolific striker Dan Sserunkuma. At the end of the match, the fan, still in his underwear went into the middle of the pitch and presented a very surprised Sserunkuma with the portrait.
As the Gor players did their lap on honour in the stadium, impeccably dressed in lime green suits, white shirts, dark green ties and black shoes, I spied among them Rama Salim looking lost and forlorn in jeans, tshirt and sneakers. For context, Rama played for Gor in the first leg of the season and he and Sserunkuma had a brilliant partnership. To everyone’s surprise and the club’s dismay, he ditched Gor for Arab money, signing up to an obscure team in the Gulf. Watching him, I wondered whether he regretted his decision.
After a thunderous rendition of the Gor Mahia anthem, the match kicked off. K’ogalo players were clearly overawed by the occasion. Or maybe for them it was just a formality before the trophy was presented. Either way, KCB played delightful one-touch football and took a two nil lead into the break.
On the stands the party continued albeit in a muted tone. The fans were getting restless since KCB were hell-bent on spoiling their party. The entry into the stadium of roughly thirty anti-riot police led to ugly scenes. Apart from horrid verbal abuse, the fans threw plastic water and soda bottles, broken seats, beer cans and even poured water on the cops who exited and stood at the entrance of several gates. It was a shocking display of anti-authority.
Just a few minutes to seven in the evening, the referee blew the whistle and the K’ogalo fraternity was put out of its misery. Despite the two nil loss to KCB, the Okombe (trophy) was Gor’s.
The trophy presentation which was the point of the point of the afternoon was nothing to write home about. The Kenyan Premier League management did make a gallant attempt to put on a show like normally seen abroad. Confetti, fireworks, a winner’s podium, the works but it all seemed rushed and somehow not authentic.
Unfortunately, no sooner had Jerim Onyango lifted the trophy aloft and even before the rest of the Gor Mahia had a chance to hold the hard fought for trophy; shots of teargass rent the air. This was because thousands of fans were invading the pitch overwhelming the thirty or so anti-riot police. Alas, there was to be no orderly celebration.
That for me was my cue to leave.
As I walked out of the stadium in the dark, with thousands of fans making deafening noise around me, I reflected on the afternoon.
There had been glimpses of excellence and even moments of heart-warming expression. However, these were drowned out by excesses of unprofessionalism and hooliganism. Sadly, a fitting metaphor for what is the state of Kenyan football. I also thought of what could be a booming professional football industry in Kenya as opposed to the infrequent current sparks in the dark.
One day, it will happen, I told myself, one day, and hopefully, it would not take 18 years. However, getting to town at around 2100HRS and seeing the mayhem being caused by a section of Gor fans around the Tom Mboya monument, I was not so sure.
There you have it. K’ogalo, the Kenya Premier League Champions 2013. K’Ogalo, the team which is never far from chaos and mayhem.
Good and Bad.
Wonder what comes to the mind of Kenyans when they think K’Ogalo?
GOD BLESS KENYA!
(Images courtesy of Google)