Friday, 4 November 2016

Its Squeaky Bum Time – When Tusker Wept…Then Gor Mahia Wept

On 29th October 1994, Kenya Breweries, nowadays known as Tusker FC prepared to meet Mumias Sugar FC in Nairobi. This was their most significant match to date in 16 years, an opportunity to finally win Kenya’s premier football league. They had watched Gor Mahia and AFC exchange the titles over the years, unable to do anything about it. The season begun on a low note for them, with losses against defending champions Gor Mahia and title rivals AFC Leopards and unconvincing performances in draws against Utalii, Sony and Mumias. But since then, Paul Onyera, Henry Motego and the captain Shem Nyaberi had laced their scoring boots and strung together a string of impressive victories.  AFC Leopards challenge badly faltered along the way but while not in swashbuckling form themselves, Gor Mahia had kept abreast with the Brewers, largely due to the industrious Allan Odhiambo who kept finding the back of the net in crucial games, waiting to pounce should the Brewers falter. On 14th August Allan was on the score sheet as they held the Brewers to 2-2 draw, other goals coming from Dan Shikanda for Gor Mahia and Boniface Oduor and Vincent Kwarula for Breweries. But the Ruaraka boys kept marching on until 12 October when Scarlet had won 3-2 thus setting up Gor Mahia to move in for the kill. And so on the Saturday of 29th October, Mumias came calling in.

Allan Odhiambo "Alle Alle" had kept Gor Mahia in the title race 

A win for Breweries would guarantee them their first league title in 16 years while a loss would open the door for Gor Mahia to be in the driving seat to retain the title for the second season running and for the fourth time in five years. Earlier in the season Henry Motego had scored a double to help them hold Mumias Sugar to a 2-2 draw in Mumias, cancelling out goals by Nick Yakhama and Philip Wesonga. So this was obviously going to be no easy match despite the fact that the sugar millers had not won in their last four matches. Abbas “Zamalek” Magongo had come in to score his last two goals for Gor Mahia to down Nzoia 2-1 and so Breweries needed to produce a result to completely shut out the door on K’Ogalo. Goals by Sammy Shollei, Vincent Kwarula and George Omondi should have been enough to secure the title but then Mohammed Seif, Bernard Onyango (2) and Phillip Wesonga struck to condemn the Brewers to a 3-4 home loss. After the game, Vincent Kwarula and Zaccheus Omondi broke down in tears, knowing that the opportunity they had craved for so long was gone.

This would have been a perfect ending for Gor Mahia fans had the story ended here but on the next day, a resolute Rivatex side held Gor Mahia to a barren draw thus again handing the initiative to Tusker! This time Festus Serenge made sure there would be no regrets, condemning Transcom to a 1-0. Tusker were thus able to dethrone K’Ogalo from the throne. In a way the story of the 2016 season resembles this story. Gor has been perched on the throne for three straight years with Tusker doing everything in their power to dethrone them. A poor start by Gor Mahia gave them the headstart they needed, and when Gor caught up, a 3 point deduction for crowd trouble ensured the Brewers maintained an advantage. And every time they slipped, Gor Mahia were unable to pounce. And just as they beat a Nakuru side to finally lay their hands on the trophy, this time they travel to Nakuru, hoping a win over K’Ogalo’s old enemy will finally hand them the trophy. For Gor Mahia fans, they can only hope that just as Vincent Kwarula and Zaccheus Omondi wept that Saturday evening 22 years ago, some players from the Ruaraka side will be weeping in Nakuru. But then, can Muhoroni still spoil the party as Rivatex did some 22 years ago in the event the Brewers falter?