This week was a much needed relief for Gor Mahia football club which had suffered through bad publicity caused by fans violence, the TV ban, a lousy jersey sponsorship deal and a string of inadequate results.
The week started on a sound note when Supersport recognized the good work being done by Gor Mahia fans and officials and decided to rescind the ban on the club. There would thus be an opportunity for Gor Mahia players to showcase their talents on television not just in Kenya but all over the continent.
Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards fans played their part by cooperating in a peace initiative and tree planting effort to commemorate the fans who passed away in the equivalent encounter last season. There was even a friendly match pitting AFC fans against their Gor Mahia counterparts. The good publicity and goodwill generated by these actions was priceless.
In fact during and after the match, Gor Mahia fans had no problem sitting together during the match and otherwise joining up in drinking joints after the match. For someone like yours truly who started to attend matches in the 1980s and was used to bitter enmity between the two sets of fans, the sight of GM and AFC fans engaging each other in friendly banter is incredible. But it is this kind of fan friendly atmosphere that will draw neutrals to the stadium.
GM and AFC fans had no trouble sitting together
Security at the match was was top notch. There were no incidences of muggings as has been common at some matches. Ticketing was well organized and most tickets were sold several days before the match.
Finally on game day, Gor Mahia set a new record by collecting close to 5.6 million Ksh. Attendance was incredible. The fan base has grown at an incredible rate and at this rate, Gor Mahia will soon outgrow the Nyayo stadium talk less of the City stadium which is already proving inadequate. In fact if fans continue their peaceful ways, continue their outreach to new fans and continue to socialize online and in real life, Gor Mahia will soon be filling Kasarani.
There are no numbers available on how large the TV audience was, but this was probably the most watched event of the week in Kenya. For once the derby now dubbed “El Classico” is beginning to capture the imgaination of the Kenyan public like it did in the 1980s when everywhere from Machakos to Nyahururu and Malindi, Kenyans everywhere would clutch their radios closely to hear the match announced on radio by legends like Mambo Mbotela, Juma Njuguna, Ismail Mohammed and Ali Salim Manga, then eagerly watch the highlights on the Voice of Kenya’s 7pm news transmission.
Then Gor Mahia capped off the week with a historic win that catapulted them back into contention for the league title. Something they haven’t won since 1995. The El Classico derby catapulted local football back to relevance.