A Look at Nicknames (Majina za Utani)

Story by Muroro Pacho

Milimani 89 Strathmore 93

It takes a special player to earn a nickname. Nicknames are typically given to these special by his peers at club or school level by fans and by the media. And throughout its history , Kogalo has seen its fair-share of such special players.

The Six Million Dollar Man : : Image courtesy of Gor Mahia Facebook branch

Many Kogalo players have earned nickames that arise from politicians who happen to be making the news at the time. Thus the legendary Nahashon Oluoch was nicknamed “Lule” after the short lived Ugandan president of the time, Yusuf Lule. In the early 1990s, there as a fellow by the name of Brigadier Odongo whom former president Moi accused of plotting to overthrow the Kenyan government. Nobody knew if this Brigadier Odongo existed or whether Moi was just creating this fictional character to gain attention. Gor Mahia striker Steve Odiaga who was nicknamed “Brigadier” by fans after this fellow. Ethiopian, Michael Teshome Zelleallem played for Kogalo briefly and impressed fans so much that they nicknamed him “Saddam”. This was around 1990 when President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait using scud missiles. Kogalo fans at the stadium would be heard shouting “Saddam tupa scud pale” (Saddam throw a scud missile there), each time Teshome touched the ball. Gideon Hamisi was dubbed “Aziki” after Nigerian former president Mnamdi Azikiwe.

Other players are given nicknames based on their playing characteristics. Full back Paul Oduwo was dubbed “Cobra” because he stung opposing strikers with his robust tackles. Tobias Ocholla was dubbed “Jua Kali” for his tight marking. And of course Bobby Ogolla whose name “Six Million dollar man” was because of his amazing physical strength. So strong was Bobby that his shots often ripped the net. Six million dollar was a popular TV superhero of the early 1980s. Austin Oduor was nicknamed “Makamu” because at the time he was the vice captain. An alternate story suggests that the name Makamu came about because in his formative days, he was always a supersub. George Odembo Nyangi was dubbed “Artillery” because of his powerful shots that made it look like he had rocket launchers in both feet. George Onyango was subbed “Fundi” because he was the technician who architected many of Kogalo’s moves. Legendary midfielder Allan Thigo was dubbed “Ogango wuon pap” due to the fact that he seemingly controlled the entire football field. Peter Dawo was named “Omuga” which means rhinocerous in Dholuo due to his aggressive playing style. Ben Oloo was dubbed “Breakdance” because his amazing dribbling skills made opposing defenders dance and Breakdance was the prevailing dance craze of 1985 when he joined Kogalo.  Mike Ogolla “machine” got his nickname because he played the sweeper position with such ease that he seemed to be doing things automatically hence the nickname “machine”.

Rarely is a player nicknamed by a coach. But so crucial was Charles Otieno that coach Len Julians dubbed him “The Engine”. This was because Charlie literally drove the team forward and provided power for the whole team according to Julians.

One nickname that came from a childhood event is that of William Ouma “Chege’. It is said that Ouma Chege got his nickname because while playing football in the neighbourhood, he broke the glass windows of a certain  man known Mzee Chege. The man would often come of his house yelling William Ouma’s name. Eventually people started to call him William Ouma “Chege”.

In some cases, players are named after certain events. Abbas Magongo was nicknamed “Zamalek” because a red card given to him was the root cause of the Zamalek affair that caused Kogalo to be banned from continental football for 2 years. Keeper Charles Omondi, now a Gor Mahia assistant coach was dubbed “Korea” because he was a member of the Kenya Under 16 team that toured Korea in 1984. Sammy Onyango was dubbed “Jogoo” because when he first joined Kogalo in 1979, he was still a secondary school student at Equator high school and he would take a bus called “Jogoo Kimakia” everyday from Thika to Gor Mahia’s training ground which at the time was Railway training school in South B.

Sammy Onyango Jogoo: Images courtesy of Gor Mahia Facebook branch

Some nicknames occur from the most interesting phenomenon that is happening at that particular time. Hence George Odhiambo was nicknamed “Blackberry” after the most popular smart phone of 2009. Peter Otieno’s nickname “Bassanga” is said to have come from a Congolese musician based in Nairobi. The Peter Okeyo who played in the early 70s was dubbed “Kapila” which was a popular vehicle of that era, the Ford Kapila.

In many cases , players are nicknamed after the most popular players of the time. Sammy Owino was dubbed “Kempes” after the legendary world cup winning striker from Argentina, Mario Kempes. Jared Ochieng was subbed “Makanaky” after the popular Camerounian who exploits captured the minds of many at the 1990 world cup. The same was the case for Paul Ochieng who was dubbed “Kunde”. Both Ochieng and Kunde were tall and built like tanks. George Yoga was dubbed George “Best” after the famous Irish legend.

Some players have names that are a play on their names. Such was the case with Isaiah Omondi who nickname was “Janabi” after the Bible prophet. Janabi means prophet in Dholuo. Circa 1987, fans would carry Bibles to games a read a verse from the book of Isaiah before games.

Breakdance and Janabi circa 1987

Sometimes players are named after their professions. Full back George Otieno was dubbed “Chumb Reru” because he worked for Kenya railways. Chumb Reru means railway lines in dholuo. Team-mate Tairus Omondi also worked for Kenya railways and was nicknamed “Tairero”. Striker Maurice Ochieng was a playground legend in Kaloleni and was dubbed “Sonyi” by Kalolenites. Sonyi was the prevailing sheng word for Policeman in the 70s and early 80s.

In some cases, players arrive at Kogalo with ready made nicknames from their secondary school days. Peter Ochieng was known as “Pierre” during his glory days playing at Highway secondary school. John Okello arrived at Gor Mahia from Kisumu Police with the nickname “Zangi”. he earned that nickname in his youth days in Kisumu Nyalenda. It came from a play on a name of famous musician “Bokelo Isenge”. Since his name was Okello, people started to call him “Okello Isenge” which eventually became Okello Zangi”.  Sammy Omollo, now coach of Tusker was well known as “Pamzo” before he joined Kogalo.  Kevin Omondi was already known as “Daddy” during his glorious playing at Langata secondary school. Zablon Otieno who played for Kogalo until recently was dubbed “pro” by his schoolmates as was current coach Zedekiah Otieno whose nickname was “Zico” in school. David Odhiambo’s nickname was “Deo”. was a truncation of his first name.

Other nicknames are still a mystery and yours truly has no idea where they came from. There was David Ochieng who was nicknamed “Kamoga”. Fans named him Kamoga after Ugandan burly striker Davis Kamoga.  And of course there were other interesting nicknames like George Otieno “Vigo”, John Otieno “Hatari”.

And of course the name “Gor Mahia” applies. The person from whom the club earned its name was called Gor Kogalo. But his nickname was “Mahia”  which means magic, hence the name “Gor Mahia”

Which current Kogalo player has the potential to earn a nickname from fans ?

Solitary goal sinks Kogalo

In a match that was played only two days after the FKL cup match against Kapenguria heroes, Gor Mahia were sunk 1-0 by SoNy Sugar. It was SoNy Sugat who started the game brighter. The goal that sunk Kogalo came in the 48th minute via Hugo Nzangu.

It was the same old story of Gor Mahia creating chances but failing to convert. Yet again Gor Mahia resorted to long passes which Edwin Lavatsa could not utilize. The introduction of Moses Odhiambo, Edwin Makori and Demonde Selenga in the second half did not pay dividends as Gor Mahia could not

Gor Mahia are now still in second place but the gap between them and leaders Tusker is set to widen. Tusker are now 5 points ahead of Kogalo. Its worth noting that Gor Mahia have hardly scored any goals against other premier league teams since they beat AFC.

Gor Mahia run over Kapenguria Heroes

Having received a reprieve despite loosing to Congo United in the previous round of the FKL cup, Gor Mahia took no chances this time and put 6 goals past Kapenguria heroes. On this day, Gor Mahia fielded mostly second string players starting with goalie Ronny Kagunzi.

The heroes shocked Kogalo when they took an early lead following a defensive lapse. Gor Mahia came back storming with goals from Moses Odhiambo (2), Dennis Odhiambo, Tony Onyango, Dennis Okoth, John Kiplagat.

Gor Mahia will now face off with West Kenya Sugar on September 4 in Nairobi. West Kenya Sugar were loosing finalists in 2010.

Fans appeal to KPL to end price gouging

According to a story in the local dailies, groups of Kogalo fans have called on The Kenya Premier league to end price gouging by teams hosting Kogalo.

Gor Mahia, who have the largest fan base in Kenya, are credited as having brought back fans to stadia during league matches. Opposing teams have been taking advantage of K’Ogalo’s large following to make a kill from gate collections. Most of the KPL clubs now want to host their home matches in Nairobi, while they hike their ticket prices up to Sh300 from the normal Sh100. Some teams have even used security as excuse to have their home matches moved to bigger stadia where they would eventually accommodate more fans, translating to more money. Home teams take all the gate collections. Ataro said KPL should intervene to save the poor Gor fans who sacrifice a lot for the sake of their team.

Gor Mahia , Ulinzi battle to a draw

The match between Kogalo and Ulinzi that was played at Afraha stadium ended in a scoreless stalemate. The first half was evenly balanced with Stephen Ocholla of Ulinzi hitting the upright in the 19th minute. On the half hour mark, Demonde Selenga put Wycliff Ochomo through but Ochomo could not finish the glorious chance.

Rock solid defender Eric Masika had to leave the game with a concussion. He was replaced by Chris Wekesa. The introduction of Hajji Mwachoki and Moses Odhiambo still did not get Kogalo a breakthrough. Jerim Onyango was once again instrumental in saving Gor Mahia from loosing with a series of good saves.

The match was very well attended by Kogalo’s travelling band of fans. Ever since Gor Mahia beat their arch rivals 3-1, the performance has been wanting. And if not for the heroics of certain players, most notably Jerim Onyango, things could have really gone south for the club. Onyango’s superb play has seen him earn player of the month honours. Gor Mahia are now four points behind Tusker who won their match on Saturday.

The Arsenal legend who coached Gor Mahia

Story by Muroro-Pacho

Len Julians is fondly remembered by Gor Mahia fans as perhaps the greatest coach ever to coach Gor Mahia football club. He coached the club to 3 successive league titles from 1983 to 1985 and again in 1991. He is also credited with grooming what is perhaps the greatest generation of players ever to play for any club in Kenya. Players like Charles Otieno whom Julians nicknamed “the engine”, Abbas Magongo, John Okello “Zangi” , Abdallah Shebe, Hesborn Omollo, Sammy Onyango and many others all came of age and became legends under coach Julians.

Leonard Bruce Julians was born in Tottenham London on 19th June 1933. His first club was Leyton Orient whom he joined as a centre forward in 1955. After three years at Leyton Orient and a stellar record, Julians was spotted by Arsenal scouts who convinced him to join the gunners in 1958. Upon joining Arsenal, he scored on his debut, in a match against Luton Town. Playing as a centre forward for Arsenal , Julians scored 10 goals in 24 starts between 1958 and 1960. It was a superb scoring record which is why he was remembered fondly by many Arsenal fans of the time. Many of his goals were superb well taken strikes with good technique. Despite playing as a centre forward, Julians was also an excellent passer and set up several goals for his team-mates. As such he also occasionally operated as a winger or an attacking midfielder. He was versatile.  However at the time, Arsenal had a galaxy of strikers and competition was tough. So at the end of the 1960 season, Julians joined another top tier team, Nottingham Foreast. At Nottingham Foreast, Julians stayed for 4 season, making 125 appearances and scoring an incredible 58 goals. An excellent strike rate for someone who played several positions.

Julians is seen here playing for Millwall

After leaving Nottingham Foreast, Julians joined Millwall who at the time were playing in the English lower tiers. In his first season there, Julians scored 16 total goals including a memorable hat-trick against Halifax. At Millwall, Julians scored a total of 22 goals in 45 appearances between 1964 and 1966, helping them gain back to back promotions. During his stay at Millwall, the team set a record of playing 59 home games without loosing. Julians played a key role in setting that record including scoring the equalizing goal when the record was set.  He stayed on at Millwall until 1968. He is rememebered as one of the greatest players ever to play for Millwall. Upon leaving Millwall, Julians now in the twilight of his playing career, went to play in the fledgling North American Soccer league where he was player-coach for the Detroit Cougars. Injuries brought his playing career to an end and he barely played for the Cougars. Upon his retirement, the 35 year old Julians was immediately appointed as coach of the Cougars.

Julians during his Detroit Cougars days

The year 1983 started on a disastrous note for Gor Mahia. The club looked set to pick up where they left off after the 1982 season which was perhaps the most disastrous in the clubs history until that point. The 1983 season started with the CECAFA club cup that was held in January of 1983. Kogalo made an unceremonious exit when they lost the first two games to rivals AFC Leopards and to Uganda’s SC Villa. After the tournament, a Ugandan official admitted having succesfully bribed some Gor Mahia players. Then came the 1983 cup winners cup in which Gor Mahia inexplicably lost 0-3 at home to Vital O of Burundi after having won the 1st leg away 2-1 in Bujumbura. In the Kenya National Football League, Gor Mahia started with a 1-1 Draw against Nzoia, a 0-1 loss to Motcom of Kakamega and a 1-3 loss to Kenya Breweries. Fans were already furious at the club officials for the unceremonius losses at continental level had finally had enough. They demanded changes. Many wanted chairman Zack Mbori out. Mbori and club patron Joab Omino under pressure, decided to look abroad for a coach. In came Len Julians to take over from Jerry Imbo and his assistant Peter Ouma who seemed overwhelmed by the situation.

Immediately upon Julians arrival, Gor Mahia who had not won a single league game, bounced back on their visit to Mombasa beating Kenatco and Cargo (now known as Bandari) 1-0 and 3-1 respectively. Midway through the 1983 season, Gor Mahia were in second place, only a point behind military side Scarlet. Midway through the season, Gor Mahia beat English premier league side, Norwich city 4-2 in a friendly match. With two games left before the end of the league, Gor Mahia had clinched the league with a memorable 1-0 over rivals AFC Leopards. Commenting after the game, coach Julians said “I feel so good that the young boys have done so well in the short period I have been with them”. They finished the league having scored 80 goals in 38 games.
Gor Mahia under Julians were playing brilliant champaign football. Most importantly, Julians had turned a group of young inexperienced players into superb players. The likes of Charles Otieno, John Okello “Zangi” who joined from Kisumu Police, Hezborn Omollo who joined from Baba Dogo FC and Abdallah Shebe. All had joined Kogalo from obscure lower division teams and Julians had turned them into international calibre players. The youthful Sammy Onyango became one of the most complete players ever to play in Kenya. Indeed the one aspect that Julians is legendary for was his ability to mould talented players into first class performers. Perhaps it was due to the fact that during his playing days, Julians played in a variety of positions which made him perfectly suited to coaching several different positions. Julians also had a fierce temper and was often seen giving players the “hair dryer” treatment from the bench.

Hezbron Omollo who had joined from a Nairobi provincial side known as Baba Dogo., immediately became a premier goal scorer. In his first season in the league, Omollo finished second in the league in scoring with 20 goals. He had developed a knack for popping up in the right place at the right time to finish off moves by team-mates like Zangi, Engine, Jogoo but especially Shebe with whom Omollo had developed a telepathic understanding. Charles Otieno was nicknamed “the engine” by Julians because according to Julians, it was he who literally functioned as a power supply for the team. Zangi was only 18 but had the confidence of a veteran. He had a combination of speed, grace and directness that sent Kogalo fans into raptures. Shebe had brilliant ball control and an innate ability to create chances by drawing the defence and releasing team-mates in scoring position. Gideon Hamisi playing as an attacking midfielder, became lethal in front of goal, scoring 12 league goals that year. Veteran AFC defender , Josephat Murila recently indicated that the most difficult players to mark were Gideon Hamisi and Sammy Onyango because they could score goals from impossible situations.

Come 1984, Gor Mahia lost Charles Otieno to Kenya Breweries but signed George Onyango “Fundi” from Cargo via Lake Warriors. Also joining the team was Malindi based Abbas Khamis Magongo who had defected from Tanzania earlier on. Whereas Magongo was a decent player  in the Tanzanian league, under Julians he became a brilliant midfield operator with the ability to single handedly dominate and control the game. He may well be the best midfielder Kenya has ever produced although some will argue for Thigo. Fundi became a visionary playmaker with a knack for scoring crucial goals. Hezborn Omollo finished as the league leading scorer in 1984 with 23 goals. Gor Mahia scored an incredible 86 goals in 34 matches. That was way ahead of second placed AFC who scored 73 goals. In the last day of the league, they beat Lake Warriors 2-0 to clinch the title. Since its formation, Gor Mahia had never won the league twice in a row. After the match Julians was carried shoulder high by fans as the rest of the players took a lap of honour.

In 1985, Gor Mahia had built such depth that even with the suspension of 6 key players, they were able to win the CECAFA cup held in Sudan. New players like Swaleh Ochieng, William Obwaka, Tirus Omondi and George Odembo “Nyangi” were also become classy players thanks to Julians tutelage. Shebe became good enough that in a friendly match against visiting Swiss side Schaffhausen, he was able to earn a trials. He thus became the first Kenyan to play in a top European league. Gor Mahia won the league for the 3rd time in a row with a 5-1 win over Kisumu Hotstars and were winning in style. Julians then left Gor Mahia and headed back for another coaching stint in the United states. By the time he left, he had moulded at least a dozen players who became stalwarts for the national team and helped Gor Mahia to superlative performances in the African cup competitions between 1987 and 1989. When Kenya reachced the All Africa games finals in 1987 and qualified for the 1988 Africa nations cup, nearly half the players were Gor Mahia players and Len Julians products. Players like David Ochieng, Tirus Omondi, Austin Oduor, Charles Otieno, Abbas Magongo, George Onyango “Fundi’, George Nyangi and Sammy Onyango.

Julians was to return again in 1991 much to the elation and excitement of Gor Mahia fans. He led the team to win the national league. Tom Odhiambo and Jared Ochieng Achieng formed a forwardline combination reminiscent of Shebe and Omollo in 1984. Felix Otieno’s inspirational midfield play reminded people of George Onyango fundi while Allan Odhiambo was a mix of Charles Otieno’s industriousness and Isaiah Omondi’s enforcer mentality. This time however, Julians stint at Gor Mahia lasted only one year. He left Gor Mahia at the end of 1991. In truth, the clubs precarious financial position meant they could not afford Julians. It is not known where his coaching career took him after the 1991 season.

Sadly Julians passed away on December 17 1993 in Southend England.  The entire Gor Mahia fraterneity mourned his passing. Condoleneces were sent by then Club Chairman Joseph Ogode, patron Joab Omino and by former players and officials. At the time of his death, Julians owned a car repair garage in Meopham with former team-mate Bryan Snowden with whom he played at Millwall. Meopham is a village that is 40 kilometres southeast of London.

Kogalo hold Karuturi

In a match played at the City stadium, Collins Okoth scored a dramatic equalizer in injury time to allow Gor Mahia to salvagae a point . Karurturi sportc slub had taken the lead in the 63rd minute when Jerim Onyango parried the ball into the path of a Karuturi player who duly scored from the rebound.

Once again it was Gor Mahia who created more chances. But Heavy rain just before the game made conditions difficult for both teams. As the second half wore on, Karuturi employed time wasting tactics. The crucial equalizer came via a Demonde Selenga cross which found Okoth at the far post. Okoth finished with a superb volley.

The draw leaves Gor Mahia in 2nd position with 35 points. After the match, the bitter Karuturi sport coach james Nandwa faulted the referee for adding toomuch injury time, claiming he was initimidated by Kogalo fans.

Gor Mahia power down Western Stima

Kogalo picked up three crucial points on their visit to western province. The match was played at Mumias complex after KPL deemed Bukhungu stadium unsuitable.

Kogalo’s resident “rastafarian” , Moses Odhiambo, making a comeback to the starting lineup was once again the pivotal player, creating havoc in the Stima defence each time he touched the ball. In the 37th he set up Ochomo with a glorious chance but Ochomo missed the chance. 7 minutes later, he ran dangerously into the Stima goal area but his goalbound shot was blocked.

Western Stima played with one less player after one of their players was red-carded in the 55th minute. Kevin Omondi, Demonde Selenga and Haji Mwachoki fcame on for Dan Makori, Moses Odhiambo and Wycliffe Ochomo respectively

The match seemed destined for a goalless draw when substitute Kevin Omondi powered home a thunderous drive from 30 yards in the 85th minute.

The match gave Kogalo fans something to celebrate especially those who attended the match. It was welcome news especially after fracas ensued when Gor Mahia fans travelling convoy was attacked as they travelled through Luanda in western Kenya.

Gor Mahia are still in 3rd place with 34 points.

Gor Mahia tie Tusker

Gor Mahia and Tusker played each other to a stalemate in a midweek match played at Nyayo stadium on Wedensday. Whereas Gor Mahia dominated the first half, in the second half they appeared to take their foot off the accelerator and Tusker took over the game.

Gor Mahia looked determined to score and started out with a blast. Selenga wove his way into the danger zone and set up Makori whose shot was blocked. Moments later, Nasio and Ochomo combined to set up Selenga but his header was off target.

In the second half, Tusker came back storming. But Jerim Onyango was rock solid between the posts. The two best chances of the game fell to Selenga after being set up by Ochomo. But he was unable to finish. Makori was replaced by Mwachoki who was better able to deal with Tusker full back Atudo. Ochomo also picked up an injury and was replaced.

Tusker are now at the top of the standings, 3 points ahead of Gor Mahia who have a game in hand.

Gor Mahia vs Tusker in crunch match

After a week off, Gor Mahia will face second placed Tusker in match whose winner could go to the top of the table depending on the score. The importance of this game cannot be underscored for both teams. The winner will have a leg up in the KPL title sweepstakes. A win over their primary challengers will also serve as a psychological boost for Gor Mahia or Tusker. It is amazing that Kogalo are this close to going tops. Only a few months back it seemed like Tusker was quickly running away from the pack as Ulinzi did last year.

So intimidated were Tusker by Gor Mahia fans that they opted to play the first leg match in Mumias. Little did they know that not only do Gor Mahia fans travel but many actually live in Mumias and its environs. Trying to tame the Gor Mahia 12th man is an exercise in futility. Anyone who doubts it should ask Tusker.  Gor Mahia players will be hoping that the fans turn up in droves and get behind the team.

The Kogalo movement can now count several Odieros amongst its followers in addition to Kenyans of all backgrounds.

The equivalent fixture last year ended with Gor Mahia winning 2-0 capped by a dazzling display by George Odhiambo “Blackberry”. The goal he scored that day with a mazy dribble past several hapless Tusker defenders will be remembered for many years by those who watched it live. Tusker players are probably still scratching their heads wondering how Blackberry bemused and befuddled them with a run reminiscent of Maradona vs England in 1986 or Leonel Messi vs Man U recently. Tall man Shikokoti could not unwind his long legs quickly enough to counteract Blackberry. He probably still sees Blackberry in his nightmares.

Reports suggest that Collins Okoth “Gattuso” and Edwin Lavatsa will be missed due to injuries. But the likes of Akumu,  Kevin Ochieng, Selenga, Odera etc are capable of filling those boots and Lavatsa has earned some rest after his stellar display against Ingwe 10 days ago where he played a crucial role in all 3 goals. Well done Lavatsa  ! and quick recovery.