Ambrose Rachier gave an at length interview to the Daily Nation discussing
Gor Mahia chairman Ambrose Rachier is a man loved and hated in equal measure.
Whenever his name is mentioned, there arises two varied views among K’Ogalo followers.
On one side, he is a person who has brought a lot of success to the club, given it a new lease of life and ensured the stability for more than a decade now.
On the other side, he is a veteran administrator who has refused to leave office since he was first elected in 2008.
In fact, a section of fans, unhappy with his long stay at the helm of one of East Africa’s biggest clubs, have nicknamed him “Mugabe” comparing him to former Zimbabwe president, the late Robert Mugabe, who ruled his country with an iron fist hand for 40 years.
So one cold Wednesday afternoon we paid the Gor Mahia boss a visit and delved into his tenure with the Kenyan glamour club.
Dressed in a grey sharp suit, he looked jovial as he welcomed us to his office in Hurlingham, in the outskirts of Nairobi’s busy Central Business District.
He breathes with confidence and jokes on how he has kept us waiting for over half an hour before we start the interview start.
Surprisingly, the office looks like a sports apparel shop, laden with trophies and medals displayed on the table and shelves rather than law books and case files.
These are trophies Gor Mahia have won before and under his tenure. He says they are in his private office for safety reasons.
He looks younger than his 71 years, born in 1949, in a bus near Molo when his mother was travelling from Siaya to Nairobi.
Well at ease he challenges this scribe to ask tough question as he has never been subjected to that by Kenyan journalists.
Rachier is a second born in a family of 12 and is married with seven children. His first born son and daughter have followed in his footsteps and are currently practising law.
He has practised law since 1974 and is in no hurry to retire.
Rachier did his A Levels at Alliance High School in 1969-1970 and then proceeded to study French at the University of Madagascar at diploma and master level.
In September 1971 he joined Dar es Salaam where he studied law graduating in 1975.
In 1975 he established a law firm with veteran lawyer George Oraro before establishing his won firm, Rachier and Amollo advocates.
He has taught law for the past 27 years and currently teaches Health Law and Policy to Master’s students at Strathmore University.
Does he have any sports background?
Rachier played as a full back for Alliance School and University of Madagascar football teams.
He was eager to continue with his football at Dar es Salaam and Nairobi but said he could not find a football team then.
Rachier revealed that he became Gor Mahia chairman unexpectedly in 2008 despite not having any interest in challenging the then chairman Erastus Okul.
“I never actually offered myself for any elective post in Gor Mahia. On May 8, 2008 while doing my work at my office at Reinsurance Plaza at around 10am, I heard some noise and a group of unruly youth overpowered the security at the gates and entered my office,” he says.
The youth forcefully removed him from his office drove him in his pickup to City Stadium where they raised his hands and in acclamation made him the chairman.
“I recognise two of them, namely Jamadar and David Dede. I said ‘no’ because I knew the chairman was Okul and we agreed to postpone the elections to the following Sunday. We met with Okul before the day and he passed the mantle to me before formalising it at City Stadium as the fans celebrated the change of guard,” he added.
He confesses that he had not campaigned or showed interest in any position at the club but concedes he regularly watched the team’s home and away matches.
Rachier says he is not leaving anytime soon as some of his opponents have been proposing because the club is worse and he can’t leave it in the hands of individuals he says will worsen the situation.
This contradicts his earlier announcement last year promising to leave by December of that year.
The veteran lawyer says he wants to leave the club better than he found it and will not hold shoddy elections just to acquiesce to those demanding for the exercise to be undertaken.
“I will hold elections when the club is stable financially and leave it in safe hands. The registrar has talked to me and she pointed out that the elections are long overdue,” he says.
Indeed Gor Mahia elections are overdue. The club held its last election in December 11, 2016. A term of office lasts two years.
“Rachier was supposed to have called the elections in 2018 but promised to do so by 2019 December after getting a consent from the registrar.
The registrar of sports has been on our neck but now it is not known when the elections will be held because of the current financial situation at the club,” said Gor Mahia CEO Lordvick Aduda.
In the last elections, Rachier garnered 579 votes to floor his challengers Chrispine Omondi and Dan Oketch who got 157 and 220 votes respectively.
Gor Mahia are currently experiencing many challenges which Rachier believes need to be addressed first rather than holding elections which is not a priority now according to him.
Rachier says he also wants to see Gor Mahia build a modern stadium in one of the parcels of land given to the club by late President Daniel Arap Moi.
Even though the land at Embakasi has since been encroached by individuals, he assures K’Ogalo fans that the club’s piece of land at Kasarani is safe and his dream of building a stadium must come to pass before he leaves.
Rachier also cited his achievements, disappointments and the future of the record 18 times Kenyan champions.
His best achievements are winning multiple Kenyan Premier League titles, helping Gor Mahia reclaim its lost glory and ending hooliganism which was at it apex when he took over.
The 46 trophies Gor have won in different campaigns during his tenure underlines the club’s success this past decade.
Even with the regular titles Rachier still bristles with anger when he remembers how Gor Mahia lost the title to Tusker in 2016.
He blames board room decisions and politics which he says were engineered by the then Football Kenya Federation CEO Robert Muthomi and President Nick Mwendwa.
“What the federation did was painful because they denied us points by focusing on a match against Tusker that had taken place way back in the first leg. Otherwise the trophy was ours,” he says.
The most painful season was in 2012 he says when Tusker snatched the league title at the 11th hour breaking K’Ogalo fans’ hearts as they were about to throw one big, wild party in celebration of their first triumph in 17 years.
“That day we were dressed up, had printed T-shirts and were excited because we were sure of being champions. As the match was about to end, Thika United scored an equaliser in the last minute and that is how our celebration was cut off by eventual winners Tusker. I cried and to me it was the lowest moment as Gor Mahia chairman,” he says.
He singles out Rwandese striker Jacques Tuyisenge and Teddy Akumu as the best foreign and local based players signed under his tenure.
In administration, he says the saddest moment is the numerous go slows over unpaid salaries.
He remembers a sad instance where a player whose wife had given birth to twins was almost being thrown out of his house because of unpaid rent arrears.
“It hit me hard because of the welfare of the twins, it was such a shame. This was sad and I even thought of quitting the club,” he says.
The club continues to suffer financially following the exit of the gaming firm SportPesa last year as their shirt sponsors.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Rachier says Gor Mahia’s sponsorship deal with sportswear company Umbro will officially start after the end of this season. He also makes assurances that Gor will have a major sponsor before the start of the 2020-2021 season.
Umbro will officially launch their sports kits according to the partnership with K’Ogalo next month but the struggles and sufferings in payment of salaries will have to be endured till the end of the season.
What of Football Kenya Federation’s looming takeover of the KPL? Rachier say KPL doesn’t oppose the coming change as long as FKF can run the league smoothly.
“FKF should learn from leading football nations. The federation doesn’t run the league. Bundesliga, English Premier League and Ligue 1 are run by the league body. Even in famous leagues in Africa like South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt the issue is the same,” he added.
Rachier has stood for the FKF presidency twice before and lost.
He says he has decided not to challenge Mwendwa this year because he is no longer interested in the post due to controversies concerning legalities and compliance to the Sports Act.
His worst regret in life is trying his hands in politics in 2007. He vied for the ODM ticket for the Gem parliamentary seat but the party’s intricacies saw him denied the ticket.
He eventually ran on a Narc ticket but lost to an ODM opponent. He has sworn never to try his hands in politics because of what he went through that year.
For now, he continues with his law practice while working to transform Go Mahia into a modern, rich and successful football club.