Mike Okinyi: Gor Mahia is the first team from Africa to play at Liverpool. Nizigiyimana: The team is very happy and thanks the sponsor for this glorious opportunity Shakava: As a team we have trained well for this opportunity. A chance to showcase our talent. The weather is not favourable. We will not put pressure on ourselves. We will just relax and play. We promise the fans that we will enjoy the game and play well.
As Gor Mahia prepare to take on Young Africans of Tanzania in the 2018 CAF Confederations cup, its worth taking a trip down memory lane to witness and recall Gor Mahia’s first ever sojourn into continental football. Their first ever continental opponents was a club known as Burri Khartoum of Sudan.
One player who is easily recognizable is James Sianga who is second in line as the team walks into the field. The players are greeted by The Minister for Cooperatives and Social services, Ronald Ngala. The stadium is packed to the rafters. Many aspects of City stadium have not changed since then. Most notably the residential homes behind the stadium that provide an excellent view into the stadium. And the terraces at Russia have not changed.
Gor Mahia earned the right to play in the 1969 Africa champions cup by virtue of having won the Kenyan league in 1968, the year of formation of the club. Gor Mahia had been formed in 1968, folding Luo Union FC and Luo Sports club and also recruiting numerous players from Kisumu Hotstars.
The local football scene was shambolic in 1969. Minister Ronald Ngala, disbanded the Kenya Football Association and also suspended the national league. Thus Gor Mahia were in danger of lacking match fitness when they played Burri. To mitigate this, they embarked on a countrywide tour to play friendly matches.
But Gor Mahia was also undergoing a civil war with certain members of the club executive committee fighting to take over the club and rename it Luo Union FC.
1969 Continental matches.
The opening round of the 1969 Champions cup were played in September. Gor Mahia won the first leg 4-2 in Khartoum. However in the return leg, Gor Mahia played rather poorly, losing 0-1 at City Stadium in front of a large partisan crowd. It marked the first of many instances where Gor Mahia parlayed an excellent away record.
Gor Mahia players pose after returning from Khartoum. Holding the shield is Ouma “Chege” in the foreground are James Sianga and Steve Yongo. Also in the picture is club Chairman Zack Ramogo and Minister Ronald Ngala
Gor Mahia thus qualified for the next round where they faced off with Ismaily of Egypt. They drew 1-1 at home before losing 1-3 in Cairo. Ismaily went on to win the Africa champions cup in 1969.
Among the players who featured for Gor Mahia in this campaign were James Sianga, John Otieno “Hatari”, Josphat Okello “Smart”, William Ouma “Chege”, Arthur Omondi, Paul Ndula, Samson Odore, Joseph “Mwalimu” Okeyo, Walter Molo, Steve “McQueen” Yongo, Daniel Nicodemus Arudhi, John Wambudo and Chris Obure, the former senator of Kisii county. They were coached by Paul Odhiambo, the first ever coach at the club.
Gor Mahia FC pictured at the stadium in Cairo Backrow: M. Danga, P Odhiambo, Dr Oluoch, P Ndula, H Obiero, F Ooko, A Omondi, J Oduor, W Molo, J Okeyo, A Ogutta Frontrow: D Olando, S Odori, J Wambundo, S Otin, W Ouma “Chege”J Sianga, J Otieno, F Siranga
Gor Mahia’s first continental campaign was creditable considering what the club had to overcome which included the lack of a domestic league, infighting within the club an infighting at national level which led to the disbandment of both the KFA and the league.
It is also said that players were significantly affected by the death of Tom Mboya who had been buried in an emotional ceremony only weeks earlier.
Kogalo legend, All Thigo, arguably the greatest player ever to play for this club, explained that the name Sirkal came about when President Moi decreed that all tribal clubs must change their names to non-tribal names. The only team given an exception by Moi was Gor Mahia. Hence the name “Sirkal”
Its a rare treat for Kogalo fans to be able to watch players from the legendary side that won the Africa cup in 1987.The video is heavily edited to show mostly Esperance highlights despite the fact that this match was evenly balanced. Indeed this match was televised and replayed on KBC TV several times in the run-up to the epic second leg at Kasarani. Those like myself who watched will tell you that the match was evenly balanced.
Resolute defending by the backline quartet of Peter Otieno Bassanga (15), George Otieno Solo (11), Tobias Ocholla (4) and Austin Oduor(6) Kept Kogalo in the game and David Ochieng Kamoga was solid between the posts.
At the 23 second mark he is called upon to parry a corner kick then has to quickly react to punch a powerful shot from Nabil Maaloul out for another corner. It is this second corner that results in the first controversial penalty awarded to Esperance. The ball hits Bassanga in the stomach and the referee inexplicably gives Taraji a penalty which Maaloul converted with class.
Kogalo players surround the referee and beseech him to reconsider. Perhaps sensing that a scene like Zamalek 1984 is about to erupt, skipper Austin Oduor asks the players to leave so he can talk to the referee. Bassange is yellow carded for his dissent and has to be further calmed down by Solo.
At the 4:30 mark, Anthony Ndolo comes on for an injured Sammy Onyango Jogoo. Ndolo would be instrumental in Kogalo’s second goal.
At the 6:22 mark, Charles Otieno wins the ball in midfield and puts George Nyangi “Artillery” through. Nyangi attempts to cross the ball and it is seemingly handled by an Esperance defender Ali Ben Neji. No penalty.
At the one minute mark, Charles Otieno finds Sammy Onyango on the right wing. Jogoo deftly loses his marker and unleashes one of hos trademark grass-cutters which forces a save from the goalkeeper.
It was Abbas Magongo who started the move that ended with the first goal and it is he who finished it at the 3:00 mark of the video. He plays the ball to Janabi who sends a long ball to Dawo. But Dawo can’t shake off the close attention of two defenders but the lose ball falls to Magongo who calmly controls the ball on his chest and unleashes a screamer that goes in via the cross bar.
The penalty awarded due to a supposed Isaiah Omondi handball happens in the 6:30 mark and is highly controversial.
The comical scene where Isaiah Omondi chases an Esperance player who in turn runs away for dear life happens at the 8:10 mark. Kenyan fans were laughing about this scene for days.
With time waning and Kogalo seemingly headed for a 2-1 defeat, Peter Dawo wins an aerial duel off a David Ochieng punt. The ball goes to Ndolo who heads back to Dawo. Dawo in turns scores with a scorcher that leaves Esparance stunned to tie the game at 2-2.
David Ochieng(1), Tobias Ocholla(4), George Otieno Solo(11), Peter Otieno Bassanga(15), Austin Oduor(6), Isaiah Omondi(5), Charles Otieno(3), George Nyangi Artillery(9), Peter Ochieng Pierre(12), Peter Dawo(7), Sammy Onyango(14).