Ben “Breakdance” Oloo, one of the most gifted players ever to don the Gor Mahia jersey has passed on. He was found dead at his home in Kaa Chonjo Mombasa on Monday February 26 2018.
Breakdance joined Kogalo at the start of the 1985 and stayed on until around 1990 whereupon he hang his boots. He was nicknamed breakdance because his mazy dribbling skills often left defenders dancing. And when he joined Kogalo in 1985, “Breakdance” was the prevailing dance crazy that engulfed the country. There was even a blockbuster movie based on the dance.
He was born in 1961 in Karungu location in what is now Migori county. He spent his formative days in Kisumu City where he attended Central Primary School and Kisumu Boys High School where he excelled at hockey. He then transferred to St Mary’s High School, Yala where he played basketball. After excelling an inter-dormitory football competition, he was convinced to focus on football by former Luo Union FC legend Eric Omonge “Jaboma” .
Upon finishing school, he joined Kisumu Black Stars in 1979. He stayed on until 1980 before joining Utalii College then Lake Warriors in Mombasa. Cargo FC, (now Bandari) raided Lake Warriors, recruiting most of their top players including Oloo as well as George Onyango “Fundi” and others like Albert Oyoo “Wazimu”.
It was while playing for Cargo FC that Breakdance was sported by Gor Mahia talent scouts who approached him, perhaps at the behest of his former team-mate George Onyango “Fundi” who has also joined Kogalo from Cargo the previous year.
Upon joining Gor Mahia, Oloo made an instant impact. He quickly became a fan favourite due to his superb dribbling skills on the left wing which often left defenders dazzled. He was also a fine crosser of the ball. His first assignment was the 1985 CECAFA cup. He was one of the new signings called up to shore up a Gor Mahia side that was badly depleted due to the suspension of six players. He played a pivotal role, playing all the matches as Gor Mahia went on to win that tournament.
“Breakdance” was often deployed as a substitute. Indeed his most memorable match was the Mashemeji derby at the end of the 1987 season. With the game seemingly destined for a scoreless draw, coach Jack Johnson introduced “Breakdance” as a second half sub. It was a stroke of genius. First Breakdance lit up the crowd as he confused and mesmerized the Ingwe defence with his mazy dribbles. Then towards the end of the game, he dribbled past Wycliff Anyangu, and sent a well weighted cross which Peter Dawo met with a header to score the winning goal. Gor Mahia won 1-0, eliciting crazy celebrations as fans danced and sung from Nyayo stadium to the City centre as was the tradition back then.
Throughout his entire career, Breakdance was an employee of Kenya Ports Authority in Mombasa and would diligently travel to Nairobi along with George Onyango “Fundi” to attend training sessions. He was one of the few KPA employees who did not play for Bandari FC.
Once he hung up his boots, Breakdance stayed in Mombasa where he continued to work at KPA. He was also a long serving official of Bandari FC where he served in various capacities including club secretary, team Manager and Chairman.
An apparent suicide is blamed for his demise. Chairman Ambrose Rachier remembered breakdance for the role he played a player and as a former player.
“As chairman of Gor Mahia, I want to pass my very sincere condolences to the family of the late Ben Oloo. He was a very good player, very versatile from the wings. His intricate leg movement made him a darling to our fans hence the nickname ‘Breakdance’. He was our legend.
“He was also useful to us in terms of identifying talent. We will sorely miss him, and as a club, we will take part in the funeral plans,” mourned Rachier.
Gor Mahia assistant coach John Bobby Ogolla was recently honoured during the Mashujaa day celebrations along with other footballing legends Joe Kadenge and Mahmoud Abbas.
No footballer in Kenya has accomplished more than Bobby Ogolla as both player and coach. Inhis playing days, Ogolla who was fondly known as the “six million dollar man” won multiple trophies while playing in the defensive stopper position. As a youngster, he was a member of the Gor Mahia side that reached the Africa cup winners cup final in 1979. It marked the first time that a team from East and central Africa had accomplished such a feat.
Ogolla would then play a pivotal role in the Gor Mahia sides that won the CECAFA club cup in 1980, 1981 and 1985. On the local scene, Bobby Legend was the key defensive pillar as Gor Mahia won the national league in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987. With Ogolla in central defence, Gor Mahia would win the domestic cup (then known as Moi golden cup ) in 1986 and 1987. That last year 1987 was the year when Gor Mahia went on to achieve continental glory. That was Ogolla’s last season in action.
At national team level, Bobby Legend was the player who held the national team defence together. It was during this period that Harambee stars won the CECAFA senior challenge cup three times (1981, 1982 and 1983). And this was during a time when when Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe were full time CECAFA members. During this period , Ogolla was recognized as the best defensive stoppper in the CECAFA region. To this day he is remembered by fans from Tanzania, Uganda and as far south as Zambia and Zimbabwe. None other than legendary goalkeeper Mahmoud Abbas considered Bobby Ogolla as the most crucial player in Harambee stars defence.
Ogolla was also in the Harambee stars squad that reached the final of the 1987 All African games. During this period, the All Africa games was a tournament for full strength national teams and not U23 as it is today. In fact Kenya came very close to winning that tournament but for a dubious goal scored by the Egyptians from what looked like an offside position. That feat remains to this day, the greatest performance by the Kenyan national team.
Ogolla’s defining moment came in the 1982 CECAFA cup final in Kampala. Kenya met hosts Uganda who had been heavily favoured. The Cranes still had many of the players who had helped them reach the Africa nations cup final 4 years earlier. As hosts Uganda were expected to win. Bobby was assigned the task of marking Ugandan dangerman Issa Ssekatawa. The same Ssekatawa who was rop scorer in the Ugandan league three times in a row. Bobby completely marked Ssekatawa out of the game. The Ugandan attempted to intimidate Bobby with a vicious elbow to Bobby;s forehead. Bobby left the game briefly and received seven stitches while on the sideline. He came back and played like a true hero for the rest of the game with his forehead heavily bandaged and needing constant medical attention.
The word “dying a little for the country”comes to mind when people remember Bobby’s performances for Harambee stars. He was an inspirational player who instilled confidence in the rest of the team. But his contribution at club and national level wasnot limited to defence. He is one of the best free-kick takers in the history of the country. In each league season he scored 3 or 4 goals from direct free kicks. He had one of the most powerful shots ever seen in the country. His immense physical strength and robust tackles intimidated many strikers. Hencethe nickname “six million dollar man”.
Upon completing his playing career, Bobby took to coaching. He was an assistant coach to Gerry Saurer who assembled what is possibly the best Under 21 team ever assembled to Kenya. He was also an assistant coach when Harambee stars qualified and went to the 1992 Africa Nations cup. In the interim period he had several stints as coach or assistant coach of Harambee stars.
In 2009, he was a member of the coaching staff at Sofapaka who went on to win the national league title. He later took over as the head coach in 2010. In 2012 he returned to Gor Mahia as interim coach and later assistant coach under Zdravko Logarusic. With Bobby as part of the technical bench, Gor Mahia has won the national league 3 times, the domestic cup once and the Super Cup twice.
Bobby the Legend who hails from Seme location in Kisumu county clearly holds the record for most titles won in Kenya as both player and technical bench member. And he is without a doubt the best central defender Kenya has ever produced. And one of the most committed technical bench members in the country today. His recognition as one of the Mashujaa of Kenya is highly deserved and he continues to build on his legacy.
Story by Muroro Pacho
Sammy Owino “Kempes”
Charles Otieno “Engine”
John Okello “Zangi”
George Onyango “Fundi”
Tim Ayieko and the Kisumu-Uganda connection
Other Brilliant midfielders
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 ?