Without retaining players, Gor Mahia will never succeed in Africa

There are two common denominators for teams that excel in continental tournaments:
1. Experience
2. Cohesion that comes from playing together for a long time

When Gor Mahia won the Africa cup winners cup in 1987, the team comprised of grizzled veterans who had been at the club for long periods. Austin Oduor (7 years), Peter Otieno Bassanga (6 years), George Otieno Solo (12 years), Bobby Ogolla (10 years), Isaiah Omondi (6 years), Sammy Onyango (8 years), David Ochieng (4 years), George Onyango Fundi and Abbas Magongo (3 years).

Because these players were so highly experienced, they were unfazed even when playing against hostile crowds. Furthermore, they had played together for so long that they were completely in sync. They could anticipate each others runs. They knew each others strengths and weaknesses and could adjust accordingly. The defence was solid because the likes of Makamu, Bassanga and Janabi had been playing together for very long.

The Gor Mahia team that reached the Africa Cup winners cup final in 1979 was a blend of youth and vast experience. The likes of Allan Thigo, Andrew Obunga, George Yoga, Paul Oduwo “Cobra”, Mike Ogolla “Machine”, Dan Odhiambo, Ouma Ole Tunda, Duncan Migan, George Ayuka etc had been playing together since the early 1970s, there familiarity with each other and vast experience is what propelled the team all the way to the final, including defeating the defending champions Horoya, the most feared team in the tournament.

Gor Mahia players celebrate after defeating Kadiogo of Upper Volta in the second round of the 1979 Africa cup winners cup. Image courtesy of Philp Oyoo

Contrast that with recent seasons. When Gor Mahia played Ferroviario of Maputo in 2012, virtually the entire team was new and largely inexperienced. In Defence, Yusuf Juma and Ivan Anguyo had never played together hence their coordination was shambolic. In midfield, Moses Otieno, Kevin Ochieng, and Collins Okoth similarly had no coherence. And the attack of Ibrahim Kitawi and Baldwin Ngawa and no familiarity with each other as attacking partners. The net result was that Kogalo lost 0-3 away and 0-1 at home.

The 2012 team was mostly new players

The 2012 team was however very talented. They started the league very poorly and after 6 matches, they were in the relegation zone. But as they matured and gained cohesion, they went on a winning spree and almost won the league.

In 2014, Gor Mahia yet again went on a signing spree, bringing back George Odhiambo “Blackberry”, Patrick Oboya, Shakava, Walusimbi Kizito and others. But the lack of cohesion was evident again. Sserunkuma , Oboya and Blackberry, though individually brilliant, had never played together and thus the attack was blunt. The midfield of Kizito, Akumu, Kevin Oluoch and Timonah Wanyonyi similarly lacked cohesion and were thus ineffective. While the defence of Shakava, Walusimbi, Calabar and Musa Mohamed was shambolic because they had never played togther. When Walusimbi made a run forward, nobody covered the space he left behind. With such shambles in defence and lack of cohesion in attack, it came as no shock when Gor Mahia lost 8-1 on aggregate to Esperance.

Aside from the lack of cohesion, the other issue that happens when a team has to be rebuilt every year is that late signings are often ineligible to play in African competitions. For example, in 2015, Gor Mahia had a very strong team that won the league unbeaten. Yet at the continental level, they flopped at the first stage, losing to AC Leopards both home and away. This was because key signings like Kagere, Nizigiyimana and Sibomana were signed late and were thus ineligible. In attack, Olunga and Abondo who was returning from Tusker were new signings and had never played with Blackberry. It came as no surprise that the attack was blunt and Gor Mahia lost 0-1 at home and 0-1 away to AC Leopards of Congo-Brazza. And again the 2015 team was very string, once they gelled and gained cohesion, they were unstoppable, winning the league unbeaten.

The 2015 team: Talent, class and experience

Unfortunately, the very next year 2016, Gor Mahia started from scratch yet again. Gone was the lethal attack of Kagere, Abondo and Olunga. Instead Gor Mahia had to build a completely new attack with Enock Agwanda playing alongside Jacob Keli. The midfield of Eric Ochieng, Ernest Wendo and Amos Nondi was completely inexperienced and lacked cohesion. In the end, an uninspired Kogalo side lost to CNaPS of Madagascar 1-2 at home and 0-1 away.

The period between 2018 and 2019 was a relatively successful one for Kogalo. During this period, Gor Mahia eliminated much more fancied sides like Super Sport of South Africa, New Star de Douala. They reached the group stage in 2018 and surpassed the group stage in 2019, while recording excellent results against North African teams like Esperance, Hussein Dey and Zamalek.

The common denominator during this period was that the team was vastly experienced and had played together for long periods. Tuyisenge, Blackberry, Kahata, Muguna, Lawrence Juma. While in defence Shakava, Philemon Otieno and others had a lot of familiarity. These were joined by grizzled veterans like Humphrey Mieno and Dennis Oliech who had been internationals for a decade or more.

2018-2019: Years of solid performances in continental matches

Then in 2019-2020 season, the shambles returned. When Gor Mahia played Aigle Noir, only 15 players were registered to play in continental football. Luckily Aigle Noir were a sub par team. But the lack of depth came back to bite when Gor Mahia played DC Motema Pembe. Despite a valiant effort, they lost 3-2 on aggregate. A year earlier they would have beaten Motema Pembe.

Unfortunately, retaining players, is not a priority for this office. They have a policy of not approaching players to sign new contracts or even extend their existing contracts. Also when a player is owed 5 months salary, it is difficult to convince them to extend their salaries especially when former players like Tuyisenge and Kahata tell stories of how well they are being treated by their new teams. As a result, Gor Mahia loses several key players in mid season and at the end of the season and always has to start from scratch, playing continental matches with players who are often inexperienced or have never played together.

Furthermore due to Chairman’s Rachier’s refusal to be transparent, the club is constantly broke. As had been stated many times, if Rachier were to choose to be accountable and transparent, this club would have 10,000 members each paying Ksh 100 per month which would amount to Ksh 10 million a month. With those funds, player retention would be easy.

Gor Mahia’s peers are teams that typically excel at the continental level. Gor Mahia should strive for continental glory and not be content with just the local league.


Gor Mahia Photo-Gallery for 2014

At the beginning of the 2014 season, fans received good news that George Odhiambo Blackberry was returning to the club. He is pictured here in his first training session
In the 2014 elections a new set of officials was elected CHAIRMAM: Ambrose Rachier 1st VICE CHAIRMAN: Hon John Pesa SECRETARY GENERAL: Chris Omondi ORGANISING SECRETARY: David Kilo TREASURER: Ken Otieno DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL: Amina Oketch “Ferari” ASST SECRETARY GENERAL: Ronald Ngala
When Rama Salim returned at the beginning of 2014, the fearsome forwardline partnership was re-united. The duo played exceptionally well together, reminiscent of Hezborn Omollo and Abdallah Shebe
Gor Mahia beat US Bitam in the first leg match at Nyayo stadium. The goal came from a Dan Sserunkuma penalty
Gor Mahia players celebrate after Sserunkuma netted a penalty in the first leg encounter against US Bitam which Gor Mahia won 1-0. In this pic are the new signings from left : Haron Shakava, Godfrey “Baba” Kizito, Shaban Kenga, Geoffrey Walusimbi
Coach Bobby Williamson, TM Frank Ouna and skipper Jerim Onyango upon arrival in Gabon for the second leg match against US Bitam
As is common in African football, Liberian referee Jerry Yekeh did everything to help US Bitam win, even awarding them two dubious penalties. But justice was served as Gor Mahia won
Jerim Onyango saved two penalties during regulation and two penalties during the shootout as Gor Mahia eliminated US Bitam in the champions league preliminary round
Gor Mahia players celebrate after winning the penalty shootout in In the second leg of the Africa Champions league preliminary round against US Bitam of Gabon
In March 2014, Gor Mahia visited Bandari. Shaban Kenga was visiting his parent team from which he was loaned. Gor Mahia surprisingly went down 1-2
Nakuru Top Fry had not won a single match when they shocked Gor Mahia 2-0 at Afraha. In this pic is Patrick Oboya
After the loss to Nakuru Top Fry, there were rumblings of disunity amongst players fostered by pay disparities and at one point the players went on a go-slow to protest unpaid match bonuses
A massive crowd showed up for the champions league first round match against Esperance
Shaban Kenga tussles with Khalel Chanaa of Esperance. Gor Mahia showed moments of liveliness against Esperance but conceded all three goals due to defensive lapses
Stopper Haron Shakava soared above everyone to head home Gor Mahia’s second goal against Esperance. Gor Mahia lost 2-3
Sserunkuma and Owino “Calabar” at the airport in Tunisia. Both joined the team in Tunis later
Gor Mahia players holding a training session in Tunis upon arrival for the second leg match against Esperance
Keeper David Juma was kept busy by Esperance and spent a lot of time picking the ball up from his net as Gor Mahia soaked five goals
Once the sponsorship with Tuzo ended, Gor Mahia now spotted new jerseys. In this picture: Front row : Tim Wanyonyi, Rama Salim, Dan Sserunkuma, Mutiso, Walusimbi.     Back Row: Jerim Onyango, Eric Ochieng, Haron Shakava, David Owino, Geoffrey Kizito, Musa Mohamed


When the sponsorship with Tuzo ended, Gor Mahia started an MPESA initiative to raise funds.
Governor Evans Kidero donated new jerseys to promote the 350100 MPESA initiative
Sporting the 2nd set of jerseys courtesy of Kidero Front Row: Walusimbi, Rama Salim, Sserunkuma, David Owino, Musa Mohamed Back Row: Anthony, Akumu, Israel Emuge, Eric Ochieng, Geoffrey Kizito, Haron Shakava, David Juma
The players also joined in appealing to fans to support the MPESA initiative. In this pic is the Ugandan trio of Sserunkuma, Emuge and Walusimbi
Gor Mahia U19 played against Italy U18 losing 1-3
In June 2014, fans raised Ksh 150,000 to defray medical expenses acrued by defender Habil Nasio
In June 2014, Gor Mahia scored a 2-1 win over Sofapaka. The win proved crucial as Gor Mahia finished exactly 3 points ahead of Sofapaka in the final standings. In this pic is Geoffrey Walusimbi tussling with veteran Sofapaka striker John Baraza
In June, financial instability and player departures destablized the club leading to a 1-3 loss to arch rivals AFC leopards
Cameroonian Simon Pierre scored as Gor Mahia beat Nakuru Top Fry 1-0 to avenge the first leg defeat
In the return leg of the Mashemeji derby, AFC rallied to hold Gor Mahia 2-2. In this pic are Haron Shakava and Musa Mohamed
Gor Mahia were shockingly eliminated from the GoTV shield by GFC 105.
Geooffey Walusimbi and Sserunkuma line up for a free-kick against APR. Walusimbi scored from the free-kick as Gor Mahia tied hosts APR 2-2 in the 2014 CECAFA club cup
Gor Mahia ended their 2014 CECAFA club cup campaign with a 2-2 draw against Djibouti Telecom
One of the players signed to plug the holes left by the player exodus in June was Tim Otieno, seen here against Ulinzi whom Gor Mahia beat 2-1
On August 25, coach Bobby Williamson bid an emotional farewell after Gor Mahia beat SoNy Sugar 1-0
Following the departure of Bobby Willimson, Gor Mahia introduced Frank Nuttall as the new coach
In one of Frank Nuttall’s first matches in charge, Gor Mahia beat Mathare United 1-0
Dan Sserunkuma scored a hat trick as Gor Mahia blasted City Stars 4-1 to keep their title hopes on track
Gor Mahia’s title aspirations received a jolt when they lost 2-3 to Sofapaka at Machakos
After winning the title, Gor Mahia met president Kenyatta and he promised to get them a sponsor
Players celebrate retaining the league with coach Frank Nuttall
TM Frank Ouna and MVP Dan Sserunkuma celebrate after beating Ushuru 3-0 to retain the title

Who are CNAPS of Madagascar (Gor Mahia’s opponents)

The draw for the 2015 Africa champions league has been made. Gor Mahia have been pitted against CNAPs of Madagascar. The first leg of the preliminary round will be played between 13th and 15th February in Nairobi while the return leg will be from 27th February to 1st March in Madagascar. The winner will play against AC Leopards of Congo-Brazzaville in the first round

Who are CNAPS

CNAPs which stands for Caisse Nationale de Prévoyance Sociale Madagascar is the team sponsored by the national sociel welfare organization of Madagascar. Like Gor Mahia, they have won the national league two times in a row (2013 and 2014). They also won the league in 2010 making a total of 3 league wins. They won the Madagascar cup only once in 2011 and the Supercup once (2011).

The club does not have much of a history. In Madagascar, the turnover of teams is very high and teams last for only about 5-10 years.

In 2014, they were eliminated in the preliminary round of the Africa champions league after losing 0-1 to Liga Muculmana of Mozambique. They are based in Mianarivo which is 100 km from the capital Antananarivo.

CNAPs pose with the league trophy

Their squad is built entirely of players from Madagascar, not a single foreigner. And seven  of them play for the Madagascan national team including  goalkeeper Anatole Ndriamparany, defender Tobisoa Njakanirina, midfielders Mickael Rabeson, Jimmy Simouri and Njiva Rakotoharimalala, striker Jeannot Vombola  and another defender with the comical name Pierralit Tovonay

On another note, now that the draw has been made, should Gor Mahia pull out of the competition, in addition to a hefty fine, they face a 3 year ban from CAF related activities.