OPINION: Too Much Praise For An Otherwise Average Joe Kadenge

Joe Kadenge in a file photo.
Joe Kadenge in a file photo.

Forget his age for a moment. I revere elders. What has Joe Kadenge achieved in Kenyan football for us to idolize him this much? I have asked the greatest connoisseurs of football of our time and all they say is that now boring line of ‘yaani wewe hujui Kadenge?’ ‘Lakini you are too young to even know how great Kadenge was!’

Listen to me, as long as nobody is ready to show me accolades won by your legend Joe Kadenge, I’m not ready to treat him with any iota of respect footballwise.

“In our days we attacked the ball from the start,” that is Kadenge’s memory verse whenever he’s asked to draw comparison on modern day football and his time. Yes, you attacked the ball from onset but what did you achieve with it?

You see, the greatest measure of success in football, like any sport, is winning matches and trophies. What did Joe, the good old Joe, win in his playing days? Forget the local league titles. Even Arthur Ssemazi has a league winning medal but you don’t hear him being praised on Kampala’s rooftops.



Don’t get it twisted. I hold in high esteem every contribution Joe Kadenge has had in making our football what it is today. I also reckon the fact that as long as Kenyan football will exist, Kadenge’s name will last. What I refuse to accept is him being celebrated like God’s personal gift to our football yet without anything to show for it. I mean a title. A continental title the very least be it for his club Abaluhya FC or Harambee Stars.

But what about our childhood rhymes of ‘Kadenge na mpira’ that we famously memorized? You may ask. I also ask; was Kadenge that good? Maybe he was. But what did he win apart from the two league titles in his seven year career in the top league in Kenya? That is a mere 29%. Is that worth all this noise? Me doubt it!

I do not revel in idolizing mediocrity. Not my culture! Shouldn’t be yours either! Gor Mahia historians also love ranting about their 1979 team that had what they call their best ever squad. I dismiss that claim with the same vigor that I use to slam Joe Kadenge’s alleged greatness. What did that squad win? Well, they played to the Finals of African Cup Winners Cup only to be humiliated by Canon de Yaoundé.

Joe Kadenge was a great juggler of the ball. Ha! What did that juggling bring us? Recently someone even had the balls to list the old Joe alongside African greats like Roger Milla, El Khatib, Hossam Hassan and George Weah. I dismissed that as bull dust. I swear if we want to bring further shame to Kenya we should say Joe Kadenge when we are asked who our greatest footballer has been.



Talk of great teams and I present to you the 1987 Mandela Cup winning Gor Mahia squad. Those are men who brought continental glory to my country. Talk of legendary footballers and I present to you Peter Dawo; a man who singlehandedly carried the 1987 glorious Gor Mahia on his shoulders emerging top scorer in that year’s Mandela Cup.

What did Joe Kadenge win in his playing career? He juggled the ball. Nonsense! I think the greatest achievement by Joe is posing on those Twende-Kazi billboards with a couple of equally scrawny individuals who in actual fact unrecognizably look like his drinking buddies given they are appearing on a beer promotion.

We should all celebrate Joe Kadenge as a modest man who’s lived a good life for eight decades but not as a great footballer. His only achievement is not having retired to the village because if he did, we would have long forgotten about him. How many greater footballers are out there languishing in the scorching village sun without any attention? What Joe enjoys is media attention magnifying his otherwise little contribution out of proportion. Happy belated birthday old Joe!

By @TomBwana 

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