Going beyond the obvious, the call for Gor @50
- On February 17, 1968, exactly 50 years ago, the most successful football club in Kenya – Gor Mahia, was born.
- Since its foundation, Gor has fed the national team Harambee Stars with quality players who have flown the nation’s flag in international assignments.
- Perhaps, in reflecting on the unmatched club’s history locally at 50, the puzzle to the exploits of the past will be unraveled.
- The finest collection Gor ever had forced the North Africans to a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Tunis, Tunisia, hence the win on away goal rule.
On February 17, 1968, exactly 50 years ago, the most successful football club in Kenya – Gor Mahia, was born.
The birth took place in the house of then Minister for Economic Planning Tom Mboya, who led other stakeholders to talks culminating into an amalgamation of Luo Union and Luo Sports Club, which had split two years earlier.
Luo Union was the parent club, formed in the early 1950’s as a brainchild of Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Upon the birth of Kenya National League (KNL) in 1963, Luo Union finished second before winning the title a year later, to announce superiority in the hitherto young nation.
After enjoying a successful start, things fell apart between 1966 and 1967, with some players ditching the club to form Sports Stars. Consequently, Union was eliminated from the league at the expense of the newly established Stars, forcing some of its players to move Kisumu Hot-Stars.
The development weakened the three new clubs, while rivals Abaluhya Football Club, now AFC Leopards, thrived in the two years of the discord.
Seeing no gain in the disintegrated Luo Union, executive officials led by Mahallon Danga, Solomon Oiro and Odiawo Nyandega approached Mboya whose wisdom unified the two factions.
However, there were several proposals for a new name of the newly unified club. Today, the 16-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions would have been known as Nile Stars, Luanda Magere FC, Nyathi Kwach, among others, but Aggrey Olango’s suggestion was finally adopted, and with it, Gor Mahia was born.
Olango, who played for Sports Club, got the name from a legendary Luo traditional medicine man from Kanyamwa, Ndhiwa in Homa Bay. His nickname was ‘Gor Mahia’, which means magic, because he was a magician. Thus, his nickname became the club’s name, and in turn the club nicknamed him as K’Ogalo, which in short translates to Gor grandson of Ogalo.
Beyond primary dreams
The fascinating history of Gor in its formative stage encompasses football stars, who arguably were classes above the current crop. Mention the likes of Peter ‘Bassanga’ Otieno, Austin Oduor Charles ‘Engine’ Otieno, Ben ‘Break Dance’ Oloo, George ‘Fundi’ Onyango, Peter Dawo, Tairus Omondi, Tobias Ocholla, George ‘Solo’ Otieno, Abbas Khamis Magongo, Sammy ‘Jogoo’ Onyango, John ‘Zangi’ Okello, and Michael Olunga, among others, and every K’Ogalo faithful will relate with their special moments in the team.
Since its foundation, Gor has fed the national team Harambee Stars with quality players who have flown the nation’s flag in international assignments.
K’Ogalo remains the only club from Cecafa zone to win a continental title – in 1987 when Dawo’s super finish from Magongo’s corner ensured a 1-1 draw in their African Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup) return leg against Esperance in Nairobi.
The finest collection Gor ever had forced the North Africans to a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Tunis, Tunisia, hence the win on away goal rule.
However, 21 years later, Gor has struggled to repeat the same fate. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lordvick Aduda opines time is here to leap beyond primary dreams, which he calls basic achievements.
“Two major things that Gor lacks at 50, that the founders would have loved to see at such a time are a stadium and an updated club register. Gor is the face of football in Kenya and East Africa at large.
“It is sad that the East African giants have no privately owned stadium half a century later,” Aduda stated.
He underscored the need for society influencers; in business and political facades to support the vision of the club.
“If you look at the budgets involved in projects like stadium construction, all stakeholders need to go out of their way to help in actualising the dream. Leaders like Tom Mboya and Jaramogi Odinga took the lead when Gor was born; their idea is this big today. If the current leaders accorded our clubs the same prominence in their priorities, we can easily achieve some of these milestones,” opined the CEO.
On faded continental glory, Aduda is optimistic that K’Ogalo will soon shake Africa again, with a steadily developed side. He recalls the 1987 team was developed over a time, after the Zamalek debacle that saw six players banned by CAF.
“There was regrouping and recruiting new young players who later blended well with experienced ones to lift the trophy. Since 2009 when the late James Siang’a started rebuilding the team, there has been convincing progress and sooner rather than later we can bounce back to continental glory.
“We had endured some difficult time, but we can build up from the local successes outside our boundaries,” he averred.
A leap into the future
Before the end of the period set for commemorating 50 years of existence, Chairman Ambrose Rachier will announce a grand plan for the second half of the century reflecting on the gains made thus far.
“It is an opportunity for us to reflect on our journey to where we are, and where we are headed. We must engineer a leap into the future, a future of a bigger and better Gor Mahia.
“We are targeting to celebrate with commendable results both locally and internationally, starting with the return leg of the CAF- Champions League against Leones Vegetarions (Equatorial Guinea),” he concluded.
If the words of Gor legend Dawo, a special inspiration among the players, fans and the management, “different from the obvious, will fire the club to the missed glory”.
Perhaps, in reflecting on the unmatched club’s history locally at 50, the puzzle to the exploits of the past will be unraveled.
The author is Royal Media Services Chief Sports Writer and a Commentator.
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