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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Winning through intimidation

"Ndugu yangu usijaribu.

Kakoko ba nauwa ba goalkeeper ba Ine" -Kayembe of Ochestre Mazembe in Nrb, 1978.

The ominous warning was being given to Gor Mahia FC and national team goal keeper Dan Odhiambo who was in the squad to face Zaire national team fondly known as Leopards.

Dan Odhiambo on hearing this warning approached my knowledgeable cousin and his former Team Manager Albert Oketch if there is such a deadly striker. With the affirmation that indeed this is the reigning TP Mazembe FC and Zaire no 9, Dan Odhiambo disappeared from the camp of the Harambee stars that was due to face the Leopards, Zaire in a tour of East Africa. Mohammed Magogo of Breweries FC also went AWOL. Mahmoud Abbas was club less and James Siang'a had retired. Lubembe of Abaluhya was too much of a novice and was recovering from a wrist fracture. Late John Owuor of Luo Union FC was quickly drafted to cover in the friendly game at City Stadium.

In the opening 10 minutes the Leopards stringed a move to the wing that arrived on striker Kakoko's feet. First time Kakoko hit the ball so hard that it flew into the roof of net and rebounded before John Owuor saw it because Owuor had closed his eyes anticipating the worst from Kakoko. The ball came back to Kalala who in a celebratory gesture turned the rebound in. This time John Owuor dived thinking that Kakoko had simply dummied. And incredibly Owuor still failed to save the roll in.

The whole Zaire forward line burst out in laughter as they knew the keeper was intimidated. From then they humbled themselves and played without any serious threat for the rest of the game.

Winning through Intimidation.

I insist that most of the songs in praise of African football teams just like stadium banters are meant to be the 12th fan to intimidate opponents. I have looked at songs by Johnny Bokelo, Franco, Morogoro Jazz, Pepe Kalle and Juma Toto. The general trend is that most of the clubs had not achieved much except for 2 teams.


1. Gor Mahia FC - Juma Toto

Gor Mahia was a very young team with only 2 national titles under their name by the time Juma Toto sung their praise. I think Gor Mahia had just celebrated their 3rd anniversary. No serious threat internationally. But you could say they were punching above their weight. Yes, they deserved the song but even though Juma Toto makes an international claim in the lyrics Gor had not made a mark by then.

The song therefore was an intimidation just like other Gor stadium numbers such, Ogwang, Makogalo Oore, Gor Biro, Ng'at Man gi ludhe, Re Onindo Ataro. Personally I still dread ‘Makogallo Ooro’ even though it's 30 years since they dished the pain. It was the most daunting song. You knew you were going down. The popular Gor Biro does not carry the threat of domination like Makogallo Oore. In fact, Gor Biro is like a nursery rhyme in comparison to the other war songs. But, Oore, MakOgallo Oore, is a different kettle of fish. The Laundry men had a dirty job cleaning the opposing teams kits the next day but someone had to do it.

Gor fans’ intimidation alone was why Gor Mahia performed better than Abaluhya or Harambee stars in international home and away meetings.

If you ask me. And that is just if you ask, President Moi should have awarded the HSC commendation to the Gor Mahia fans and the players to get houses from the many council houses that were then being sold to thieving civil servants.


2. Morogoro FC- Morogoro Jazz

This was an over-romanticised club. I think they won 1 title, had some great players like Norman Chihota, the great Sembuli and Boy Wickens. But the music by Mbaraka Mwinshehe and his Jazz band praising Morogoro FC was great. 40 years after this song, Rift Valley bands were still falling over the guitar works and selling hugely in the Rift Valley region. But apart from the national league, they achieved nothing of note.


3. AS Dragons -Bilima- Johnny Bokelo Isenge

Dragons FC had a few wins in the local league. Popular but no track record out of Congo. Very fashionable club hence the reason why the most fashionable band and musician by then penned a song for them. This time Johnny was bigger than even Franco Luambo.

And Johnny Bokello's lead guitar work on FC Dragon literally carried Benga music of Luo Nyanza for over a decade. It was a monster hit. Dragons FC was nothing though. In front of Motema Pembe record, they had nothing to say


4. FC 105-Franco and Tabuley

A friend asked about which football team is this. Gabonese teams are privileged with money and state sponsorship and good players. In terms of continental prowess, I doubt whether they have been past semis. Gabon and Libya are the only two countries where nationals received house allowance and other state benefits just like in Europe. They are rich therefore affording the players the platform to perform better. However, in Africa, they are nothing. In any case like I read somewhere football is not a rich person’s game. The success of the Aubamoyangs, Dad and son is nothing to do with the national competitiveness.

Franco who was an armchair fan of Vita Club of Congo put on a smooth song of easy Rumba. Truly friendly to the tongue and ears. A real sing along. The naivety of Kenyans is that when a Gabonese team came to play a Kenyan team some non-football guy was playing this song over the Nyayo stadium PB system. Anyway Gabonese being Gabonese, Kenyans walked over them. This is the country where the president says No to polygamy by staying unmarried and keeping 13 girlfriends and 17 children. What do you expect.


5. Roger Milla- Pepe Kalle

Cameroun was like Kenya or England. Good clubs and rubbish national teams. Cameroon clubs were huge in Africa but not so Tonnere Kalara FC of Roger Milla. Certainly not Indomitable Lions as the national team was fondly known. This was a national side that while hosting the continental tourney in 1972 drew with Kenya. Kenya!

Harambee Stars is still in a 3 legged race. By then they were so bad that when they lost 13-1 to Ghana in 1963, the sitting President asked Tom Mboya "Where was Kipchoge Keino?”. And yet the next day when Luo Union FC faced the same Ghanaian national they drew 2-2 with visibly weak Arudhi on Tom Mboya facilitated day-release from indisposition getting a Man of the match award.

This is a national team whose key defender Jonathan Niva’s best on pitch strategy was to play with a kitchen knife in his stockings while in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. This just shows how poor Cameroon was, not Harambee stars.

But when Pepe Kalle shifts through gears to give us Roger Milla on the back of two World Cup outings, all is forgiven and Cameroon is installed as a footballing power house.

But fate had a date with Dan Odhiambo the Gor Mahia goal keeper who avoided Kakoko of TP Mazembe and Zaire in 1978. Within one year Gor Mahia had progressed the continental tourney eliminating even defending champions Horoya to come face to face with Canon Yaoundé of Doula Cameroon. Cameroon was streets ahead even pre match intimidation. The Gor Mahia keeper recalled one such onslaught in 1979, When the driver of the match day bus opened the passenger door and asked who the keeper was. When they pointed out Dan Odhiambo the bus driver broke out in loud unabashed laughter with his whole body laughing.

"This kwashiorkor keeper. Hahahaha ........ Manga Onguene go kill you today. ........, Hahahaha. Cameroon names, but Kwashiorkor bodies! .... Hahahaha. No food in Kenya ..... Hahahaha.........

It was Kwashiorkor and Hahahaha all the way to the stadium."

And the intimidation did not end there. Migan Power, one of the Gor Mahia players narrated to me years later at Lake View Hotel, Kisumu the power of home tie intimidation. During the match every time the dreaded Manga Onguene scored he ran to the centre stand to blow victorious kisses to President Ahidjo as if this match was some kind of National day celebration. (Yeah ... don't get any ideas of a comeback....) And he scored 4(?) to completely obliterate Gor Mahia. It's only years later that one of their players Aoudu confessed that they were scared of the threat the unknown Gor Mahia carried so they had to employ a lot of gamesmanship on and off the pitch.

It's winning through Intimidation


6. LUO UNION FC- Juma Toto

This club was a deserved recipient of praise. They were worth their salt. Not that my uncle Owiti Hatari or cuz Siranga did not tell me tales of their own intimidation tactics.

Formed after 1st world war by stranded vets in Mwanza, the club is older than most East African clubs and engaged even local colonials in games. They reigned supreme in the 50s before independence and after until the scramble between Mboya and Odinga forced the club to go underground. After things settled they rose again like Phoenix. They smashed the Tanzania East and central African strangled hold in Mombasa. They then followed Simba the following year in Dar Es Salaam and crushed their myth of invincibility in East and Central Africa. To date TZ still talks up Luo Union as if the game was played las weekend

If Gor Mahia FC rode on the back of Juma Toto, then this time Juma Toto rode on the back Luo Union FC song.

And they also had intimidation of their own. On the way to retaining the cup the second time in Tanga, TZ, the great Chege kept on telling the opposing goal keeper, “Mzee alizipanga sita leo” (the old man planned six goals today).

They were six alright. Maybe it is the tragedy of reading a witchdoctor “dhum”. Or maybe William Chege Ouma knew the score but just aggregated it to intimidate an opponent that they had failed to beat. Anyway, the rest as they say has remained history


7. TP Mazembe- Baba Gaston

Eastern Congo, the origins of Swahili is a marginalised part of Congo. They recoiled in a siege mentality and self-divorced themselves from the Kinshasa government. In the same way that siege mentality drove Luo Union FC and Gor Mahia FC, TP Mazembe scaled the heights to continental trophy twice in a row. In fact, for a long time they were the only club to win it back to back. In one case they won in Cairo, Egypt(?) and in a gory case to intimidate the Arabs they carried a live monkey slaughtered it, had a sumptuous meal and the next day carried the soup in to drink at half time. Real intimidation with monkey cleaned out skull rested next to match day driver.

When Baba Gaston penned the song it was indeed a celebration of the team that World Cup squad Zaire Leopards 74 was built on.

So these lines are about real heroes:


/Kakoko mwana wa TePe

/Jojo mwana wa TePe

/Saidi mwana wa TePe

/Katumba mwana wa TePe

/Kazai mwana wa TePe

/Kalala mwana wa TePe

/Kalambayi mwanawa TePe

/Chinabu mwana wa TePe

/Mukombo mwana wa TePe

/Alimasi mwana wa TePe

/Kalonzo mwana wa TePe

/Mutombo mwana wa TePe

/Mulenga mwana wa Tepe


Winning through Intimidation is an art perfected by African musicians more than any part of the world. It’s a shame we have not exploited it very much.


However, in saying that Gor Mahia fans deserve a Head of State Commendation. Why do I state that?

When Kenya hosted the 4th All Africa Games, Gor Mahia had a majority of players in the national team and Gor Mahia was doing very well. On the opening day Cameroon, the defending champion was playing Madagascar as the only event. But someone had pulled a fast one on Kenyans.

First Gor Mahia fans came in full attendance as they were gearing for the national team support to their bulk of players. The opening performance had a South Nyanza dancing troupe in all white and white feathers and all that mayekeyeke. As you know unlike East and Central Africa, the rest of Africa are darker in complexion. In fact, the Senegalese are blue when you zoom in using a telescope. Then Rachuonyo dancers step out in that Quarter-to-midnight Kakdhimu rich dark complexion. And they were dancing to their easy to dance oteng’o dance with the whole Kasarani including visiting teams tapping to. It was hair-raising experience. I have never felt that way in any stadium in any part of the world.

That is the sort of support that carried Harambee Stars to dizzy heights of football achievement. For that and all that Gor Mahia fans have given to Kenya, they deserve an HSC. Some day that justice will be done.


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