Immortality is Green!November 2, 2015
“I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again!”
Those were the timeless words of football commentator Martin Tyler when Sergio Agüero scored that famous 94th minute goal against Queens Park Rangers than won the Premier League title for Manchester City in May 2012. Maybe he was right, maybe we will never see anything like it ever. Then again when the final whistle blew on Sunday November 1 at the Nyayo National Stadium, my mind raced back to that poignant proclamation. Gor Mahia had beaten Muhoroni Youth 2-0 to end the 2015 Kenyan Premier League season unbeaten, sealing a third successive title – a record breaking 15th overall. We hadn’t seen an Agüero moment, but by God, we had come close.
It is not easy to go an entire league campaign without defeat. It sounds rather like stating the obvious, but seriously, it is the rarest occurrence, regardless of the level of competition. And by this, think of whichever football league; from the glamour and splendour of Europe’s Big Five to the Brazilian Campeonato, to Africa’s best run Premier Soccer League, to the A-League from down under…to Sunday League, or even a primary school inter-class version. You won’t come across such a feat with ease. To put things to perspective, only Arsenal (2003-04) and Juventus (2011-12) are the teams of note to have pulled off the impossible in recent time before Gor did. Heck! The greatest club side ever, Barcelona (2009-11) failed to tread that ground. So, for all intents and purposes, ladies and gentlemen, be under no illusions – we have witnessed the Green Army accomplish something very very special.
When Gor successfully retained their title last year on the final day in Kisumu, amid all the celebration and elation, some fans couldn’t help but wonder about the future. Would the team be as hungry? And even more pertinently, how would the core of that winning side be replaced? The likes of impending departures of Baba Kizito, Dan Sserunkuma and David ‘Calabar’ Owino loomed large over that question. These were the leading lights behind that drive to the finish line, but they were leaving. It is fair to say that at the time, a third league title in a row let alone an unbeaten season seemed far-fetched. 12 months later, and really, you mean Baba who? Sserun-what? Calabar? Yes, exactly. Gor Mahia moved on, and moved on to better. So this milestone set is testament to the supremely high standard of work that has been put in place by the club’s recruitment team. They deserve all the praise and more.
And the acquisitions have been as astute as intimated above. Boniface Onyango, shunned at rivals Tusker, came in, usurped club captain Jerim Onyango between the posts, brought an ultra-confident style of goalkeeping and has 19 clean sheets in the league. Simply the country’s supreme shot-stopper at the moment. Khalid Aucho, he of the cultured left foot and combative midfield approach came in also from Tusker, donned the number ten, and really, can any Kogalo faithful complain about his service? He’s made sure opponents’ creativity started from their area and ended within three feet of his presence. Upfront arrived some three guys named Ali Hassan Abondo, Meddie Kagere and Michael Olunga and when all is said and done, 43 league goals shared among them speaks a lot more than I or anyone ever could. And not forgetting the Burundian full back Karim Nizigiyimana who really has been a breath of fresh air to the league. With a plethora of assists to his name, this lanky right back always offered the watching gallery lessons on being the ultimate modern full back.
The one thing that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated is that this is a team made up of the very best players in their department, playing in sync with at times a telepathic understanding of everyone’s next move, and most importantly, playing at a very high level – a level so high that none of the other teams or coaches in the league had the elevator keys to. This was a dream concoction. A coming together of supreme talent, unnerving mentality and maximum productivity from all the sum parts of the unit. The result was the creation of an almighty juggernaut that roared right through any adversary that dared crossed paths with it. So indomitable was this machine that as early as March, barely five games in, respected local football gurus like Arnold Kanyang’onda were bold enough to publicly declared their fore-sighting of the unbeaten season. Yes, he actually did, when some of us were quick to tone down his assertion with cold drops of caution and doubt.
If a fantasy eleven of the SportPesa Premier League 2015 was to be drawn up, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t this: Oluoch – Karim Nizigiyimana, Musa Mohammed, Haroun Shakava, Abouba Sibomana, Collins Okoth, Aucho, Godfrey Walusimbi, Abondo, Kagere – Olunga. In fact it would be a travesty, only remedied by the inclusion of Innocent Wafula who more than ably stepped in for both Abondo and Sibomana due to a dip in form and injury respectively. Such has been the class and superiority of the personnel in that squad. Special mention to Musa Mohammed who probably has been the biggest revelation of the squad. Not only has been the stalwart of the league’s meanest back-line, he has come of age, matured and led superbly as captain at the same time playing every single minute of the campaign.
It wasn’t all perfect though, the season. The Green Army’s hottest property and golden boy of Kenyan football Michael Olunga, despite wowing the crowds consistently and fearlessly failed to bridge the gap between him and eventual winner Jesse Were of Tusker in the race for the Golden Boot. Such a shame, really. The league’s best player should have bagged that award. But he’s just 21, if he keeps his feet on the ground, he will get plenty of them for sure. The other big disappointment has to be the bitter loss in the CECAFA final to Tanzania’s Azam. This is especially after Gor came from the brink of not making the tournament altogether to playing probably their most breathtaking football of year on an all-conquering run to the final. Yes, I said breathtaking. Just go back to the 3-1 semi final win against Al Khartoum to get a feel. Anyway, the pain of losing the final aside, it was an education for the squad – an education that will come in handy someday.
Forget about the just lifted league title for a bit and think about this: Gor Mahia are just 5 wins away from completing an unprecedented domestic treble. They are due to play Tusker in the second leg of the Top 8 Cup semi final and Administration Police in the quarter final of the GOtv Shield. And by the way, should they achieve this, they will have ended the year not losing a single match to any team within this nation’s borders. How awesome would that be? Can they do it? Absolutely, without a doubt. You see the person who came up with ‘history in the making’ phrase? Well, this is what he must have envisaged.
Growing up as a Gor Mahia follower, my dad has always regaled me with tales of the exploits of the great Kogalo teams of old. The likes of Peter Dawo, Allan Thigo, Abbas Magongo, Austin Oduor and Bobby Ogolla are just some of the names I’ve been made to revere in the course of entrenching fully Kogaloism in my system and I appreciate their work. But some years to come when I in turn mention to my father’s grandson names from the current squad punctuated by the coach, Frank Nuttall, I think it will be worth it. The Gor Mahia of 2015 have moved mountains and broken rocks. They stand in the hall of fame. They have gone the distance and run the 30-game mile, walking through hell that is the pitches of domestic football with a smile. They are heroes. They’ve gotten the gold, breaking all the records we thought would never be broken. In the end, this Kogalo has achieved Immortality.