Kenya: Remembering Never-Say-Die Gor Lads Who Wrestled Down Esperance

9 December 2019

December 5 remains a very special day in the history of this country and in the world.

It is on this day 32 years ago that Gor Mahia became the first and only Kenyan and East African club to win a continental title, the Africa Cup Winners Cup.

This cup had just been renamed the Nelson Mandela Cup in honour of South Africa's freedom fighter and first black president Nelson Mandela.

On December 5, 2013, the world was sent into mourning after one of the greatest sons of Africa Nelson Mandela passed on.

The coincidence of the two events is very interesting.

I look back with nostalgia, the day Austin "Makamu" Oduor lifted the Nelson Mandela Cup at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani after edging out Tunisian team Esperance.

Just like many other ecstatic K'Ogalo fans, I had trekked from our humble abode in Dandora to Kasarani Stadium early in the morning to be part of this historic moment.

My beloved Gor Mahia had fought gallantly to hold Esperance 2-2 in Tunis and Kasarani was pregnant on this day, the title was going to be delivered.

A few pessimists feared a repeat of the 1979 finals when Gor Mahia was mauled by Cameroon side Canon Younde.

But as it is said, lightning does not strike twice, Gor Mahia was never going to allow this title to leave Kenya.

Gor Mahia had come all the way to the finals unbeaten. They beat El-Mereikh of Sudan in the second round, Entente Sportif of Togo in the quarter-finals and Benin moneybag side Dragons in the semi-finals before a date with Esperance.

Fought like wounded lions

At Kasarani Stadium, Esperance used all the dirty tricks just as they had in the first leg, but Gor Mahia players, led by Austin Oduor, were never going to be put down.

At some point, a Tunisia player tried to poke Peter 'Omuga' Dawo's eyes but that never worked to kill the spirit.

And when Dawo rose to head home Gor Mahia's goal, the newly-built Moi International Sports Complex nearly came down.

Despite the Tunisians forcing an equaliser, Gor Mahia were declared champions. I spare this space to honour the great players who brought glory to this country.

David Ochieng, Tobias Ocholla, George Otieno Solo, Peter Otieno Bassanga, Austin Oduor, Isaiah Omondi, Charles Otieno, George Nyangi, Peter 'Artillery' Ochieng Pierre, Peter Dawo, Sammy Onyango, Tom Gundo, Jaffer Mwidau, Dan Miswa, Anthony Ndolo, Ben 'Breakdance' Oloo, Ahmed Shero

Valentine Odongo, Swaleh Ochieng, Fanuel Oluoch, Hezborn Omollo, Abbas Magongo, George Onyango, Tirus Omondi. Thank you very much.

These are the true heroes of Kenyan football. The legends of K'Ogalo.

And as December 5 came to pass, I looked back on this day years ago when this group of players brought pride to Kenyan and East African football.

I pray for another success story from Gor Mahia one day. The spirit of K'Ogalo and the spirit of Nelson Mandela lives on.

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