Kenya: Harambee Stars Class of 1972 Cries Out for Help

20 October 2020

On the day Kenya celebrates her heroes and heroines former Harambee Stars captain James Nyawanga is decrying the neglect his ex-teammates have suffered.

The country will celebrate Mashujaa Day in Tuesday with national celebrations held at Gusii Stadium.

Kisii County Government is expected to recognise four athletes in a list of 24 to be feted.

They are world athletics 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri, former Kenya international footballer Henry Motego, athletics legends Yobes Ondieki, and the late Nyantika Mayioro.

But according to Nyawanga, who led Harambee Stars to their inaugural Afcon appearance in Morocco in 1972, there is little to celebrate about that achievement.

Former defender Joram Roy and striker Allan Thigo are the only other surviving members of that historic squad.

Nyawanga, worked at a bakery in Luanda, Vihiga County for many years, before relocating to Embakasi in Nairobi where he landed a cleaning job at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

"I can't just sit down and die of hunger. That is why I decided to move to Nairobi to fend for my family rather than wait for help, which may find me in death," said Nyawanga, 70.

"We have been forgotten. Nobody has ever come to help me even after reaching out to the government. It is sad we were patriotic and played, earning only Sh10, but now that money is available, we have been forgotten."

For Roy, 71 all he hopes for is a better tomorrow, as he ages gracefully at his Navakholo home in Kakamega County. He recalled how some of his neighbours mocked him after retiring from football activities in 1997.

"They kept reminding me that I have nothing despite having played football to the highest level.

"Should they (government) wait till I die so that they give me a befitting funeral like they did to the late Joe Kadenge? I plead with the government to come to my rescue. I am growing old and don't have the strength to fend for myself anymore," he said.

The tale is the same for Gor Mahia legends, Maurice Ochieng' "Sonyi", and Maurice "Ole Tunda" Ouma, who were part of K'Ogalo's 1976 team that won the Kenya Premier League unbeaten.

In that season, Ochieng scored a record 26 goals in the top league.

Ochieng, 72, was also the assistant coach to Danish tactician Jack Johnson, when Gor lifted the prestigious Mandela Cup in 1987.

"I am rearing chicken and doing small farming to keep going. Our leaders know we are here living from hand to mouth," said Ochieng' from his Kombewa home in Seme.

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