By Denis Owoka and Alvin Wesonga
Solo; “Min Omollodhakoyach”
Chorus ;” Gimoting’o wan wakiya”
Solo ; “Kata oting’o mana jatugo”
Chorus ; “gimotig’o wan wakiya”
Loosely translated; Omollo’s mum is pregnant but we have no idea if she’ll deliver a sportsman.
The booming voice of the infamous Kisumu clown, Caleb Ngaar, and the well-known rugby player, Nasser Midamba, would ring miles away to the largest flea market south of the Sahara, Kibuye. Whenever this tune was done, even the women selling omena and mitumba would pause for a few seconds and do a jig, for they all knew that there was action at Kisumu Boys High School (KB). The Makangas, well known for their tune “Eldoret kwa maziwa bado mmoja” or “Kitale mwisho wa reli, gari ya mwisho” as they ushered passengers into the tiny “you look familiar” matatus, would all go silent and peep over the wall fence. In the pitch action was ongoing. Besides, being a hockey player came with the advantage of choosing whomever you wanted to date.
Zest, Pomp, Tears
The year is 1990. The schools’ national championships are in Kisumu City- home to the team that had won the championships for 37 seasons uninterrupted till 1986 when they surrendered the trophy to Cardinal Otunga Mosocho! St Patrick’s Iten would win in 1988, and KB got it back in 1989.
1990 was a different story. It is a history that will never be erased in the minds of Kisumu die-hards. On their own turf, KB lost the finals courtesy of Kisumu sons who had moved to Iten. Led by the legendary Cliff Odendo, the winning team also had his brother Roy Odendo, the late Jack Mix, Kapere, Afefo, and Caleb Olebo.
Earlier in the year, Onjiko High School featuring William Singh Okech (Kisumu Simba/ Parkroad) had beaten Kisumu Day who were captained by Nixon Nyangaga (Greensharks) to qualify for the finals.
In the semis, as expected, KB beat Cards as Iten easily walloped Onjiko…. Come the day of the final, pepped up crowds jammed the pitch. You couldn’t find anyone in the crowded estates of Kisumu. Primary school kids, house managers, taxi drivers…Kisumu was palpitating with excitement. It was a game like no other. KB featured Clement Omany, Orongo, Brian Aduda, Meshack Senge, John Paps Owuor, Terry Onyango, Ishmael Akich, Ray Ochola, Shamir Bux, Sharkey Wizzard… The game was equally balanced at halftime, Ray Ochola had put KB ahead only for Roy Odendo to equalize for Iten. In the dying minutes of the game, the impossible happened in the hallowed grounds. Afefo, Kisumu’s most handsome guy at the time found space in the circle to beat the advancing Newton Onyango in goal.
KB 1-2 Iten.
Didn’t we all cry! After the presentations, right on top of the imposing pavilion, Obare Awora (headmaster KB) gave a moving speech… “Today is a day we must never forget, our sons, our very own sons have taken our birthright. This is just but a battle lost. From this moment, Coach Jack Ogal (the late) take my sons and make them champions. We will win this championship next year and for many years to come. Congratulations St Patricks Iten, our sons have done you proud. Thank you.”
KB went on to win in 1991, 1992, 1993. Since then we can only talk about Kisumu Day, Kamusinga, Musingu, Alliance, Upper Hill, and St Anthony’s Kitale. Booker Odhiambo has steered Kisumu Day to great heights. For many years now they are the only hope for Kisumu hockey. Unfortunately, once they finish school, they lack the same dominance at the various clubs they join.
A Glorious Kisumu
In the 1970s and 80s, Aridaman Singh Thind (now in the UK) the deputy headmaster was also the school hockey coach. He molded the best of the best. He won the nationals unbeaten for countless years and his charges always represented Kenya at the highest level. Those are the days when Kenya was highly ranked in the world. Some of the players he coached included Legendary Parminder Saini Kake, Satpal Sirha,Lucas Alubaha, Dilesh Bayhani,Mike Omondi,Roy Odhier,Amit Goyal,Simi Goyal,Gilbert Ogola, George Ebole,George Jalang’o,Jaspal Bhamra,Samson Oriso,Julius Akumu, Emmanuel Oduol,Peter Akatsa,Charles Oguk,Emmanuel Oduol(GK), and many others.Besides Aridham, others who contributed to growth and development of hockey not only in Kisumu but the country include: Bir Singh, Resham Singh (now in the UK) and Jasbir Singh.
The first generation of players are attributed with Kenya’s achievements in finishing sixth in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan and fourth in the inaugural 1971 Hockey World Cup in Real Club de Polo de Barcelona, Spain; the country’s best performance in a global event. Some of Kisumu Simba’s earlier generation of players includes the late Michael Omondi, the late Samuel Oguk, Simi Goyal, Amarjit Singh Brah, Roy Oyier, Billy Oyier, Emmanuel Oduol, Satinderpal Singh Brah,Gurbeer Singh Pandhal, Satpal Singh Sirhaand SathmanSira.
Emmanuel Oduol a resident of Kondele ghettoes actually inspired the generation that started playing hockey from the area. These are Steve Otieno,Carrey Bwana, Tom Tipo, Eric Odingo who captained the Kenya team at some point before joining the pro league in Australia in 1999. It also featured Tom Bello, Nixon Nyangaga, Tony Oneko, Ben Owaga, Denis Owoka,Eric Afaya, Caleb Olebo, Godfrey Nyangaga, Teddy Malala,Pius Owino and Beff Nyamosi.
It is this generation that trained at the KMTC at Kondele that would terrorize the privileged estates of Ondiek, Patel Flats, Tom Mboya and Makasembo. Anderson estate had a big talented squad in Billy Agwambo, SamwelOguk who was the core of police hockey team for years.Oluande, Jalango, and Lusiro Gona helped Armed Forces team attract formidable players to join the military. Tom Mboya boasted of Ravinder ‘Pirpir’ Ruprah,the late Cliff ‘Zorro’Okello,Said Okwemba, Yasin ‘Yosh’ Abdi, WaseelBampal Khan, Shamir Bux, and Sharkey Wizard. Makasembo had OKetch Batamba who to date has been instrumental in nurturing talent and development of young players in Kisumu. He also oversaw the transition from Kisumu Simba to Butali Warriors. Others were Walter Onyantez Onyango the well-known former Kenyatta University coach, Samwel Kere, Meshack Senge the Strathmore University coach,Collins Okoth, Arthur Odhiambo , Brian Otieno, Andrew Young Opinde and Collins Okoth. Ondiek Estate had the crème de la crème Cliff Odendo, William ‘Singh’Okech, Brian Aduda, Raymond Ochola and Eric Inyanje.
Women also played a great role in putting Kisumu hockey on the map, in the late 80s and early 90s, Kisumu Girls high school was a powerhouse but winning the nationals always eluded them. Some of the top players who later on dominated in the national team are Rose Achibo Mbulo and Judy Apiyo who are now in the coaching staff of Blazers hockey team formerly Telkom Hockey Club, Georgina Ochieng, Eunice Dola, the late Judy Owino, Betty Otieno, Belinda Otieno, Becky Awuor and Josephine Anyango. Victoria Hockey club which later on changed names to Ounga Hockey Club was the only team representing the entire Western Kenya in the national league. Top goalkeeper and now coach of Blazers hockey club Josephine Ataro and Jacky Atieno of Blazers and Nairobi development are also Kisumu ladies who won the nationals with Nyamira girls high school in the 90s. Lakers Hockey club, a new-age club based in Kisumu has given hope to many skillful girls straight from high school and colleges.
The Kisumu inter-estates hockey tournament was an initiative of Parminder Kake and the Kisumu Simba Club. It churned out the best.No matter where you were, including international players, you had to come and represent your team. Winners were well rewarded and players selected to join Kisumu Simba.Unfortunately, most ghetto players couldn’t stand the discipline of Kake. So many disappeared along the way. The likes of Gatonye Wakinyos,Njenga, Mokili, would leave to later form the Fire Flickers Hockey Club in the late 90s. It also included Walter Oketch, Bob Mofito Aduda,Raymond Ochola, and Christian Achicha. The club folded up almost immediately due to lack of sponsorship.
The leadership baton of Kisumu Hockey was later handed over to Kamal Sembi around 2008 and over the years he has done a wonderful job ensuring that Kisumu Simba and later Butali Warriors remain competitive both locally and in the continental championships.
The Spiral, But Some Hope
Hockey in Kisumu has been on a downward spiral for many years now. In the early days,primary schools would compete. The primary schools league only happened in Kisumu. The estates had their training grounds so, for most of the kids, hockey was their first sport. The pitches are no longer available.
There is an initiative by Manyatta Sports and Arts Festival. It was launched by an artist, Obat Masira. The idea is to go back to the underprivileged and ignite the love of art and sports in kids. TunzaSport has looped into this goal, seeking to offer opportunities for growth among disadvantaged children in the area through sports.
Kisumu has also seen the rise and emergence of new teams that hope to replicate their fore-fathers feat. Bay Club was formed in 2013 and became National League first runners up in the same year earning a promotion to the Premier League, they were relegated in the same season but regained promotion to the top tier league again in 2016. Kisumu Youngstars Hockey Club is another team that emerged in 2015 and have since then been eyeing a promotion spot to the Premier League.
Lakers Hockey Club is the only women’s team in the entire Western Kenya. Lakers’ a Kisumu-based side was formed in 2017 and earned a promotion to the Premier League after one season in the women’s Super League.
This story was in the second edition of The Hockey Newsbeat Magazine (June 2020). Read this and more African Hockey Stories, to download: www.magongokenya.com/magazines