NAIROBI, July 15 – He was Kenya’s go-to man. The saviour that the nation turned to when its football was in trouble.
Reinhard Fabisch’s death at 57 after a long battle with cancer was felt in the East African country more than anywhere else.
He was without doubt one of Kenya’s more charismatic coaches complete with his checked coat, dark trousers and touchline antics which included acting as the fans’ cheerleader.
Three times Kenya football officials turned to him to rescue Stars from a deep hole and each time he took up the task with vigour, inspiring Kenya to stunning results.
Full of energy, colour and a tad bit controversial, he was at the helm of most things good with Kenyan football in the last 20 years.
Fabisch for president was a slogan that famously did rounds for months during Stars highflying months in early 1997 when the national team put up a series of giant killing acts at Kasarani.
Never one to sugar coat things, he would infuriate as much as he pleased falling out with the football administration and fans time and again and shouts of Fabisch is rubbish often followed Fabisch for president.
His first brush with Kenya was way back in 1987 when he guided Harambee Stars to the final of the All Africa Games-Fabisch at his best.
Fabisch was shown the door shortly afterwards after the famous quote “coaches come and go” by the then KFF chairman, the late Joab Omino.
He crossed over to Zimbabwe where he worked his magic on the Warriors, taking them to the brink of qualifying for the 1994 World Cup only to lose to Cameroon.
With Kenya struggling with the 1998 World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers, Fabisch was lured back and he responded by building a new team that reached unscaled heights with a 1-1 draw against Nigeria.
Subsequent wins over Gabon and Guinea led to the Fabisch for President calls and though Kenya ultimately fell short, he had made his mark.
Three years later, with Kenya again at rock bottom after Christian Chukwu’s ill-fated spell, KFF again turned to the affable German.
When news about his imminent appointment leaked out and the public went berserk calling out for his name and services, believing he was the only person capable of salvaging Kenyan football.
Back in Nairobi for his third stint, he responded by rebuilding the side that reached the 2002 CECAFA finals only to lose to Ethiopia. Impatient KFF officials would not understand when he told them he was looking at the future and they promptly fired him.
Never one to hold back, Fabisch was always worth a quote his most famous being “Those expecting instant results should instead hire the services of Jesus Christ,” that ultimately led to his sacking.
While in charge of Zimbabwe in October 1993, he threw a wad of dollar notes at a referee, accusing him of having been bribed to be biased in his officiating in the game between the Warriors and Cameroon in Yaounde. He was subsequently banned from coaching by the Confederation of African Football until November 1994 when the ban was lifted.
In 1997 he was pick pocketed as fans carried him shoulder high but upon realizing, Fabisch stopped the crowd and asked for the thief to own up which he duly did giving back the money! Or the time he faked that he had been slapped by an opposing player falling to the ground to disrupt the game as Stars were intense pressure against Guinea.
He was also never shy of blooding players. John Baresi, Tom Ogweno, Eric Cantona Ochieng, the late Ken Simiyu, John Lichuku to mention just but a few of the players that he blooded in 1997 and who went to become household names..
In 2001, he gave debut to a very young Dennis Oliech and it is widely acknowledged that the team that Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee led to 2004 Cup of Nations was essentially the one he had assembled in 2001.
Little wonder then that following Lama’s ill fated reign of the Stars in 2006, some quarters were calling for Fabisch saying he was the only one who understood Kenyan football.
Last year he finally got the chance to coach at Cup of Nations when he was appointed Benin coach in December 2007.
In Ghana, he caused an uproar when he claimed that he had been approached by an Asian betting syndicate to fix the result of his team’s opening African Nations Cup game against Mali which they lost 1-0.
He also fell out with Benin’s best player Sessegnon because of indiscipline benching him for the first game.
Unbeknown to most people he was fighting cancer and he left the West African nation because of the illness in May. On July 12 he lost his long battle with the disease in Germany.
Tributes have followed his demise led by former national team coach Jacob Ghost Mulee who worked as his assistant; “He brought good things to Kenya and gave us hope. He was very charismatic on and off the field and he played a major role in what I achieved with the national team. He called me up to be his assistant and gave me guidance throughout.”
Current national coach Francis Kimanzi, “He was like one of us and helped groom a lot of coaches who worked as assistants and they went on to become coaches. He put Kenya on the map with his achievements with Stars and he made the rest of Africa stand up and take note of Kenya.”
May God rest his soul in eternal peace