NAIROBI, September 17- “We are tired of winning Yawa tho!!!,” was the banner self-proclaimed K’Ogalo Defence Force commander, Jaro Soja, held aloft subsequent to Gor Mahia being officially confirmed the 2015 SportPesa Premier League champions on a memorable Wednesday night for the best supported club in the land.
It’s now 15 and counting as Gor continue putting distance between them and fellow giants, AFC Leopards who are a shambles of their greatness after a wretched campaign in K’Ogalo’s slipstream.
Unless other players in the soon to be 18-team top tier come up with an answer quick, fast and in a hurry, Gor will continue re-writing domestic football’s history unchallenged in the foreseeable future.
It now seems ancient history only three short seasons ago, Gor celebrated like the second coming of the Messiah after going 18 agonising years without the crown in a dark period for the great club that coincided with Kenyan football’s meltdown.
Their revival and subsequent dominance having come close to catching the bouquet in the 2010 and 12 seasons when they were beaten to the finish line by Ulinzi Stars and Tusker FC in agonising final day heartbreaks, should signal the upturn in fortunes for the country’s tattered football.
However, while Gor and by extent the Kenyan Premier League Limited run top-flight are slowly but surely bringing the groove back to the club game, the malevolent Football Kenya Federation (FKF) mandarins have perfected the art of reversing the gains through pitiable management-but for now, it’s all about the majesty of K’Ogalo.
Having been led to their first title since 1995 by Bobby Williamson who is now struggling to pick up the ruins of another Harambee Stars failure, compatriot Frank Nuttall, a respected physical trainer once in the books of Glasgow giants, Rangers FC, has masterminded two championship winning runs on the bounce with the swagger associated with Gor’s core support base.
While Sofapaka FC were allowed to mount a sustained challenge for the crown until the last lap of last year’s campaign, Nuttall’s boys have not allowed anyone to have a sniff at the trophy they will get to keep this term with the kind of choking dominance associated with the legendary K’Ogalo sides of the mid 80s.
Until April 12 when Leopards came from behind to rescue a point against the champions in a 1-1 result, Gor breezed through their opening four games with a 12-5 goal-difference, hammering Mathare, Chemelil and KCB by three or more whilst edging stubborn Bandari 2-1.
Since then, Nuttall’s charges have either beaten or drawn with rank title challengers, Sofapaka, Tusker and Ulinzi while hammering minnows All Stars (5-0), City Stars (3-0), KCB (6-1) when the situation called for it to reduce their last four games to a title procession.
The only blot in what will be long remembered as one of the most commanding title runs in Kenyan football came at the August 23 Mashemeji Derby where Leopards fans, perhaps green with envy with their arch-rivals ascendancy, decided to halt the game in the 66th minute after K’Ogalo were awarded a penalty by pelting the pitch with missiles.
Judicial review awarded Gor a 2-0 victory but anyone at Nyayo Stadium that afternoon and those watching on television across Africa could see it was a matter of when, not if, the champions got their goal after overrunning the old enemy particularly in the second half, with only the sheer brilliance of Ingwe keeper Lucas Indeche preventing an embarrassment.
There are those who will argue the circus that is AFC Leopards, the drying up of Sofapaka coffers, an aging Ulinzi side and the implosion of Tusker contributed to the lack of a sustained challenge to K’Ogalo’s might but that all pales into the shadow if you consider the champions have not had an easy ride as well.
Since parting way with Spin-Knit Dairies through their Tuzo Brand, Gor have been rumoured to come close to deal with an assortment of companies with no formal deal closed and on a number of occasions, their devoted fans have come in to bail them out.
Like Jesus, they had to turn to bread to feed their hungry coffers with Good Bread and now Elliot given the rights to sell ‘Gor Bread’ with the club getting a shilling in the first deal for every loaf before doubling the amount with the latter.
Nuttall also had to deal with player unrest due to unpaid dues with a training boycott or two whilst the team was in danger of missing out on the regional Cecafa Kagame Cup when FKF bailed out on paying their tickets until the club’s National Executive organised another fund raiser.
Once in Tanzania, Gor captured the imagination of the entire region when they sailed to the final but fell 2-0 at the final hurdle to Azam FC, a team though bereft with the fanatical support their opponents enjoy, nonetheless have the resources and structure that K’Ogalo aspires to model itself in the near future.
In a sign of the huge gulf between them and the rest of the SPL- in their three-week absence- all title rivals conspired to short-circuit themselves and Gor returned six points clear at the top with three games in hand- another plus that inspired them to complete the job with four games to spare.
Any other team, losing such a final with a lot at stake, Sh3m in prize money for the winners, would have rocked their spirit to its foundations but Gor raided KCB’s vault and handed them a 6-1 hiding on August 8 in a ruthless display of aggression with the poor bankers at the receiving end of their disappointment. That was their biggest victory to date.
On the pitch, Gor simply have out-lasted their domestic opponents with fitness levels any SPL club should incorporate in their training manual in Nuttall’s biggest in print in the side.
It’s no secret that most, if not all, remaining15 teams in the top flight are a sore to watch in the last 15 minutes but a huge chunk of Gor’s goals have come deep in the second half when their rivals begin to tire.
With top domestic football talent continuing flattering to deceive, Gor’s title charge has been aided in large part by foreign imports with former Rwandese international Meddie Kagere (forward), Ugandans Godfrey Walusimbi (midfielder), Khalid Aucho (defend), Burundian Karim Nizigiyimana (right-back) and Rwandese Abuoba Sibomana (left-back) playing starring roles to supplement local stars.
Any title-winning campaign is spearheaded by a lethal forward and when Gor lost Ugandan Dan Sserunkuma, their top scorer in the 2013 and 14 victorious seasons; Nuttall invested faith in former Liberty Academy and Tusker youngster, Michael ‘Engineer’ Olunga that proved to be a masterstroke.
The engineering college student, 22, brought another dimension to Gor’s attack and in mid season, Nuttall refused to take up the option of returning Sserunkuma despite the Green Army’s clamour to bring him back from Simba SC and his faith has been repaid with 15 goals thus far.
Throughout the campaign, Gor have been lifted by an in form scoring midfielder, with veteran Ali Abondo opening the season on fire with nine before, Innocent Wafula, took over the mantle with four in the latter part, including the 38th minute strike that floored Sony Sugar on Wednesday to seal the crown.
It cannot be underscored the importance of Kagere, who has weighed in with 13, to the campaign with his wise head and nous in attack allowing those around him to flourish and will surely be ranked among Gor’s latter-day legends.
In his hit, M.V.P, the late celebrated American rapper, Lamont Coleman popularly known as Big L dropped a line, “my girls are like boomerangs/no matter how far I throw them they come back”.
The same can be said about Gor and the most desired ‘girl’ in top flight football-SPL crown since no matter how far they have thrown it to their challengers in the past two seasons, it keeps coming back to the Green Army barracks and few can bet against the quadruple next season.