NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17 – The Kakamega High School ‘Green Commandos’ have produced a plethora of talent over the past decades in Kenyan football and often than not, youth coaches prefer a journey down Western Kenya to scout talent at the school because they know, they will not be disappointed.
One particular class that still holds its shoulders high from the tens of thousands of alumni of the institution previously known as the Government African School Kakamega (GASK) is the class of 2014.
They deflated an equally talented Kisumu Day High School to win the National School Games football title at a fully packed Bukhungu Stadium and all but one in that class have gone on to establish solid careers in the top-flight.
Among the high-flyers are Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and Joseph ‘Crouch’ Okumu who are now plying their trade in Sweden Premier League.
“I usually look back and I am proud of these boys. They were a group of very dedicated players who were disciplined and hard-working on and off the pitch. The principle who was there at that time, Mr Minishi (Oliver) was also very supportive of the team. Anything we needed, he put it as a number one priority and he went out of his way to ensure we succeeded,” Brendan Mwinamo, the long serving Green Commandos coach said of the team.
At some point, almost seven of those players from the class of 2014 were part of the national under 20 team and some as well went on to graduate to the senior national team.
Okumu and midfielder Apollo Otieno walked straight into the Chemelil Sugar starting 11 after finishing school in 2015 as did Marcelo who was a regular at a very competitive Gor Mahia squad and Vitalis Akumu into Western Stima.
“What was so special about that team was the unity and discipline,” says Marcelo, currently turning out for Swedish top tier side AIK.
He added; “Every player there was technically gifted so it was easier to execute game plans and win. If you looked around, you had so many quality players and it was also so hard for the coach to pick a starting 11. Everyone has the ability if called upon,” added the versatile defender.
His sentiments were echoed by Okumu who is also in Sweden playing for Elfsborg.
“Man! we had a good team and it was so enjoyable to play with them. At some point, we had almost half of the Under-20 team from Kakamega. My dream one day is to see all of us in the national team. I know it can happen because we have the ability,” Okumu, nicknamed Crouch for his tall frame states.
Coach Mwinamo vividly remembers the determination of the 2014 team to clinch the crown especially noting that it was held in their home turf.
“If these boys wanted something, they went for it. They always had targets for themselves and worked hard to achieve. I am not surprised that all of them are playing in good teams now,” states Mwinamo.
In the 2014 campaign, they went undefeated from the zonals to the nationals, without conceding a single goal. In a tense final in Kakamega, they were stretched to extra time by Kisumu and ultimately won the national crown with Alphonse Ndonye, currently playing at Mathare United scoring a late penalty. A Kisumu Day player handled the ball after current Wazito forward Piston Mutamba flicked the ball inside the box.
“It was a very tough game but we had some very rare drive. Everyone wanted to win and we worked for each other. We would push each other even if it meant at some point arguing with each other. It was that passionate,” Mutamba recalls.
Harun Nyakha, now with Ushuru FC but has had a good spell with AFC Leopards was the skipper of that team and he has some solid memories especially ahead of that final.
“The fans used to come to the school and encourage us. They would bring milk and bread for us after training and they really pushed us to succeed. Before that game, they told us it was a derby between the ‘small’ AFC Leopards and ‘small’ Gor Mahia.”
“We couldn’t afford to let them down. What was special about that team was the unity we had. We were so focused and everyone wanted success. Captaining that team was a huge privilege for me to be honest. I was part of the team from Form one and when I took over from Mike Wandera, I felt really honored.”
“The Principle (Minishi) was really supportive of us and he gave us the best we could ask for,” he added.
And the national crown was just a cherry on top of the cake as that year, the class of 2014 were able to help the Commandos sail to promotion into the National Super League.
“It made us stronger because competing against tougher teams as bunch of school kids worked wonders on the mental strength of the boys. They had played together for some time and the gelling as out of this world,” Mwinamo sates.
The celebrated tactician has since moved to Musingu High School where he hopes to sail them into similar successful waters as he did with Kakamega.
“We are also playing in the lower tiers and hopefully, we can succeed too,” he states.
But, where are they now?
Timothy ‘Chita’ Odhiambo (Goalkeeper, Ulinzi Stars), Vitalis Akumu (Western Stima), Pistone Mutamba (Wazito FC), Alfred ‘Kemboi’ Wekesa (sidelined with injury, ex AFC Leopards), Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma (AIK, Sweden), Harun Nyakha (Ushuru FC), Bernard Biko (Chemelil Sugar), Selemani Majenga (Western Stima), Edwin Mukolwe (Nairobi Stima), Apollo Otieno (Tusker FC), Joseph Stanley ‘Crouch’ Okumu (Elfsborg, Sweden), James Mazembe (Kariobangi Sharks), Kelvin Monyi (Western Stima), Brian Wesa (KCB), Benson Mutinda (KCB), Alphonce Ndonye (Mathare United), Vincent Chacha (Ulinzi Stars), Stephen Etyang (Kakamega Homeboyz), Brian Andanje (Kangemi All Stars), Omar Rashid (continued with school).
Coaches: Brendan Mwinamo, Eliud Omukuya, Barnabas Lihanda, Kevin Asuba.