A shining star dimmed by Nakumatt inferno

By Mutwiri Mutuota

When the history of Kenyan football is written, a sad chapter will be on the tragic demise of Peter Serry who was the CEO of Premier League (KPL) frontrunners, Tusker FC.

At 35, Serry had etched his name on the Kenyan game in stone and while the Nakumatt Downtown inferno consumed his life, the legacy and footprints he left in the game will be felt for ages.

"He was dedicated to the game he loved. Serry was also a wonderful father, husband and friend; we will all miss him," Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) and KPL chairman, Bob Munro, said of the man who epitomised the success of one of the largest slum youth development projects in the world.

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His best friend and Mathare United coach, Francis Kimanzi, said: "The country’s football fraternity will miss him but we in Mathare shall miss him more. He was more than a friend to us."

Peter Serry died in the Nakumatt fire.

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Those were some of the glowing tributes that began flowing when the shocking news of his demise surfaced a day after the Nakumatt fire. On the fateful day, he was in the company of Tusker FC coach, James Nandwa.

"He was a very dependable person, committed, understanding and confident. We shall miss his ability to manage all the aspects of the club with consideration that was above normal," Henry Emuya, the Chairman of Tusker FC, said.

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Talented manager

The Ruaraka-based club hired Serry last year as their CEO to replace Patrick Naggi who was recruited by Football Kenya Limited in similar capacity.

"We have been given the weekend off (by KPL) so that we can pull ourselves together after this great loss. As a club, we plan to introduce an award to be named after him that will go to best performing players or managers; it is the least we can do," the chairman added.

Serry had, a fortnight before his demise, been replaced as team manager of the national team, Harambee Stars. He formed a dream team with Kimanzi (head coach), Nandwa and Yusuf Chipo (assistant coaches) that saw Kenya qualify for the last phase of the 2010 World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers. His last assignment is when Stars lost in the finals of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup to Uganda early last month.

Serry lived on football and it was poignant that he met his death serving the newly recruited Tusker FC players. He and Nandwa had gone to the supermarket to purchase mattresses and other provisions to enable the new recruits to settle into the Ruaraka outfit and were on their way out when the fire broke out.

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While Nandwa was sensationally captured escaping through the roof by a hawk-eyed Standard photographer, Serry was not lucky.

A staunch Catholic, the father of three was among the pioneer beneficiaries of MYSA and played a key role in its transformation into a model community based organisation in slum areas.

His career

Serry had a UEFA-B Diploma License in Coaching (Holland), Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) Basic and International Courses Certificates, Programmes Monitoring and Evaluations Certificate MDF (Holland), HIV/Aids awareness Educators’ Certificate (Norwegian Church Aid) and Certificate-British Council Leadership and Team Building among other qualifications.

His career took him to Kakuma Refugee Camp and Southern Sudan where his community work and understanding of the game were vital in inspiring scores of youth.

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"Above all, he was charming, friendly and a good person to work with. The best tribute we can pay to him is performing well and winning since that is always what he wished," Kimanzi said.

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