Football is many things. My mathematics teacher once told us that football is vectors. There are two Physics teachers who revolutionised football in Kenya. They both hailed from Kakamega County.
Apart from their zeal for teaching sciences, the two had a passion for football. Chris Makokha taught Physics and Mathematics at Kakamega High School while Johnstone Mukonyi taught Physics and Electrical Technology at Musingu High School. The two schools were football powerhouses from the late 70s. When they met, the whole of the former Western Province came to a standstill.
Makokha is well known because he coached Harambee Stars, so I will start with Mr Mukonyi. Until 1981, Stanley Ashitiva was the coach of The Scorpions, the Musingu High football team and Ministry of Works (MoW) FC. Mukonyi was his assistant at Musingu. In 1982, Ashitiva moved to Bungoma High School and Mukonyi took over at Musingu. Ashitiva did the groundwork at Musingu just as Makokha was breaking into the ranks as coach of Kakamega High's Green Commandos.
At Musingu, Mukonyi formed a junior team that nurtured players for the first team making it a force to reckon with. He was astute and applied his teaching prowess to football. The players who went through his hands agree that Mukonyi had a good understanding of the game and he knew how to motivate them to get the best out of the team. He brought in the best players, whom he tapped from all over the region.
Mukonyi broke into the big league when he led The Scorpions to a 2-1 win over Green Commandos at the 1984 secondary school football finals at Shanzu Teachers College in Mombasa. Green Commandos under Makokha had won the championship five times in a row. Keffa Tasso, who later played for AFC Leopards, captained the triumphant Scorpions team. The other players in the squad included John Kabwoya, Julius Were, Maurice Magomere, Joe Serenge and Enock Momanyi.
That season, Musingu stopped Kakamega at both the district and provincial level. At the nationals, Mike "Computer" Wambani came in as a substitute and scored two goals in the last five minutes of regular time to turn the tables on Kakamega who had led by one goal for a good part of the match. This shows Mukonyi's tactical prowess and knack for developing his team's mental strength.
Makokha and Ashitiva took over as MoW coaches in 1980 and appointed Mukonyi to assist them. In 1984 when it changed to Motcom FC, Makokha was diagnosed with diabetes and Ashitiva was out in Bungoma. Mukonyi was tasked to take over as coach. He coached players likes of Aggrey Litali, Mike "Computer" Wambani and Gabriel Olang. Motcom finished in the tenth position that season. Makokha later took over when his health stabilised.
Years of dominance
He took Musingu to a total of eight KSSSA National Championships in 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987 as coach and assistant coach. Musingu has won only one title, the 1984 title but that doesn't diminish his prowess. Mukonyi, just like Makokha had the mentality of winning while insisting on playing beautiful football. This meant that he always went for the best talent and did everything to develop them into men as well as better players.
Makokha needs no mention in Kenya's football circles. The bespectacled Physics teacher who passed on in 2014 had a geek pose on the touchline whenever he managed Kakamega High School, Motcom FC and the national team. The man who was keen on quality always insisted that the ball must kiss the grass. Motcom was known for "carpet" football in the national league and he couldn't compromise on style to win matches. Motcom remained a mid-table team that was known as a feeder to the big clubs because he gave his students a chance to play.
His Physics lessons were as captivating as the matches "Green Commandoes" played despite the subject not being popular with students. Makokha went to Mukumu High School for his O-Level and then Kakamega High for his A-levels before proceeding to University of Nairobi for a Bachelor of Education (Science) degree. He went for teaching practice at Ingotse High School where he tried his hand at coaching and never looked back.
Upon being posted to Kakamega, he jumped in with both feet and soon his intelligence in class and on the pitch made him popular among students and football fans. He calmed agitated students because they believed in him as the master of the school's culture. Makokha had an eye for talent however rough a diamond it looked. He would then mould the players into brilliant individual ball players then create a great team out of them. This he carried to the Kakamega Olympic Centre which he managed in the late 70s.
He is the coach who has handled the highest number of players who later featured for the national team. He won five titles in a row with Green Commandos between 1979 and 1983. This is something no other coach or school has achieved.
Makokha won a total of nine titles at the National Secondary Schools Championships which no other coach has achieved. He is also the only Kenyan school coach to handle the national team when he took Kenya to the 1988 AFCON in Morrocco.