The Mashemeji derby is one of Africa’s biggest rivalries. Previously referred to as the Nairobi derby or Ingo-Dala derby, is the name of the local derby between two major association football teams in Nairobi: A.F.C. Leopards and Gor Mahia.
It is the oldest rivalry in Kenyan football history and for both Leopards and Gor, often referred to by their nicknames, Ingwe and K'Ogalo, respectively; recognise each other as archrivals.
AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia were formed to provide opportunities for socialisation as well as forging ethnic identities of the Abaluhya and Luo ethnic groups, respectively, in Nairobi City.
They have no doubt changed Kenya’s political terrain, thanks to their huge following. Fans battle for communal pride and identity.
Their existence created the famous Mashemeji Derby. It is deeply rooted in the ethnic differences of the two communities, which were core to their formation and fan base.
In fact, no current football club can match the fan base that these two clubs command.
The two clubs have been bitter rivals since they first locked horns on May 5, 1968, and it was Gor who won the fixture 1-0 at Nairobi City Stadium.
It has however been one-way traffic since Lamine Diallo scored the lone goal in AFC Leopards' 1-0 win over Gor Mahia in 2016 as K'Ogalo have won nine and drawn on three occasions a run which has seen them pip Ingwe in their head-to-head record.
Last Sunday was the 92nd meeting between two of the biggest sides in Kenya with Gor Mahia exerting their dominance in the Mashemeji Derby with 31 victories as Ingwe have emerged winners on 27 occasions with 34 draws being registered.
Despite boasting of the FKF Premier League top scorer Benson Omalla in their ranks, Gor Mahia failed to score as Ingwe held them to a 0-0 draw at Nyayo Stadium.
The draw however leaves K’Ogalo second in the standings with 24 points, three behind leaders Nzoia Sugar who have played two games more than Gor.
Mashemeji can literally be translated to mean ‘in-laws’ and the derby acquired the name owing to the close cultural ties between the Luhya people – whose majority support AFC Leopards, and Luo who are predominantly Gor Mahia supporters.
The rivalry developed into an intense contest owing to the success of both teams on the pitch even though Gor Mahia – now with 19 Premier League titles – have been more successful than AFC Leopards, who have 12 – of which the last was won in 1998.
As it stands, Gor Mahia are the most successful club in Kenya with a total of 19 Premier League titles. Leopards third with 12 titles.
Four decades ago, Gor and Leopards exchanged titles between them for 15 years – between 1979 and 1993.
During this time, K’Ogalo won eight titles (1979, 1983, 1984, 1985,1987, 1990, 1991, 1993), while Leopards took home seven titles (1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1992).
In recent years, Gor has continued to show their might, winning seven titles in the 21st century.
Ingwe, AFC Leopards’ street name, registered more success in the 1980s than their Mashemeji rivals, as they were Premier League winners in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, and 1989, but managed to lift the title only twice during the 1990s; in 1992 and 1998.
The Gor Mahia fanbase is predominantly Luo while that of AFC leopards is mostly Luhya, making the rivalry partly tribal despite the significant support of “neutrals” (other communities or nationalities) for both clubs. The passion of the fans during encounters between the teams add to the intensity of the derby matches.
Both teams have been involved in cases of hooliganism, but Gor Mahia fans are usually found on the wrong side of the law more often than their AFC Leopards counterparts
Both clubs have had trouble with their fans, who have always registered their anger by causing trouble. In 2011, for instance, the FKF Cup quarter-final game was abandoned after Leopards fans violently protested – by pelting the assistant referee with objects – after Gor Mahia scored from a superb combination between Moses Odhiambo and Moses Otieno.
K’Ogalo, after Leopards forfeited the game and the 1-0 scoreline was allowed to stand - went on to win the cup after beating Sofapaka. This achievement gave them the ticket to represent Kenya in the Caf Confederation Cup.
In March 2012, Gor Mahia’s fans – arguably the more notorious in comparison to the Leopards’ fans – caused trouble when Ali Abondo was red-carded after a rough challenge on AFC Leopards’ Amon Muchiri.
Consequently, Gor Mahia were banned by the Sports Stadium Management from using Nyayo Stadium and Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani for the rest of the 2012 season.
Since they first locked horns on May 5, 1968, the derby has witnessed prolific scorers feature, but Sammy ‘Jogoo’ Onyango and Dan Sserunkuma – both of Gor Mahia – are the leading scorers, having each found the back of the net six times during their time of service at the club.
Wilberforce Mulumba of AFC Leopards has four derby goals to his name, while Laban Otieno, Maurice Ojwang, Peter Dawo, Dan Ogada, and Meddie Kagere of Gor Mahia, and AFC Leopards’ Abdul Baraza, Dan Odie, Mike Baraza, and David Asibwa have each scored three times.
Dennis Olando, Francis Mudanyi, Abass Magongo, Hezron Osuka, David Odhiambo, Deomande Selenga, Paul Oyienga, William Chege, Gnamien Yikpe, Jacques Tuyisenge, and Nicholas Kipkirui for Gor Mahia each scored twice.
While on the AFC side, the players with two goals are Aggrey Lukoye, John Joseph Masiga, Francis Kadenge, Dan Musuku, John Lukoye, Kitali Ngiara, Phillip Ouma, Fred Ambani, Francis Xavier, and Jacob Keli.
The derby has witnessed quite a number of bizarre incidents, performed by both sides. The club’s scouts are previously known to blow dust at the match officials just before they get into the pitch.
In one other incident, AFC Leopards players refused to use the Nyayo Stadium changing room, claiming that Gor Mahia fans had sneaked a corpse into the dressing room the previous night.