Why former KFF boss Matiba wanted football icon Pele deported

31 Jan 1976 A smilling pele at a press confrence in nairobi, from right Kenneth Matiba, chairman KFF, Cosme de Aboitiz, pepsi regional manager, Prof Julio Mazzei and Chair Kenya national sports council, Issac Lugonzo [Standard]

Veteran football administrator Ogalle reveals how the Brazilian legend's visit to Kenya was marred by controversy.

He urges Sports CS Namwamba to form an Advisory Council to help tap talent in the country.

Standard Reporter, Nairobi

As the world of football continues to mourn the death for Brazilian legend Edison Arantes do Nascimento who was popularly known as Pele, veteran Kenyan football administrator Steve Ogalle has recalled his controversial visit to Kenya.

Pele, 82, the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player (1958, 1962 and 1970) died on Thursday in a Sao Paulo hospital after battling colon cancer.

Speaking from his Nanjekho village in Samia Sub County, Busia County, Ogalle who served as Kenya Football Federation (KFF) Secretary General in 1970s, remembered with nostalgia Pele's visit to Kenya in January 1976, coming two years after the icon led Brazil to his last World Cup that they relinquished the title to hosts West Germany.

Ogalle said he was among KFF officials under the chairmanship of Kenneth Matiba (deceased) who went to welcome the football icon at the airport during his tour to the country sponsored by Pepsi Cola International. Charles Mukora was then the Kenya National Sports Council chairman.

"Mukora tried very hard to bring in Coca Cola as co-sponsors but Pepsi Cola International in Kenya threatened to withdraw from the arrangement," he recalled.

"Matiba had his programme and he wanted Pele to go to the City Stadium, the only stadium in Nairobi back then but the idea failed to materialise."

He continued: "Since Pele was booked at the Norfolk Hotel, our chairman organised a press conference at the same hotel under the KFF banner but it was boycotted. Pele went ahead with his program to meet the youths at Jamhuri where the requirement for entry was production of Pepsi Cola bottle tops, six for adults and three for children."

Ogalle said after Pepsi Cola International which sponsored Pele's tour blocked Matiba's participation, terming him a publicity seeker, the chairman went to State House to meet President Jomo Kenyatta but he was denied entry. He had gone to seek the President's permission to have the football legend deported.

Owing to that unfolding, Ogalle said KFF boycotted the event until Pele went to Jamhuri to meet the youths, which was successful, and later to Mombasa on a similar mission before the celebrated player flew back to his native country.

Former KFF Secretary General Steve Ogalle. [Courtesy, Standard]

Ogalle, who will be turning 82 this month, described the football legend as gifted, a wizard, a magic player you could not believe, noting that Pele will forever remain the greatest player of all time.

"Pele was the key of success and is somebody to be emulated worldwide. We are very proud he chose to visit Kenya. We still stand by that spirit of football; we have a future in Kenyan football, develop the game and produce new Peles," said Ogalle.

Ogalle said Kenya is lucky to get a youthful Sports Cabinet Secretary in Ababu Namwamba, urging him to come up with a bill to fund football separately from other disciplines including athletics noting that football is a fame.

He challenged Namwamba to look for people with experience to form an Advisory Council to reach out to the youths, develop talent and advise them like they used to do in the 70s.

"Kenya can still qualify for the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations if we invest in the youths. Let's go back to the basics and organise camps for youths from secondary schools and colleges during holidays," he advised.

While Ogalle feels discipline is key in tapping talents, he said greatest players like the late Joe Kadenge, Jonathan Niva, Jerry Imbo and many others fought hard for the country without thinking of money.

"Unlike today, most of the players in the yester years sacrificed their lives and played wholeheartedly for this country without thinking about money," said Ogalle.

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