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Life and times of Joe Kadenge [Photos]

Last updated 1 year ago | By GameYetu

Joe Kadenge addressing a meeting in September 1997 [File]


Joe Kadenge was born on March 16, 1935 in Soliani village, Hamisi Sub-County in Vihiga County. Little did his parents, know that it was indeed the sunrise to one of the greatest football talents in the country.

“Kadenge na mpira” slogan

‘Kadenge na mpira’, was the famous sports commentary, made by legendary broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela which popularised and made Joe Kadenge and his homespun talent, a household name.

Mbotela often said: “Kadenge anapiga keeper Siang’a chobo.....goooooal!”

The famous Godfather hat trademark

Kadenge wore a Godfather hat, a fetish that is also soccer-related. This is what happened: He scored a goal against a visiting English team during a friendly match at the City Stadium and the then Mayor of Nairobi threw his ‘Godfather’ hat to the field in disgust! Since then, Kadenge vowed to sport the Godpapa hat, just like the mayor.

Kadenge wore a Godfather hat, a fetish that is also soccer-related [File]

Birth of a star

But it was during the glorious Gossage Cup years that Kadenge became popular, beginning with his debut in Zanzibar in 1957, the year he also showcased his talent playing for Nakuru Combined during the Remington Cup.

The following year, Kadenge inspired Kenya’s 2-0 Gossage Cup victory over Uganda, scoring one goal and assisting the other. Gossage Cup - a tourney between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zanzibar - began here in 1926.

It was sponsored by soap maker William Gossage, who was also Kenya’s Commissioner for Community Development. Gossage was red carded in the early 1970s and gave way to the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup - in which Kadenge inspired Kenya’s inaugural victory.

Joe Kadenge jumping over the rope during a training session ahead of Africa club cup match in May 1968 [File]

Kadenge, who attended Musingu Intermediate School in ‘Kachmega’ went on to display his magic with Nakuru All-Stars, Maragoli FC and Abaluhyia FC now AFC Leopards - a club he helped win the 1966 Premier League.

Life as a pauper

The father of Oscar Kadenge and the late Francis (both footballers) was a striker for Harambee Stars for 14 years.

Football legend Joe Kadenge with other national players pose for a photo with German players in June 1988 [File]

The football legend - who suffered a stroke in 2006 - retired from soccer in 1970. And it was not until 2002 that he was named Harambee Stars manager...a whole 32 years later! He had been operating a taxi until the stroke.

But being an icon and living like one are two different things: “People have been singing my name for decades, but I must admit that life has been very hard on me. Most people think I am rich, but they are wrong,” he told The Standard in 2013.

National team coach Joe Kadenge [in black track suit] receives presents from Food Specialities Ltd in presence of smiling squad on April 1975 [File]

Kenya has certainly produced many great footballers, including Mahmoud Abbas and Abbas Magongo ‘Zamaleck,’. Others are Hussein Kheri, Austin Oduor,  Peter Dawo, Dennis Oliech, Victor Wanyama and McDonald Mariga... but it is Joe Kadenge who has remained ‘immortal.’

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