Mango, football coach who left sweet taste in players' mouths

The late youth football coach Joseph Otieno Mango takes his charges through the paces in Huruma. [Courtesy, Titus Mulama]

Joseph Otieno Mango was a man of many words.

Probably this epitomised what was his role as a football coach; always shouting his voice hoarse as he constantly issued instructions to his players.

Just like Abraham, Mango had many sons. But unlike Abraham, the father of many nations, Mango wasn’t known beyond the Kenyan borders. In fact, he was not as popular as your high-profile football coaches including former Harambee Stars tacticians Jonathan Niva, Francis Kimanzi, Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, or even Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno. No, he wasn’t.

Very few knew him like they would with former Sofapaka coach Ezekiel Akwana, former Posta Rangers tactician John Kamau, Tusker FC coach Robert Matano…

Very few heads would have turned at the mention on the name Joseph Otieno Mango, very few.

But to the places Mango trotted as he guided his troops, they surely knew and will always remember this name. From Huruma to Githurai 45, Kajiado to Kibwezi or Kitui, Mango nurtured so many talents. He touched and helped change countless lives.

“I will always remember coach Mango. I played under him in the early 1990s in the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) leagues. You could see that he had a passion for youth football,” said former Harambee Stars midfielder Titus Mulama.

“Mango would always tell us to ensure we do more than just play football. To him, life wasn’t all about football, but more than that. Now that we are no longer active players, we are reaping from his wise counsel.”

The late youth football coach Joseph Otieno Mango (right) with one of his teams. [Courtesy, Titus Mulama]

To Mulama brothers Titus and Simeon, former Mathare United players Walter Odede, Sunday Odhiambo, David Waithaka, Franklin Shelimba or Fredrick Nadduli, Mango remains an invaluable gem.

To his fans, he is the source of their joy. To his son Calvo, he’s a fallen soldier, to his young footballers in Githurai, a real cornerstone. A man of all seasons.

Indeed, very few would know that he took his last breath last week on Friday. As Kenyans were busy planting trees as a way of assuaging the gods to lessen the depredations of the incessant raging floods and have a better life, Mango was busy fighting to salvage his.

In the end, Kenyans succeeded in their quest of helping deal with the deluges, but, sadly, Mango lost this contest.

He had faced so many health battles before and won. But when it mattered most, he lost this final match. It’s quite unfortunate that he’ll never have a rematch. It was the final tie that ended at the sound of the whistle on Friday at 7:15pm.

The late youth football coach Joseph Otieno Mango takes his charges through the paces in Huruma. [Courtesy, Titus Mulama]

Outside the field, Mango took joy in making friends. An avid listener too, he was. A man of the people. He was quick to hear, unhurried in his speech and slow to anger.

Mango wasn’t so blessed with sartorial elegance as many have come to associate with numerous football coaches, but he had a taste for fine things.

As he sauntered in to Msupa Lounge on Saturdays for reggae sessions, he had his preferred spot. The soft-spoken tactician would request for his favourite tunes, which DJ Edwin ‘King Tubbz’ Muyera of King Lion Sounds family, would gladly yield.

Singing along almost every reggae song, while humming to a few others, Mango would hardly leave the dance floor. The only time he’d be missing from action was during his scarce but well-timed bathroom breaks. They were far in between anyway lest he missed out. He was a good dancer too.

Any other moment, he’d be nodding his head, eyes closed and swaying from side-to-side, in tune with the beats. This man Mango.

The late youth football coach Joseph Otieno Mango (second right) during the Next Star tournament. [Courtesy, Titus Mulama]

You would never miss a two-litre thermos on his table. When it was not full of hot water, then he would be enjoying his favourite African tea. His love for tea was undisputed. For sure, Khwisero in Kakamega County has lost a son.

“He would always request for Black Star Liner, songs by Mighty Culture, or Prodigal Son. He loved those songs so much. Our sessions won’t be the same again,” remembers King Tubbz.

Every time you met Mango, with certainty, he would have a backpack strapped around his shoulders. What’s not certain is, however, what contents were in the bag.

Sadly, yours truly will never get to know because coach Mango has gone on a journey to the land of no return. And since no one has ever returned to tell the tale, it is a closed chapter after 56 years with us.

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