The golden days when stars shined in the National football team


Harambee Stars’ Captain Michael Olunga (centre) celebrate his goal with Joseph Okumu and Richard Odada during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers second round at the Nyayo National stadium on Monday, Nov 15, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Those who watched Michael Olunga or George Odhiambo 'Blackberry' play- likened them to the highlanders and national team icons, JJ Masiga, John Busolo, George Odembo, Austine Oduor, Ambrose Ayoyi, Sammy Onyango ‘‘Jogoo’’, Davis Oyiela, Charles Otieno, George Onyango Fundi, Peter Dawo, Wilberforce Mulamba, Mickey Weche, James Nandwa, David Odhiambo, Whycliffee Anyangu, David Ochieng, Hassan Juma, and Bobby Ogolla.

Other Harambee Stars contemporaries included Elijah Onsika, Mike Okoth, Richard Otambo, Salim Mabruk, the late Henry Nyandoro, Vincent Abuga and  Vincent Kwarula among others.

Among Kenya football lovers, the mention of these soccer heroes’ names evoke memories of the country’s dream team that almost qualified for the World Cup under the tutelage of German Coach Reinhard Fabisch.

The dream team as it was affectionately known, composed of majority players from AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia and MOTCOM had the passion and were blessed to have talents itching to play for the country.

This overshadowed the football intrigues that were plagued by the management circus and ails the game to date; one can argue that the Stars of the 70s, 80s and early 90s had the pedigree any team after them could only dream of.

Mickey Weche[photo courtesy]

From the rubble, where at ANC 1984, when home boys tied the Green Eagles of Nigeria 2-2, the national team rose to stardom.

Kenya had just finished losing 7-1 aggregate to Egypt in an Olympic qualifier.

This is when the German tactician assembled his arsenal team that made a surprise in 1987 outings composed of great players whose story is like a fairy tale.

Never has the Kenya National team assembled such an efficient machine as the team that was put together by former coach Reinhard Fabisch.

It was during this golden age that Kenya established herself as a regional and continental force, days long gone and can be remembered by nostalgia, especially for older local football fans.

Kenya started their campaign against Tunisia where the coach brought Mickey Weche in the midfield instead of his usual defence. Weche would shift from full-back to central defence in many international matches.

Ambrose Ayoyi earned his name ‘Golden boy’ when he scored a winning goal against Tunisia on 1st August, 1987.

In the second match, Kenya came up against the mighty Indomitable Lions of Cameroon two days after the Tunisia clash. This is the same squad that had won the Africa nations cup 3 years earlier in glorious fashion and almost won again 2 years later.

KRA's Davis Ikocheli challenges Gor Mahia George Odhiambo during their KPOL match at Kasarani Stadium. [DENNIS OKEYO]

Ayoyi alongside Mulamba and Weche helped Stars hold Cameroon to a 3-3 draw. Cameroon had featured notable international stars including Benjamin Massing, Jean Claude Pagal, Cyrille Makanaky, Andre Kana Biyik, Jacque Songoo, Charles Ntamark and Bertin Ebwelle among others who would later make waves at the 1990 world cup.

On 5th August, 1987, Mulamba and Odemba scored against Madagascar where Kenya won 2-0.

The three matches enabled Harambee Stars to stand second in the Group A behind Cameroon who had the same points with a goal difference. This was during the reign of French coach Reinhard Fabisch was a darling of local soccer fans.

At the All African games, the Harambee stars squad at the games was initially seen as an underdog but pulled a surprise with the former President Daniel Arp Moi being their number one fan.

President Moi would wall along with his entire cabinet to watch and cheer the national football team while playing home matches.

Other players who put up their best foot forward for the success of the Stars include Hassan Juma who remained arguably the best left-back ever to play for Kenya.

In August 1987, Kenya put up a spirited game in their group matches. Clustered in group A, along with Cameroon, Tunisia and Madagascar. Group B had Egypt, Côte D'ivoire, Senegal and Malawi.

John Mo Muiruri, George Nyangi Odembo scored a free-kick that led to Harambee stars beating Madagascar in the group stage of all African games in 1987.

At the end of the 1987 season, JJ Masiga hung his football boots and handed the bundle to Henry Motego.

David Ochieng was the custodian and had a successful football career for the National team Harambee Stars where he inked his name in the annals books of Kenyan champions.

John Bobby Ogolla the 'Million Dollar man' as many Stars fans know him, is still a revered figure within the national team circles.

Soccer legend Peter Dawo (third left) pose for a picture with his fellow national team mates at Nyayo National stadium ahead of their game with Malawi in 1987. (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)

He would coordinate well with the captain Austin Oduor “Makamu in central defence and David Odhiambo and Charles Otieno in midfield along with Mulamba and George Onyango “Fundi’’, Sammy Onyango and Ambrose Ayoyi. David Odhiambo (Re-Union), Abbas Magongo, Jeffer Mwidau, Tobias Ocholla 'Juakali' played a pivotal role in Fabisch’s mid lineup.

George Onyango ‘Fundi’, the word 'Fundi' loosely translates to technician and Onyango was surely more than that when it came to midfield.

He was a schemer and even scored 33 goals for his club Gor Mahia that season. He played for the national team from 1987 to 1990.

George Odembo Nyangi was the mastermind of passes in Harambee stars midfield in the 80 and early 90s and Peter ‘Omuga’ Dawo-who was also the undisputed striker of his generation.

 He had an electric speed and any corner ball he could respond with a heroic head converting them to goals.

Micky Weche Makuku 'Double clutch' aka T9, (AFC) Weche was pretty tough when attacking and as a result, he was likened to Tanzania’s dog breed which can bite and kill.

​German Coach Reinhard Fabisch [photo courtesy]

He went on to be Kenya’s captain at the 1992 African Cup of Nations in Senegal where he scored Kenya’s solitary goal in the tournament against Nigeria.

Other stars who shined their way to glory include AFC' Leopard's Josephat 'controller' Murila, Mike Amwayi, Dan Musuku, (Gor) John Okello Zangi, (KTM) Nahashon Mahila, Oluoch Kanindo, (Scarlet) Swaleh Ochieng Oswayo, Washington Muhanji, (Transcom)David Akoi, (Volcano) Gabriel Olang, (MOTCOM) Denis Munyendo, (Bandari), and (Kenya Breweries), Hussein Kheri 'capi Douglas Mutua.

Even during the tenure of Kenya’s Elijah Lidonde (1967), Jonathan Niva (1972), Marshall Mulwa (1980-83), Stephen Yongo (1979), England- Ray Bachelor's reign (1961), Jack Gibbons (1966), Ray Wood (1975), Germany’s Eckhand Krautzun (1971), Bernhard Zgoll (1984), Poland’s Grzegorz Polakow (1979) couldn't match to the team.

East Africa Secondary School games: Kenya dominates racquet games with accurate play
East Africa Secondary Schools Games: Cheptil reclaim boys volleyball title as Dr Aggrey lose basketball final
Premium Unsung heroes: Teachers shaping the careers of country's athletics stars
Kenya scoop overall title at East Africa school games