Gor Mahia has dominated the local football league for a long time But they share a rare fry of glory too – they are a team with a jawdropping number of coaches in the last decade.
The record Kenyan league champions have hired and fired 16 coaches since 2010. Alongside their perennial rivals AFC Leopards (formerly Abaluhya United, also fondly called ‘Ingwe’ in Swahili), the two are the most successful and oldest football clubs in Kenya together with Tusker, who have made impressive strides in the recent past.
AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia were formed to provide opportunities for socialisation as well as forging of 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 a communal pride and identity.
Their existaence 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.
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.
Gor Mahia have also dominated the last decade while hiring and firing coaches, seemingly aimlessly. Ironically, since 2010, Gor has won seven KPL titles.
The champions last month fired the 15th coach in a span of 12 years after parting ways with German tactician Andreas Spier.
Spiers was appointed as the club’s head coach on February 1 after the sacking of Briton Mark Harrison and his assistant Sammy Omollo, owing to what the club described as poor results.
During Spiers’ reign, Gor Mahia played 17 league matches where they won six, drew seven and lost two.
Spier led the club to a third place finish with 54 points, nine below eventual winners Tusker.
This was the second consecutive season Gor missed out on the league title, which they had won for the past four consecutive seasons.
On the bright side, the German had helped the team win the Madaraka Day Cup against fierce rivals AFC Leopards at Nyayo Stadium, which gave the team Sh1 million prize money.
However, it seems the club’s management was not impressed with his work and opted not to extend his six-month deal that expired early last month.
“We can confirm that we have mutually parted ways with head coach Andreas Spiers. His contract ended and we are now in the market for a new coach. We wish him well,” Gor wrote on their social media pages.
On July 29, Gor unveiled a new head coach, Jonathan McKinstry of Northern Ireland. The former Uganda Cranes tactician takes over from Spiers.
McKinstry is an experienced tactician, having been in charge of various national teams and clubs.
In 2013, he was appointed Sierra Leone head coach and was relieved of his duties in September 2014 after he had led Sierra Leone to their highest ever Fifa world ranking position of 50th.
After his time with the West Africans, McKinstry was appointed to take charge of Rwanda in 2015 and guided Amavubi to their first away win in four years; a 1-0 victory in the opening round of the 2017 Africa Nations Cup qualifier against Mozambique.
In the same year, Rwanda ended up as Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup runners-up after they were beaten by Uganda 1-0 in the final.
In December 2019, he was appointed by the Federation of Uganda Football Associations to take charge of the Cranes.
After winning all six games in the Cecafa Cup, he helped Uganda win the regional tournament before he left in April 2021 after being in charge for 18 months.
All eyes will be on him next season as fans will be seeking to reclaim their title they last won in 2019.
The big question, however is, what is ailing Gor Mahia and why has the club become a revolving door for coaches? Should Gor ditch the massive hiring of foreign coaches and revert to local coaches?
K’Ogalo fans in Kisumu gave mixed reactions to the coaching problem facing the 19-time Kenyan Premier League champions.
James Obonyo, a die-hard Gor Mahia fan from Chiga in Kisumu County, said he had no problem with Gor hiring foreign coaches but the management has to give these coaches time to build the team and do away with the short-term contracts.
“There is a big problem with Gor Mahia’s management. You cannot appoint and fire coaches at the beginning, middle and end of the season and expect to get positive results.”
“The management is confusing players every time because each coach comes with his own tactical philosophy, which disrupts team chemistry every now and then. This needs to stop if we are to get back on top because now Tusker are ahead of Gor by far,” said Obonyo.
However, for Silas Okello, Gor would perform better if they reverted to local talent.
“I am a true believer of developing our own local talent. We have good coaches here in Kenya who can perform well. Why not give them a chance? Why must we always spend millions of shillings on foreigners who in the end leave after few months?” posed Okello, a Sales Officer in Kisumu.
Since 2010, Gor Mahia have hired four local coaches and 11 foreign tacticians.
Despite Robert Matano, a local coach, being a living proof that Kenyan coaches can perform better, Gor Mahia’s recent glories have been hugely reliant on foreign coaches.
Bobby Williamson ended Gor’s 18-year title drought when he won the 2013 title despite the work largely falling on Croatian Zdravko Logarusic who departed before the season ended.
After Williamson, Frank Nutall took over the reins and is perhaps Gor Mahia’s best ever coach after stirring the club to winning the 2015 championship unbeaten immediately after winning the 2014 title.
Another coach is Dylan Kerr who led K’Ogalo to the 2017 and 2018 league title.
Kerr was known for being very friendly with the public and was often seen mingling with fans at the city centre and eating at kiosks.
Many eyes will be on Gor Mahia ahead of the 2022-2023 season, which is still in doubt with the grappling management issues facing the Football Kenya Federation.
Commonly known as K’Ogalo (Dholuo for ‘”House of Ogalo”’), Gor Mahia is a football club based in Nairobi.
Gor Mahia Football Club was formally established in 1968 after the merging of Luo Union and Luo Sports Club.
The club was named after a legendary medicineman from Kanyamwa, Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County, in Luo mythology, whose nickname was Gor Mahia (“mahia” is Luo for “magic”) because he was famous for performing magic.
The club’s most famous nickname, K’Ogalo, also stems from the medicineman, whose full name was Gor Wuod Ogada nyakwar Ogalo (Gor son of Ogada grandson of Ogalo), and as such was known as Gor Makogalo, or Gor K’Ogalo in short, which means “Gor of Ogalo’s homestead”
However, the club was founded much earlier, in 1915, and participated intermittently in local tournaments in Western Kenya. Various groups used this name at different times.
They are the only team from Kenya to win an African continental title to date, having clinched the African Winners’ Cup in 1987 after previously reaching the final in 1979.