Monday, July 7, 2008


Ever wondered how some of those little things that we do as children can significantly shape our adulthood leaving a profound and lasting impression in the later years? The other day I hooked up with my bro Ted after quite a bit of some time and naturally before too long our chitchat interestingly digressed as we nostalgically recalled our childhood years; all those memorable moments with their lows and highs slowly wafted back as we unwound the clock and went back in time…

I grew up and spent a better part of my childhood and teenage years in Eastland’s California estate - a neighbourhood made famous in recent years by Calif Records, the music studio that has propelled many of the celebrated rap artists like Jua Cali and Nonini to fame and stardom. Back then, there used to be an open field in this neighbourhood which was christened ‘Dezza’-aptly so because the ground surface, just like in a desert, barely had any patch on grass. In my own reckoning, Dezza was meant to have been a parking lot of some sort for the residents, but over the years it had been transformed into a mini-stadium for recreational and sporting activities that drew large audiences from other neighbouring estates. And how fortunate that Dezza was right behind our flat!

During those days kids from each flat would form football teams to compete against each other during school vacations. The team from our flat owed its existence solely to one enterprising lad who was slightly older than the rest of us. His real name was Edward but everyone simply knew him as ‘Shedu’. In essence, Shedu was the club-founder, owner, coach and team manager, all rolled up together. So much of an authoritarian was he that he would roundup all his players everyday after school and take them through rigorous training seasons. Now, that was back in the mid 80s and I was barely eight years. Naturally there were many family ties in our team; my elder bro Ted also happened to be my over-protective teammate. There were atleast four other pairs of siblings in the team, the most intriguing being Shedu’s younger brothers, Papa and Dudi. Dudi, our goalkeeper, was the younger yet the more influential and assertive of the two. At the time he was the skipper of the team and a few years down the line he would go on to take charge of the team as the player-coach when our coach Shedu finally quit his ‘job’ to concentrate on studies upon joining secondary school.

Sadly, our team was disbanded after a short but memorable existence when all the parents in the neighbourhood seemingly conspired in a secret pact to restrict us from engaging in our exciting boyhood escapades.

But that did not deter some of us who had already fallen in love with the game. In our household, football was a cherished subject. My dad loved listening to football commentary over the radio and with time it just rubbed on us. The first major football tournament that I can recall was the 1986 World Cup held in Mexico. That was the year Diego Maradona shot into the limelight with a virtuoso performance that earned Argentine its second World Cup trophy. Although, I have very little recollection of the tournament as a whole, I can still remember the final match between Argentina and West Germany, one of the best finals ever, which the South Americans won 3-2. The following year presented an even more enthralling football festival for us since everything was happening closer home. I was ten years then, and more conscious of my growing passion for the game. Instinctively, my brother Ted and I took the cue from dad, a great fan of Gor Mahia, and keenly followed the club’s memorable route to victory in the Africa Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup). At the end of the tournament, members of this wonderful class of ‘87 instantly turned into our childhood idols. In the same year Kenya also hosted the 4th All Africa Games in Nairobi, and the national football team, the Harambee Stars, finished runners up to the great Pharaohs of Egypt. I can still recall the final match at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani and that controversial Mohammed Ramadhan goal that sunk Kenya, as if it was just yesterday.

Thereafter I played, lived, ate, and slept football for all I cared about. I had desperately fallen in love with the beautiful game. Unfortunately, I’ve since lost contacts with entirely all my teammates from Shedu’s squad (save, of course, for my brother Ted who is also still equally enthusiastic about the game). As a result, I have spent many man-hours watching, discussing or writing about football – all engagements which I have undertaken with an unquestionable fervour. Those are the seeds that were sown in me from a very early age that have left me the passionate football fan that I am today.

To be continued…

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