Wednesday, July 16, 2008

MY PASSION, MY OBSESSION

(A sequel to Football Was My First ‘Love’)

I have previously written an article here about how exposure to football at an early age in my neighbourhood’s dusty playgrounds evoked a deep and everlasting passion inside me for the game. It’s my wish to digress further and flip the other side of the coin – life in school and football.

After our estate team had been disbanded the only avenue left for us to play football was at school, which was actually a good thing for me and my brother Ted. We both attended St. John’s Primary School which happens to be in Kaloleni estate, a neighbourhood that has produced many football stars of the past and present. Kaloleni (or simply Ololo) was a football-mad estate dotted with numerous mini play grounds for the intra-estates competitions. But the most distinguished landmark, which stood like a colossus right in the heart of Kaloleni, was the City Stadium, the second largest football arena in town, then.

Quite naturally, even in school the number one pastime activity was football, since a majority of the kids were drawn either from Kaloleni or the neighbouring Makongeni (Okongo). And so at every slight opportunity we would engage in a kick-about – during PE lessons, at mid-morning break, during lunch time and even in the evening after lessons. The footballs that we used back then were basically made from polythene papers stuffed with papers then woven together with synthetic rope (every class had its own expert weaver of these footballs). Our football grounds were hardly demarcated and for goalposts we normally had huge boulders or other personal possessions like schoolbags or a heap of sweaters. Many are the times that there would be great contestation as to whether a ball had gone out of play or if the ball had gone in or sailed over the crossbar (our football matches were rarely officiated by a referee).

I have to be honest and state that in my class, I happened to be one of the fringe players who rarely made it into the first team sheet. But it’s a confession that I make without any shame or fear of reprisal considering that amongst my classmates was one Jeffrey Oyando, the veteran Tusker FC midfield supremo. Jeff came from a family in which football literally ran in the blood. His dad Joe Oyando (now deceased) a former international player was a long time technical bench member of Kenya Breweries FC (Tusker) and the national team Harambee Stars. As a pre-teenage lad Jeff was very strong on the ball and showed obvious signs of becoming a great player. And indeed he truly lived up to the expectation and joined Kakamega High, the former secondary schools soccer powerhouse, where he further honed his skills, before making a debut in the National League.

Another notable player in our class was Zablon Otieno (aka Odhis) who played for Gor Mahia in the late 90’s. Inspite of his seemly languid poise and fragile stature, his talent was undeniable. His main undoing was his penchant for persistently making loud complaints on the field to the chagrin of teammates and opponents alike. Then there was the stocky and bullish Alphonce Aloo who was two classes ahead of me and in the same class with Ted. Alphonce briefly turned out for KCB in the KFF Premier League in the late 90’s. Curiously, in my class was another notable chap - Fredrick Orieyo (aka Taabu) formerly a member of the national boxing team Hit Squad. Looking back in time, even then he possessed the same overbearing physical presence that in later years would turn him into such an intimidating opponent in the boxing ring. Surprisingly, back then, he seemed keener on kicking a ball than throwing a punch, though quite often he would also get himself into a nasty brawl or two.

That was back then, some 20 odd years ago. Now as I look back to those days, I get the conviction that my interaction with the likes of Jeff and Zablon, as peers, is what truly kindled my passion for the game.
To be continued...

2 comments:

Edwin said...

Very interesting story. Keep them coming!

Ted said...

Reading this post makes me understand why the past is always reffered to as the good old days. This post has sent me back in time and set me on a very nostalgic path.
Am reminded of how back then my schoolmates were so obssesed with soccer that every soccer player/fan worth his salt kept a collection of soccer pictures pasted on pages of a book.This collection was simply reffered to as 'album'. These albums were trully price possesions and often you would find an ulbam owner taking his pals through his album vividly narrating the different scenes.
Am tickled by memories of the escapades of these soccer crazy lads during weekends.These boys would do everything humanly possible to attend KFF league matches especially those pitting the then indomitable rivals Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. Back then it only cost 5 shillings to buy an entry ticket to these matches. 5 shillings that was very hard to come by. That did not deter my buddies. It was common practise in those days for the stadium gates to be openned on the 80th minute of the match to give entry to those who had not had chance to gain entry into the stadium. This then would be the saviour for my buddies who obviously had no means to pay for a ticket. In local parlance this little window of opportunity was fondly known as 'ten percent'(10%)- in refference to the 10 minutes left to the end of a match.
Those were trully golden days. Steve,you tell(write) the stories better- pick it up from here.....