Its said that a pictures is worth a thousand words. How apt. While flipping through my photo album the other day, a collection of about half a dozen snaps got me thinking of those prized items every boy of a certain age-group longed to possess during my primary school days. An ‘album’ was that highly prized and much coveted paraphernalia which we boys went to all lengths to painstakingly build from old newspaper photo cuttings from the sports pages, stuck together with bubble gum on some tattered scrap books (old exercise books). Needless to say, the content of any ‘album’ would exclusively be snap shots from both local and international football action.
The bigger the variety of photos in your ‘album’, the greater the self-esteem you would command within the young fanatically fan base clique. A couple of coloured photos in your album made for an expert collector [back then, a colour photo on the newspapers was a rarity]. Predictability, albums were banned accessories in school but more often than not, a few daring souls would sneak their crude contrabands into class to gleefully display to their smitten classmates in between lessons. It can only be left to the imagination the kind of punishment our overly strict educators of the day meted out on any cheeky fellow (and his accomplices) found in possession of these illicit paraphernalia. Shamefully, a chronic deficiency of old newspapers in our household meant that I never I got to own an album; something I rue to this day.
At the risk of being branded old-fashioned, I dare say that, to me, that was the height of ingenuity. Long gone are the ‘albums’ - the passion and grief they elicited not withstanding. Instead of the daily kick-about we indulged in on dusty play grounds, the modern kid now has the Play Station. And for our obscure ‘albums’, he has an autograph booklet. Whatever became of innovation?
But I digress. I was talking about my photo album – the real one. In the midst of these nostalgic memories, my attention is sharply drawn by this small collection of photos that I once took from the stands of some little known football ground in Naivasha. Honestly, there is nothing really impressive about the quality of these photos, having been taken by the amateur photographer that I am. Worse still, is the fact that the camera in use was a cheap manual Kodak model that I got a few years ago as part of the promotion package when I bought my now faded and malfunctioning Motorola 110 cellphone. Ironically, these priceless photos truly occupy the centerpiece of my album – of course for obvious reasons which have everything to do with football. And the story around these photos is a rather interesting one.
Sometime back in 2005, towards the end of the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, a star-studded Ghanaian national team quietly checked into the country and found their way to Naivasha town where they pitched camp at the luxurious lakeside Simba Lodge. The high flying Black Stars were making a training camp stopover en-route to Cape Town for their penultimate tie against the Bafana Bafana. For some reason our befuddled football administration seemed reluctant to accept the West African’s request for a much-needed International friendly match. For Harambe Stars, who themselves had an upcoming encounter against Morocco, this was a God-send opportunity for an invaluable build-up match against one of the stronger African sides. Regrettably, the opportunity came and sadly passed us by, all thanks to KFF!
Deprived of a meaningful match-up with their host, the West African football giants were thus left to do with routine mid-morning training sessions at the nondescript Oserian Stadium – formerly the home of two time Kenya Premier League champions, Oserian Fastac. A day before their departure down south, the Ghanaian officials hastily arranged for an ‘international friendly’ against the fledgling Oserian FC – a revived version of the defunct Oserian Fastac.
Time and chance conveniently placed me, then, at the flower farm through professional vocation for a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and rub shoulders with renowned football celebrities. The Ghanaian contingent boasted big names. In the house was captain Stephen Appiah, goalkeepers Richard Kingstone and Sammy Adjei and of course the biggest attraction was none other than Chelsea midfield dynamo Michael Essien. This was a match I wasn’t gonna miss for anything in the world!
But then, being a weekday (Wednesday) the problem of poor timing of the match (3pm) was always going to pause a small challenge. After some long and serious consideration, I firmly resolved to cut my working hours by a good two hours. Amid all the anxiety to sneak out of the office unnoticed, I completely forgot to carry along my autograph book! But thank God for my cheap Kodak camera… I ended up with half a dozen snap shots of Africa’s finest.
Just for the records, the ‘Black Stars’ hardly broke any sweat in walloping Oserian FC 4-0 during that match. A few days later in Cape Town, the Stephen Appiah led team upset Bafana Bafana 2-0. Meanwhile our own Harambe Stars could only muster a 1-1 draw at home to Morocco in a match blotted by the death of a teenage fan following a stampede. The Ghanaians eventually won their group to book a flight to Germany for a first ever World Cup finals appearance as Kenya were trounced 2-0 by the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia before an empty gallery at Kasarani to crash out.