Gor Mahia’s rebirth into a football powerhouse

Bussiness man Chris Kirubi with Gor Mahia Patron Raila Odinga at Two Rivers Mall

Gor Mahia FC is Kenya’s most successful football club. Formed from the defunct Luo Union FC, Gor Mahia has always been a force to reckon with. Formed in 1968, Gor Mahia managed to win the league on their first appearance at the top tier league.

They came top of other then notable clubs such as arc rivals AFC Leopards and East African Brewers (Tusker FC) to achieve the rare fate. After winning the league in their first season of appearance, the league would, later on, face myriads of challenges. That lead to the absence of the league in the 1969 season.

The club would, however, continue their pursuit of becoming the most glorious club in the country. True to their ambitions, Kogalo, as they are commonly known, became a household name. their rivalry with AFC Leopards made things much better as they were the only clubs that drew thousands of supporters to the stadium. They still do so till to date whenever that chance is guaranteed. The crowds of the ’80s and the ’90s however remains illusional. Its now a limited folk story that the younglings can only learn from the oldies of today.

Champions

Gor Mahia has always lived with champions mentality. That must be the philosophy behind the success of the club. They believe in being at the head and not the bottom. This, they have shown with a lot of passion and dedication whenever they are out on duty and even off the field. They enjoy hitting the headlines from all dimensions of the discussion.  In the ’90s, they were the club. The club that everyone either willfully or wishfully wanted to associate themselves with.

Through their hard efforts, they managed to win the Mandela Cup in 1987. They are the only Kenyan club to have won a continental silverware. In other regional and continental competitions, Gor Mahia made a name. They were lethal, dangerous and scary to play against. Save for North African Arabian clubs, Gor Mahia had her worthy opponents in the South of Sahara Desert. The largest desert in continental Africa.

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Their trophy starred era would, however, get halted in the year 1995 when the club last won a top tier championship. At the regional and continental participation, their performance rocked bottom low. They lost what they were already known for, the champions mentality. They literally fell in the shadows of other small emerging clubs.

Gor Mahia resurgence

What happened to the club between 1995 and 2012 cannot well be established. Cases of lack of continuity, wrangles and poor management of the club can, however, be pointed to the tumultuous period. A club revolution that started in 2010 has however helped in bringing back the club to her former days.

Under the stewardship of the legendary coach James Siang’a, the club heavily invested in bringing onboard youngsters. Players such as former skipper Jerry Onyango, Jockins Atudo and Rama Salim thereafter managed to get a chance to play for the club. Majority of them were just mere high school graduates or were still in their secondary education.

In signing the youngsters, then head coach James Siang’a promised that he was laying the foundation. He was so certain that the young players were going to rise up and the club would come back to life. He gave the club a period of at least three years before they start bouncing back to glory. It never took long before the Solomonic sentiments of the long travelled East African player and coach words came into reality. His words would come into true manifestation two years later. The mighty Gor Mahia had gained considerable life.

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Gor Mahia and premier League glory

From narrowly losing the league trophy in the 2012 season on the last day, there is no single doubt that Gor Mahia is the best performing football club in the country. In 2012, on the final day of the league, Gor Mahia leading the table by one point to Tusker FC lost the league. They were held in one draw with Thika United and as they shared the spoils, Tusker FC managed to win their last match comfortably.

It remains a day that many Kogallo faithful will never forget. T-shirts had been printed just as all other preparations had been done. The diehards were sure of the glory only to be snatched the glory at the eleventh hour. Then sponsored by Tuzo a brand of the Brookside Dairies, the enmity between the now-defunct Thika FC and Gor Mahia FC arose.

At the final whistle, helpless players of Gor Mahia lied on the field. They were rolling as if they were scratching their backs just as dogs and what the cat family does. Believing in that was however in bad faith, everyone was suffering from the loss and therefore could have dared to do that as a sign of joy. Everyone uttered cursing words on Thika FC and true to it, it never took long before the club was relegated to the lowest league then afterwards got disbanded. The Thika based club had suffered from financial constraints as all of their sponsors had retrenched back.

Then coached by Croatian Zdravko Logarussic alias ‘Loga’, the club would later on summon their arsenals for the next season.

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Foreign coaches and Gor Mahia

In the mid of the 2013 season, Loga left the club after heading home for a short holiday where he never reported back for his duties. He abandoned the club middle way as he presented before the club ‘unreasonable’ wages terms that the club was not in a position of meeting. Behind, he left a very determined playing unit. The only thing they wanted was an inspiration and surety that the club was going to fully rally behind them.

With Scottish Bobby Williamson coming as Loga’s replacement, the club matched ahead to win their first league title. An 18-year-old trophy drought at the club thereafter ended. Kogallo then fully came back to life at the top of the league. Since then, the club has moved in to win unprecedented seven titles in the last eight seasons. They are currently the force to reckon with in the local soccer.

With back to back and almost assurance of winning the Kenya Premier League, Gor Mahia currently has one major challenge; continental stage. Having lost the impact, they had in the ’70s, 80’s and 90’s, the club must now think of how they can again conquer Africa.

Being one of the most followed clubs in the African continent makes Gor Mahia have no other business if not a continental glory. Winning the league against teams born in the ’20s is no longer a fanfare idea. Gor Mahia must scale up. We need a continental silverware. We are the mighty Gor Mahia.

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