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SOCCER

Soccer or Football as it is called in Kenya, is administered by the Kenya Football Federation(KFF), which was formed in 1960. The roots of Kenyan soccer however, date way before the formation of the KFF, and can be traced to the period around the beginning of the 20th century with the arrival of British settlers in the country. At first, there was no organized soccer, or any major soccer tournaments and soccer was just a casual pass-time for most Kenyan youths. Organized soccer in Kenya can be traced to the period between 1940-50, with the introduction of the Gossage cup which featured the 3 East African countries(Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania). Most memorable household names during this period include Elijah Lidonde and Joe Kadenge.

Most of the prominent clubs as we know them today, emerged in the 1960's after the formation of the KFF. These include Abaluhya Football Club(AFC Leopards), Re-Union, Nakuru All-Stars, Gor Mahia, Maragoli FC and Lake Warriors. From their inception up until the early 1990's, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards have pretty much monopolized the Kenyan soccer scene. For a long period of time, Kenya's soccer scene was a 2-club affair with either Gor Mahia or AFC Leopards lifting the national trophies. Every once in a while the Ruaraka based Kenya Breweries FC would steal the show. A typical saturday afternoon clash between Gor and AFC was almost like a Kenyan national holiday. Just the build-up to the match, often nationally broadcast, was to most Kenyan soccer lovers much more interesting than the actual match. Passions were so intense on both sides that you had to be careful not to spill your allegiance to the wrong side. A packed Nyayo National Stadium, often filled 2-3 hours prior to kick-off would be humming to the tunes of the legendary African Musical Maestro Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi and his TPOK Jazz, while waiting earnestly for the arrival of their teams. Njugu(roasted peanuts) and Mahindi Choma(roasted corn) were among the prominent delicacies sold inside the stadium---Those good old days!!!!

Both Gor and AFC have seen their fortunes dwindle lately, and have had to take a back seat to emergent powerhouses like Mathare United FC and Tusker FC(formerly Kenya Breweries FC). Mathare United, which started as a slum project in Nairobi has been around for quite some time but its only lately that it has sprung into the the national limelight. The obvious reason for this is that the kids who were there at the project's onset have come of age and are now able to mix it up with the big boys. Simeon Mulama, arguably the country's most gifted player at the moment is just one of the products of the Mathare project. There are many other examples like Seif Mutie, Mathews Ottamax and Wambua, all of who have played at the highest levels in Kenya. There is a lot of hope in most Kenyan quarters that these boys might hold the keys to Kenya's success in the world cup one day. A lot of this hinges on the fact that some of these boys had the opportunity to visit Brazil at a very tender age and reportedly gave a very good showing there.

The Kenyan national team Harambee Stars, has had a patched reprt card, often falling short of Kenyans' expectations. Often times we have failed to even qualify for the African Nations Cup, a situation that has not settled very well with most Kenyans. Most memorable seasons for the Harambee Stars include 1972 when they qualified for the African Nations Cup for the first time. The team, coached by German Eckard Krautzen and captained by Jonathan Niva made a decent showing at the tournament losing one game and forcing two ties. They followed this up in 1975 by winning for the first time, the East and Central Africa Challenge Cup(CECAFA). Other memorable seasons for the the national team was the period between 1981-83, when they won three consecutive CECAFA cup titles. After this remarkable feat, the national team went through a lull, only to re-emerge during the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi, under the stewardship of the German Coach Reinhardt Fabisch----arguably Kenya's most successful national coach so far. The amazing Fabisch would resurface again ten years later in 1997, almost leading Kenya to its first ever World Cup berth. He rallied the Kenyans to a remarkable performance against the great Super Eagles of Nigeria in the France '98 World Cup Qualifier at the Moi International Sports Center, Nairobi.

Kenyan soccer clubs have always maintained amateur status. The exception came in 1985 with the formation of Volcano United, Kenya's first professional club. The well-funded team did not take long to establish itself as a major soccer powerhouse in the country. The promising club did not live long however and in 1988 was disbanded. Kenya's biggest year in club soccer came in 1987 when the Mighty Gor Mahia capped a sensational season winning the Nelson Mandela Cup. Most soccer followers in Kenya will agree that this still remains the finest showing by a Kenyan club of all time. Gor, under its Danish coach Jack Johnson implemented the the famous 4-4-2 formation to perfection. That year, Gor was so good that it almost filled all the national team slots, and deservedly so. Gor became the first Kenyan club to win a continental title. The other Kenyan team that has come closest to Gor's achievement is Kenya Breweries FC who reached the finals of the Africa Cup Winners Cup(a.k.a. Mandela Cup) in 1994. Below is a breakdown of the clubs' performance throughout the years.

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