As Kakamega School and newcomers Olbolsat prepare to represent Kenya in boys football at the 2018 East Africa Secondary School Games in Kigali, Rwanda this weekend, there are a number of fallen giants who will yet again be watching from a distance. Think of Kisumu’s Thurgem, Kamukunji of Nairobi, Itierio Boys, Kisii School and Cardinal Otunga Boys, Mosocho, all former national champions, who have since been vanquished and even struggle to get past county championships nowadays.
It is the latter trio where interest has been drawn recently since the larger Kisii region has not produced a national champion in over two decades unlike their Nyanza region counterparts as well as neighbouring Western who never go missing for long.
So where did the rain start beating them? “Back then, teachers were scouting for talent and you would get admitted because you are either good in football, volleyball, netball or rugby.
That meant majority of participants in these games were scouted for and schools did not have to rely on calling letters like it is today,” said Itierio Boys football coach Peter Outa, whose school won their first and only national title in 1987.
That class of 1987 had some of the most celebrated players who later became Kenya’s top strikers in Henry Motego and Mike Okoth.
After watching Menengai High School (1971), Homa Bay (1972, 1974 and 1985), Kamusinga (1973), Njoro Boys (1975-76), Khamis (1977-78), Kakamega (1979-83, 1986), Musingu (1984) win the national titles, Iterio met the Green Commandos in the 1986 final but lost despite Okoth and Motego playing a starring role.
However, they used the loss as fuel to fire their ambition the following year, and they served revenge on Kakamega, beating them at their own backyard to claim their only national title but since then, it has been a downward spiral.
“The games have grown since 1987, bringing on board certain changes like the age rule. The association doesn’t have adequate tools to determine the students’ age and as a result, illegitimate players find their way into the school games which is brings out unfair competition,” Outa.
So how do they ensure they get the next Motego, Okoth, Richard Otambo, Henry Nyandoro (late), Salim Mabruk, Sylvester Mogeni, Omar Tigan, Vincent Abuga, Evans Nyariki, Francis Owino who were part of the brilliant 1986 and 1987 teams?
“We prefer picking boys from class and making them know and believe that they have a talent in a particular sport. This is the paradigm shift which gives our school pride in academics even if we don’t scale the heights of inter-schools competitions,” said Outa.