NAIROBI, Kenya– Thousands of Kenyan football fans thronged at various joints in the capital Nairobi to watch domestic champions, Gor Mahia FC dare the might of English Premier League (EPL) high-fliers Everton FC in a landmark SportPesa Trophy encounter at Goodison Park on Tuesday night.
With millions others glued on TVs in their homes, others opted to keep a breast with the historic fixture on YouTube and social media platforms to soak in a historic moment in the country’s football.
In Nairobi, many thronged the National Archives Square at the heart of the Central Business District (CBD) for a public viewing organised by bookmakers SportPesa- the proud title partners of the teams that gave the watching world a footballing spectacle in faraway Liverpool.
In an effort to recognise the efforts of its staff that have toiled for many long hours to make the fixture a reality, the leading African bookmakers also organised a private viewing of the match for those who remained back home at Jiweke Tavern, off Ngong Road.
Part of the mammoth crowd at the CBD had a rare chance to engage former Everton striker Yakubu Ayegbeni in an interview, before the game that was screened live all from Liverpool on the giants screens of the company’s Viewing and Commentary truck dubbed ‘Stadium on Wheels’.
The archives venue was jam-packed, in another ringing endorsement of the noble initiative to expose local talent to the international stage, with hardly any space available within the locality that started filling up as early as 4pm local time (+3GMT), six hours to kick-off.
Supporters had a whale of a time engaging former Nigeria Super Eagles captain, Aiyegbeni- fondly known as ‘The Yak’ as he answered questions sent to him in front of the live audience.
“When will you make a return to Kenya?” Hussein Warsame, a second year nursing student at Mount Kenya University enquired from Ayegbeni.
Kerubo Momanyi, a huge football fan wanted to know some of the strides the former Nigeria International made in his hey days.
“How are you making a living after retiring from football,” Ramadhan Hamisi from Ngong posed as Ayegbeni answered in glee, while Agnes Makembo from Donholm was eager to discern the challenges that he is currently facing as a football ambassador at Everton.
The spectators enjoyed entertainment interludes from the La-Africana and Unity In Diversity dance groups who regaled the audience with their flawless moves.
Chart-topping dancehall artiste, Kevin ‘Love Child’ Wyre was also at the location to take photos and inspire his legion of local fans as they watched the match having earlier been charged by comedy troupe Propesa.
“This was a special moment worth celebrating, we are glad to be part of this great moment that was used to market Kenya’s heritage abroad,” La-African lead dancer, John Odhiambo, noted.
The audience also took part in trivia where they won branded jerseys, caps, wristband and other giveaway merchandise that were on offer.
Odera Okapes, an Anti-Crime Unit officer based at Central Police Station, believed Gor could have carried the day had they composed themselves in the game they succumbed to a 0-4 chastening.
“I was expecting us not to lose by a huge margin, this result was so disappointing. I watched Gor play Everton in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last year, and I could tell they had the same problem that befell them the first time- lack of concentration.
“They needed to work on this area before they left for Goodison,” noted Odera who prides himself as a former Lenana Warriors FC midfielder.
Odera is a former classmate of Harambee Stars and Kenya Internationals John ‘Mo’ Muiruri (Tusker FC), Noah Hayuko (Oserian Fastac FC), Ramadhan Balala (AFC Leopards SC) and Brian Okumu (Gor) at Bondeni Primary School in Nakuru County.
State of art
James Bundi, a 28-year-old Nairobi based Graphic Designer, believed Everton was advantaged in the encounter due to the state of the art facilities they at their Finch Farm training base.
“Our opponents have over 15 playing fields, while we are yet to own a club house, what did you expect? He stated.
The likes of Catherine Adera, a staunch Gor fan from Kasarani branch in Nairobi, was hopeful that the team would put into use some of the skills the players and officials learnt in their trip in Europe.
At Jiweke, SportPesa staff, branded in stylish ‘Gor in Everton’ t-shirts specially prepared to mark the occasion trouped in optimistic the record 17-time league winners would stamp their mark against a superior opposition.
The banter complete with inflatable sticks caused quite a racket and it was an opportunity for the happy revellers to mingle with their bosses.
Among those in attendance was Robert Macharia, the Head of Legal and Terry Njagi, the Head of Human Resources.
Soon, the match kicked-off to a rendition of the famous Gor anthem but soon, the atmosphere and merry-making was deflated when Ademola Lookman, opened the scoring.
Kieran Dowell, the man who wishes he played Gor every week having scored the winner for Everton in Dar-es-Salaam on July 13, 2017 in a 2-1 success for the Blues, then extended the lead for a 2-0 first half advantage.
Spirits rose as the second half started but despite Everton’s late two-goal salvo that turned a rather ‘acceptable’ defeat to a 4-0 rout, the SportPesa folk gave Gor a rousing reception at full-time. All their work had not gone down the drain.
On to the next one. -Sportpesanews