AwaaZ will be running a series of articles on the development of football in Kenya by running stories first published in ‘Kickoff – The Game, The Glory and Greats of Kenyan Football’ by Roy Gachuhi – courtesy of the Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board. Published in 2018 it is an invaluable addition to the trove of the history of Kenyan Football.
A tale of resilience, short wits and the birth of a legend.
The description of Uganda’s fourth goal during the 1945 Gossage cup match with Kenya dug up long forgotten childhood memories of tactical instructions issued to players when I went to school in the 1960s. I do not remember the coach, usually the games master, telling his young charges to ‘place’ the ball out of the goalkeeper’s reach. Instead, he emphasized brute force.
‘Enter with it’ was a phrase mockingly used to taunt a boy who knocked on the dormitory door at night after being locked out when time to get in and sleep had passed. It was chanted by those already ensconced in their blankets inside. The phrase had its origins on the football field. The teacher told his strikers to shoot so hard that if the goalkeeper gathered the ball, he would be propelled by its momentum to ‘enter the goal with it’. Apparently, this was possible. Kenya and Uganda lined up for the 19th Gossage cup clash on 30 March 1945 where the latter registered a crushing 4-1 win. But it was the fourth goal that was on the lips of everyone that day. Here is how the East African Standard reported it:
‘Uganda went further ahead when another goalmouth melee ensued and yet again they demonstrated the fine understanding between their inside forwards and the power of their shooting. A pass from the wing half-sent Ntarego, the outside left, away and he crossed to Ngandua who, in turn, slipped a neat pass to Mpanga. The latter had a tussle with the Kenya backs, which he won, and from a range of a yard or two sent in a pile-driving shot, which put both ball and goalkeeper into the net. Khamisi, with excellent anticipation gathered, but the force of the drive winded him and he was “out” for some minutes. Uganda now led 4-1.’
The Gossage Cup was the big football contest between Kenya and Uganda, and later Tanganyika and later Zanzibar. It was first played in 1926. The tournament was sponsored by a soap manufacturing company, Gossage, a precursor of the East African Industries which is today Unliver. It went by this name until it was renamed the East African challenge cup in 1967 and subsequently the Cecafa East and Central Africa challenge cup in 1971.
Through its different mutations, it has stood the test of time and is Africa’s oldest football tournament. An early Kenyan star of the Gossage cup was a striker named Galib who featured in most of the country’s score sheets, and who was sorely missed when he didn’t play. Galib played in 1930s and 40s. He was replaced as Kenya’s leading star by Elijah Lidonde and Shem Chimoto before the 22 year-old North Nyanza FC prodigy, Joe Kadenge, entered the scene in 1956 to start a superb 14-year career with the national team. Tanganyika didn’t participate in the Gossage cup until 1945. In addition to that first appearance, they also played a select Nairobi team after the Gossage Cup.
This friendly match was reported by the East African Standard thus:
‘The brief result of the match between a Nairobi African XI and the Tanganyika Gossage cup side last Saturday has already been published. Nairobi won by 4-1, after leading 3-0 at half time. The Tanganyika side shows much promise and it is to be hoped that they will continue to compete in the Gossage cup competition, despite failure at the first time of asking. They played good, close football, but appeared to feel the effect of altitude and were a foot short on the ball nearly all the time in a game played at a very fast pace.
Ateka scored first with a fine cross shot after accepting a forward pass and soon after a penalty for hands gave Nairobi their second goal. Nairobi scored again close on half time. Tanganyika opened strongly after the interval after three minutes play and gained a good goal through their inside- left when the Nairobi defence blundered. Both sides came near to scoring again after this but the respective defences were good and the shooting not as accurate as earlier on. Both goals had narrow escapes and after a period of heavy pressure Nairobi scored their fourth and last goal only five minutes before full time. Sila made ground, beat three opponents and scored with a shot high into the net. Sgt Tansley reffereed the game very capably.’
The Gossage cup was not held in the years 1927, 1933, 1934 and 1950. Reporting on the 1945 edition from Nakivubo grounds in Kampala the East African Standard said the match was ‘the nineteenth of the series of inter-territorial Association football matches between the two and Uganda now have won 12, Kenya 5 and two matches have been drawn.’
Uganda is by far the most successful Gossage cup nation. It has won it a total of 21 times in the years 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1943,1945,1947, 1948, 1952,1954, 1955, 1956,1957,1962 and 1963. Kenya won it 11 times in the years 1926, 1931, 1941,1942 , 1944, 1946, 1953, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1966; while Tanganyika later Tanzania, won it four times in 1949, 1951, 1964 and 1965. Kenya and Uganda shared the trophy in 1959. In preparation for the campaign at the Illala Stadium, Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika in 1959, the Kenya team played a warm-up game against Coast province combined. It hammered them 6-1 but pundits were not satisfied, pointing out that the massive win was not so much illustrative of Kenya’s superiority, but rather the coast’s ineptitude. Still, there was a bright spark in the team – Joe Kadenge. A report of those proceedings said: ‘The highlight of the game undoubtedly came from North Nyanza’s Star Winger, Joseph Kadenge. From about 30 yards’ range he smashed a powerful and accurate shot into the corner of the net leaving the coast keeper rooted in his tracks.’
Of the impending campaign in Tanganyika, it added: ‘If Kenya’s forwards can continue to produce shots of this calibre they will score a hatful of goals.’ That was the birth of Joe Kadenge as a Gossage Cup star. He formed a formidably attacking partnership with Ali Kajo from Mombasa.
The Gossage cup brought the high and mighty of the day to the arena. In Nakivubo Stadium during that match where the goalkeeper was propelled into his own goal by the power of Mpanga’s blockbuster, the top echelons of Uganda’s government were there.
This was the summary of the match as reported by the East African Standard:
‘While Kenya had a fair share of the play, more particularly in the second half, Uganda’s win was a merited one. The margin rather flatters the Protectorate but is more indicative of the Colony’s weakness in front of goal; they foozled several good scoring chances. Kenya missed Galib, their original Capt. and centre -forward, sadly. He was unable to play owing to the death of his mother earlier in the week. Uganda’s combination, especially that of the inside forwards, was excellent and the principal factor in their victory. H E the Governor of Uganda and H.H. the Kabaka of Buganda were among the spectators who numbered between 8,000 and 9,000. There were two changes in the Uganda side, last week’s Capt Kimanyi, being dropped through illness. Both teams were presented to H.E. the Governor before the Kick-off.’
The successor to the Gossage Cup, CECAFA’s East and Central African Senior Challenge cup, has not grown in prestige with the passage of time. That it is sometimes not held for lack of a sponsor or host is tell-tale of how far down football standards in the region have gone.