How Kenya’s oldest Football Club transformed into AFC Leopards
AFC Leopards, a powerhouse in Kenyan football can be acclaimed to numerous glory days. However, little can still be remembered of those hay days when most Kenyans knew the football giant as Maragoli FC.
Maragoli FC was the oldest football club in Kenya having been formed in 1935. It was the first team from Kenya to tour Europe in 1977.
The 1960s and 70s witnessed an addictive social subject of commentary among youths and men. It was football. Western Kenya was the hub of it all.
Their first were two local teams - Andimi FC of North Maragoli and Mungoma FC of South Maragori. These two teams would produce players for Maragoli FC who would now compete outside Evorogori. To Nyanza, Mombasa, East Africa and for exposure, overseas.
Maragoli FC was based in Nairobi. Young talented players would be sourced from secondary schools. Mwenesi, Onamu and Agufa, for example, were sourced from Musingu, Chavakali and Upperhill respectively. The players played for fun and fame. Money was not in the picture.
It is interesting that Onamu is said to have been of quick speed and strong arms that opponent strikers like the famed Masiga would least outwit him.
If you would be tricky, he would be speedy. Defender number 5, unopposed. The last man standing before the goalkeeper (Keya) was threatened.
And the living players (some are deceased like Joel Kadenge) remember the two-month 1977 Holland football tour as if it was yesterday. 14 players, strictly, boarded a plane at the Old Embakasi airport to Holland.
Kadenge by then was an experienced player, having made contacts here and there. In fact, the Holland trip was by good luck because it happened when he had left Abaluyia FC and back to his home team, Maragoli FC. A friend of his had organized for it, players only being asked to raise their ticket money as accommodation would be provided.
When they arrived in Holland, they were paired in homes, each friendly home hosting two. President Moi would also help by giving about Ksh6,000/- to the team for the fare.
After two months in Holland, the land God did not make but man, the Maragoli sons were treated to other mind-shifting ideals in determination and good organization that when they came back, it was a transformed team. They were able to beat any club at will, with a 6-0 from Ajax FC.
Neither Gor Mahia nor Abaluhya FC would tremble them. There is even a newspaper record, 'Agufa sinks Abaluhya' when he scored a hat trick at the present Nyayo Stadium.
Fame would follow the number 9, terrible opponent, of the days. A grandson of Saul Chabuga. And Maragoli from Eastlands would meet and drop a few coins in his hands. It was 25 cents to commute to areas not far from the CBD by then.
Soon later, Maragoli FC was allowed to merge with others and became AFC Leopards.