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Marshall Mulwa plight: Our heroes deserve better!

Friday June 26 2020
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Harambee Stars coach Marshall Mulwa (second left) and goalkeeper Mahmoud Abbas celebrates winning the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in 1980s. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ERIC MNENE

As other Kenyan football lovers in the diaspora who follow the progress (or is it wrangles?) of the beautiful game at home, it was with pain and a very heavy heart when on YouTube I watched the story of one of Kenya's greatest soccer tacticians, Marshall Mulwa, wallowing in poverty in a tin shack in Kitengela!

As an "oldie" football commentator of the then VOK in the late 70s and early 80s, I remember Mulwa vividly: a robust, soft spoken, well-groomed bearded gentleman, who was comfortable with all Kenyan football fans, be they walala hai (haves) or walala hoi (have-nots)

I still remember Mulwa in one of the most memorable occasions we were together.

It was in Nakivubo Stadium Kampala in 1982 when Kenya beat Uganda on penalties in the final of Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, with Mahmoud Abbas saving a few spot kicks after the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

After the final whistle went, we couldn't openly celebrate our victory in the stadium for fear of Ugandan soldiers, who were shooting in the air! I remember two cabinet ministers who had flown to Uganda for the finals - the late Stanley Ole tip tip and Paul Ngei - were quite alarmed. Because of the hostility we faced from Ugandan soldiers for beating the “Cranes” in their own soil, the ministers made a few urgent calls to Nairobi (remember no mobiles those days) and we were forced to fly back home in the middle of the night, landing in Nairobi well past midnight!

Many were disappointed for landing at home with Okombe late at night with a few diehard fans to meet us at the airport!  Hakuna Vifijo wala Nderemo! (no pomp!). I am sure Leonard Mambo Mbotela remembers well that day as we were together in Kampala. Uganda those days was a dangerous place for foreigners and all teams and even journalist covering the tournament had police escort wherever they went, for their own safety.

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Perhaps Mulwa's greatest achievement was leading Harambee Stars in winning the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup three years in a row 1981-83, a feat never achieved by any other Harambee soccer coach, be he local or foreign!

As a trail blazer, his record as the longest Kenyan football coach — six years — has not been surpassed to this day.

So, how does an achiever like Marshall Mulwa, with this huge contribution to the fame of our country, end up living in a one roomed tin shack in Kitengela, unable to even afford Sh3,000 for rent?

How can Kenya's greatest football coach in terms of trophies live on handouts for food and hand-me downs to cover his nakedness? My fellow Kenyans, who are our heroes, must they always be politicians? Just look in villages around our country, and you will see great old sportsmen, women and coaches living in misery or have died in abject poverty while the government is looking the other way!

I know some will say kwa nini hakujipanga! Please let's not be judgemental, 30 years ago he didn't expect that he'd end up in a tin shack in Kitengela! This can happen to any one of us.

So true Kenyan sports lovers — not those who only enter stadia to fish for votes — we must now come out and try to raise funds for our true heroes.

Waiting for the government to do something is futile as we have begged the government for so long to look at welfare of our former sports people without any success.

Ni kama kumpigia mbuzi gitaa ukitaka acheze! (It’s like playing the guitar to a goat and expecting it to dance) Marshall Mulwa is now an old man, let's help him to live his twilight years in some dignity.

Eric Mnene, a retired Editor for BBC's Africa Services (East Africa Bureau), worked for Voice of Kenya (now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) in the 1970s and 80s. He currently lives in London.

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