Football legend Ambrose Nyapada, 86 and kin of some of Kenya’s famed sportsmen have expressed their displeasure with the manner in which the government was treating its heroes in the wake of Joe Kadenge death.
Nyapada and Kadenge were part of Kenya’s national football team that won the Gossage Cup (now renamed Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup) trophies in 1958, 1959 and 1960.
Speaking at Nation Media Group offices in Kisumu soon after Kadenge’s death, Mr Nyapada said the State has been unfair to its heroes.
“It is unfortunate and unbelievable that after toiling and bringing medals home, sports stakeholders, including officials from the Sports ministry, have done absolutely nothing to recognise such a marvellous team,” said Nyapada.
He went on: “As we mourn Kadenge, probably this is the right time to reflect as a nation, wake up from the slumberland and recognise those who made Kenyans walk with their heads high.”
He noted that with the right football foundation the late Kadenge and his team mates made, Kenya would be miles away in football.
“I urge President Uhuru Kenyatta to rise to the occasion and, through the Ministry of Sports headed by Ambassador Amina Mohammed, go to the grassroots and trace some of these heroes, a majority of whom are now suffering deep in the villages,” he added.
Apart from Kadenge, Nyapada mentioned their captain at the time Peter Oronge, team mates Elijah Lidonde, Ali Kajo, Paul Owiti, Ajode, Isaac Lugonzo, Steve Ochieng’ (second goalkeeper), Tom Wanjala and Levi Khayati as members of the team that won the Gossage Cup in three consecutive years.
The late Oronge who, like Nyapada, hailed from Bondo, Siaya County, died in 2009. Wanjala died in November 2016 and was buried in his Munyang’anyi village in Bungoma County.
Wanjala’s son Aggrey and his sister Mary Mokaya also told Nation Sport how their late father had complained of unfair treatment by the government after retiring from the football scene.
“My father died a bitter man. In fact he used to tell us that had he been born in America, he could have died a billionaire. It is high time the government honoured its heroes even if it means putting them in a pension scheme so that they do not suffer,” the younger Wanjala said.
He said the football legends who shone in their heyday were left to suffer in the villages.
He also mentioned his brother in law Robert Ouko, a former athlete who was part of Kenya’s 4x400 metres relay team that won gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics whom he said has been facing challenges battling Cancer.
Ouko won two golds at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games, first in 800 m and then as a member of the Kenyan 4 × 400m relay team.
At the Munich Olympic Games, Ouko came fifth in men’s 800 metres race and ran the third leg in Kenya’s gold medal winning 4×400 m relay team.
After his athletics career, Ouko worked as secretary general of Kenyan Amateur Athletic Association (KAAA).
Another notable football star who has in the past called on well-wishers to help him raise medical fees is Gor Mahia legend Peter Dawo.
In 2017, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o was part of the team that contributed funds towards a surgical operation to rectify a problem on Dawo’s knee.
Nyapada insists there is need for the government to take keen interest on its heroes.
Nyapada and Kadenge were wingers in the victorious squad that represented Kenya in the Gossage finals in 1958,1959 and 1960.
“I played as a left winger, in position 11, while Kadenge was the right winger, playing as number seven. Through our splendid co-ordination, we brought the trophies home for three consecutive years, all games being played against Uganda,” Nyapada recalled.
Describing Kadenge as a brilliant player, a fast runner, a superb dribbler and a clinical finisher, Nyapada said the legendary player’s performance on the field greatly contributed to the success of the team.
He is a native of Agwara village in Bondo, Siaya County.
Before he died, Kadenge had urged the government to invest in sports and take care of its heroes.