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Oguk, Kenya’s hockey legend of 1968 Olympics, was rare talent

Tuesday January 14 2020

Kenya men’s hockey team player Charles Oguk at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after arriving from Egypt in this undated photograph. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA |

Kenya men’s hockey team player Charles Oguk at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after arriving from Egypt in this undated photograph. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

DONNA ATOLA
By DONNA ATOLA
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VICTOR OTIENO             
By VICTOR OTIENO            
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Several old pictures of Charles Oguk dressed in either police uniform, or in Kenya’s national hockey team colours hang on the wall in his sitting room in Ratta, Seme Sub-county in Kisumu.

Together with several certificates, silver and bronze medals, the items are dear to the family of the former policeman and Olympian who breathed his last on January 5.

It reminds them of the former Kenyan international’s great days on the turf and in service.

According to his family, the prolific, well-built, dark defender, died after a short illness at Ahero Medical Center. His friends had rushed him to the health facility after he became unwell. He was 55.

“On Thursday, we talked with him and he was alright, then on Friday, we got suspicious when his phone went unanswered.

“After checking, we found out that he had been admitted at Ahero Medical Center. He died on Sunday night at around 2am,” said his wife Penine Adhiambo.

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The cause of death of former Simba Union Hockey Club and Kenya Police player is yet to be determined as a postmortem has not been conducted on his body.

Kenya men’s hockey team player Charles Oguk
Kenya men’s hockey team player Charles Oguk (centre) with members of the women’s team moments after they arrived from the 1995 All-Africa Games in Zimbabwe. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA |

At the time of his demise, Oguk was based at Ahero Police Station in Nyando, Kisumu County. He was in his 32nd year of service. His rank was a corporal.

At his Ratta home in Seme, friends and relatives continue to troop in to condone with the family of a man many consider one of the finest hockey players Kenya has ever produced.

His name appears in six of team Kenya’s starting line-ups at the 1988 Summer Olympics.

The father of six – four boys and two girls - turned out as a defender and midfielder in the competition where Kenya finished 12th.

It was the last time Kenya men’s national hockey team featured in Olympic Games.

According to Oketch Ngore, Oguk’s long time friend and teammate at Simba Club and in the national team, the deceased’s journey to greatness in hockey begun right from childhood.

“Hockey was the main game played where we were living (Anderson Estate in Kisumu). Every evening, together with other children, we would watch how senior players were playing and then try out later among ourselves,” said Ngore, a former centre forward, who donned Simba Union’s Club colours for 15 years.

It is at Kisumu Boys High School when Oguk was doing his O-Levels that he started rising to stardom. Because he turned out for the school in most hockey tournaments and was a hard nut to crack in defense, he was nicknamed “Power”.

Oguk’s outstanding performance saw him appointed the school’s captain between 1983 and 1984, a time he was already playing for Simba Club.

“He displayed powerful dribbles that made opponents to fear him a lot. As a right half, he was the engine of the team, almost every move started from him, and he could not allow an opponent player to beat him,” Ngore, former centre forward recalled.

Having curved a niche for himself in the local hockey, Kenya Police, then one of the top teams in the country came calling.

The no-nonsense defender joined the law enforcers in 1988 and help the team rule the domestic league until 1994, when he retired from playing.

Apart from the 1988 Summer Olympics, other international events that the father of six turned out for the national team are – the fourth All African Games held in Nairobi, in 1987, where Kenya finished first.

Kenya's Charles Oguk shakes shakes hands with
Kenya's Charles Oguk shakes shakes hands with dignitaries during Indira Gandhi International Gold Cup Hockey Tournament in India. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA |

Other events are the 1991 fifth All African Games in Egypt, where Kenya won a silver medal, the sixth All African Games in Zimbabwe in 1995.

Oguk was also part of the team that represented Kenya in the second to seventh Indira Gadhi International Gold Cup Hockey Tournament in India.

His wife Adhiambo, 53, described him as a loving and caring husband who was a great sportsman who gave his club and county his best.

Former Butali Warriors coach Dennis Owoka, who played against Oguk in the Forces Hockey team (now disbanded), said: “He was the captain in my first match for the national team in a 1999 regional tournament held in Uganda. He kept encouraging us to fight for the country, insisting that we must believe in ourselves and be discipline, if we are to succeed,” said Owoka.

Kenya’s hockey legend Parmindar Saini “Kake” who played alongside Oguk in the 1988 Summer Olympics stated: “He was an aggressive player who made big contribution to Simba Club’s success and the national team. He will be buried on January 25.

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