I never met Monica Binti Ngere (Monica Wanjiru), but then again if you had an interest in local football, you must have heard of her.
Like Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’, her fame spread ‘in all the nine villages and even beyond’.
A passionate football fan, Monica was a powerful force especially when it came to players’ rights. She was a friend across the entire local football spectrum - from her beloved AFC Leopards to a supporter of any team. Those who knew her personally like Kerubo Momanyi - with whom they were at Pangani Girls, University of Nairobi’s Law School and later in footballing circles - talk of a vivant and caring person.
At least I had the chance of being friends with her on Facebook where we normally chatted. Some years ago, the Nation started a banter on the Monday newspaper aimed at promoting local football. I was (and still do) writing on behalf of Gor Mahia in a column called ‘K’Ogalo Corner’ while my long-time friend Peter Leftie was batting for AFC Leopards.
A few years later, the Standard newspaper would start a similar initiative but this time with ladies. Monica wrote a column about AFC Leopards while Beryl Nyarae wrote on Gor Mahia. The two were always entertaining.
However, it was in using her legal prowess in defending players’ rights that won her most accolades among football fans. Clueless club officials who terminated players’ contracts on whimsical excuses were often on the receiving end as she always fought like a lioness fighting for her cubs.
Early this year, she won a major battle for former Sofapaka FC goalkeeper Wycliffe Kasaya against the club. This was just one among the many.
Then came the news that she had been diagnosed with cancer. This is the kind of information that can make many faint, but not Monica. She always kept her Facebook page updated on how she was faring on. With hilarity rare among many of us, she would tell us the treatment and the effects it was having on her.
See like this one: Five days to my fourth chemotherapy session, part of me wants to try rehearse the Inama dance challenge (months late ha ha) to be danced soon after or before going to the chemo room but I hurt my leg last Sunday (calcium uptake and levels are an issue during chemotherapy) and I need a dance crew for that. Unlike me who in my earlier years was an avid dancer, my family is a bit double left footed on this one.”
Last Saturday was my birthday and among those wishing me happy birthday was Monica’s husband Festus Kimani aka Charley Blackman.
Two hours later, Kimani was back on Facebook telling us that Monica had rested.
Fare thee well buddy. You fought the good fight.