Today, I dedicate this space to mourn one of the greatest football players to have donned the famed green jersey of Gor Mahia and the colours of Kenya’s national football team Harambee Stars.
I mourn Steve ‘‘McQueen’’ Yongo who passed on on the eve of Jamhuri Day at Kenyatta National Hospital.
It is sad that as his family and Kenyans prepared to celebrate the heroes who fought for the country’s independence, Steve Yongo, one of the heroes of Kenyan football, had just passed on.
Many a young fan of Kenyan football would not remember Yongo, but our fathers will tell you he was one of the greatest midfielders Kenya has ever produced.
Yongo was among the first players to don the green colours of Mighty Gor Mahia when the club was formed in 1968.
He played alongside goalkeeper James Siang’a and Nicodemus Arudhi, William Ouma “Chege”, Joseph Okeyo, Josphat Okello “Smart” and John Otieno “Hatari”.
Yongo was arguably the first Kenyan footballer to exhibit chest ball control. No Kenyan had ever chested the ball until McQueen did it around 1967.
The McQueen name was derived from Steve McQueen, the American actor whose anti-hero persona rode on the counterculture of the 1960s and ‘70s in films such as Papillon, Towering Inferno and The Great Escape.
In one of my previous articles, I had talked of Yongo ailing, but as it has become our norm, we never honour our heroes nor do we care how they fare on after they exit from the footballing scene.
We saw how Siang’a suffered and later died, very few took note and his death and burial went silently yet during his playing days, thousands would throng the then Nairobi Stadium, later renamed City Stadium to celebrate him.
While we mourn Yongo, the great footballer from Gwassi in Homa Bay, it is my hope that for once we shall look back and see how we can honour our great players.
I pray that one day we shall borrow a leaf from the German club Bayern Munich who have absorbed their former players into key positions.
To the family of Steve Yongo, I say take heart.
But at the same time, I thank you for giving Kenya a great player.
In Yongo, heaven has a new superstar.
Rest well Steve Yongo “McQueen”