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Besides rivalry, Leopards and Gor fans a kindred lot

Monday November 18 2019

A Gor Mahia fan shares a light moment with an AFC Leopards' fan along Moi Avenue, Nairobi on November 10, 2019 ahead of the Mashemeji Derby. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |

A Gor Mahia fan shares a light moment with an AFC Leopards' fan along Moi Avenue, Nairobi on November 10, 2019 ahead of the Mashemeji Derby. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

TOM OSANJO
By TOM OSANJO
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Ingwe huishi msituni na leo wamekuja kurarua Koro Mahia” — The leopard dwells in the forest and today it has come to tear Gor Mahia apart.

This was the famous war cry AFC Leopards “superfan” Marola used to unleash whenever Gor Mahia and AFC locked horns either in the national league or a regional competition. For his love of the club, Marola no doubt ranks in my list as the most ardent Ingwe supporter I ever came across.

Carrying a huge blue and white flag featuring a leopard stretched to the full holding a football, Marola was a sight to behold.

His love for Ingwe and the then chairman, the deep-pocketed Alfred Wekesa Sambu, whom he fondly called “Apiola” (after Nigerian billionaire and later presidential candidate Chief Moshood Abiola) Marola’s patriotism to Ingwe was never in doubt.

A popular radio station of the day had the tag line “Come rain or shine we play the best mix of music” and they might as well have been talking of Marola.

Blessed with an ample gut and a chest built like a full keg of beer, Marola’s moment of glory was when Ingwe scored at which point he would roll many times on the ground and it never seemed to bother the man much whether the ground was wet or dry.

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A roll was a roll and on and on he went. He turned the common saying of our current generation ‘kwa ground vitu ni different’ on its head preferring to find out for himself.

Last week I wrote about the Gor Mahia supporters of yore and the piece evoked fond memories in many readers. Dodd Kenyatta, one of the old fans mentioned in the article called to take me down memory lane of the good times — and at times near heart attacks — he has had following K’Ogalo.

However, it was the mystery man himself, Apingo Nyawawa, whose name seemed to have tickled many senseless. It seems everyone who ever attended a Gor match featuring Apingo and his famous rattle had a thing or two to say about the man.

University don Oyugi CMG Onyango wrote: This Apingo man was a great man. I remember my late maternal uncle fondly talk about him how he gave him trouble. My uncle was at one time the Chairman of the club (that’s the late Peter Anyumba). He used to talk of how Apingo nearly had him sacked as Director Survey of Kenya when Apingo abandoned some dignitary whom he used to chauffeur around because Gor was playing the following day and the boss would not leave Mombasa. So Apingo decided to come back to Nairobi.”

But it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the Gor fans without mentioning their opposite numbers on the AFC terraces. Marola was in my opinion the leader of the delegation but there were others like Amimo and a man going by the name of Shizukane.

These were bona fide warriors for their respective clubs and as the Gor side sang its heart out, the Ingwe side had a pulsating “isukuti” beat that never died whether their team was winning or losing.

It is worth noting that away from the madness of football these rival fans were usually the best of friends and neighbours who would share a drink in good times and mourn together in times of sorrow.

Such a glorious past our football has had.

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