The fact that the Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards of yore were teams that commanded respect locally and abroad is not in doubt.
Nothing underscores this point more than the fact that at the height of their glory, AFC Leopards were sharing the same shirt sponsors with the then kings of English Premier League Liverpool FC while Gor at its best etched its name in annals of history as the first team from our neck of the woods to win a continental cup — the Nelson Mandela Cup in 1987.
Although as Gor supporters we looked on with never ending envy as Ingwe stars like JJ Masiga and Josphat Murila, deep down in our hearts as Kenyans we were happy that the two gentlemen were wearing shirts similar to the Liverpool great of that time, John Barnes and his colleagues.
A fact we cannot sweep under the table is that these two teams achieved this great feats riding on the back of the fanatical support of their fans.
The fans of the old knew a thing or two about being patriotic to their clubs.
Many are the times when on the night before a derby featuring the two sides, scouts from both clubs would camp at the stadium, guarding it against “researchers” from the opposing side planting some juju on behalf of their team.
Serious fights in darkness were fought during these night time battles and you would only get to hear of them the next day as the match progressed.
Another thing the fans had in common was the never say die spirit. It did not matter what the scoreboard was reading, the singing and dancing went on, as the current generation would aptly put it, ‘nobody can stop reggae’.
Stories abound of frenzied supporters singing along with the victorious fans from City or Nyayo stadiums all the way to the city centre then remembering that they had left their cars parked in Nairobi West. They would then walk back or jump into a matatu to go fetch the abandoned vehicles.
At Gor, our preferred ritual was to sing and dance all the way to what is now Old Nation House. This newspaper’s photographers like Sam Ouma or Yahya Mohamed would be waiting with their powerful cameras at the back alley called Nyakach Lane ready to take our pictures.
This had a serious drawback to it in that at times riot police would block both sides of the alley and hurl tear gas into the crowd. It meant fighting your way out.
The scenes described above are a far cry from the current situation where fans spend their time in front of TVs following foreign leagues, supporting players whose living quarters they know nothing of.
With that hideous Kenyan English of “We won you yesterday”, these fans would engage in serious bar room politics decrying any form of imperialism, the irony of the fact that they are donning Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool jerseys completely lost on them.
Granted the modern fans, unlike their counterparts of the former days, know the difference between “offside” and “oxide” as well as the fact that an infringement is a ‘‘foul’’ not a “fall” but in matters of passion they are nowhere near those before them.