Last week, one club captured the attention of the entire nation- Gor Mahia.
From boda boda riders, matatu touts, hawkers, shopkeepers, barbers, CEOs of huge companies to you know who, the President of Kenya took their time to focus their attention on the match between Kenya champions Gor Mahia and English side Hull City.
The crowd that turned up at the Moi International Sports Centre summed up the interest the nation had on that match. It will take you back to 1997 when Kenya played Nigeria at the same venue when we had such a crowd.
Captain Ronald Karauri, the CEO of our SportPesa captured it right. He said: “Gor Mahia has developed into a brand that represents Kenyan football, and can only grow bigger with continued focused leadership and results.
He added: “They really are focused on being the biggest team in Africa. Kenyans now see Gor as a football brand to be proud of.
Yes, Gor Mahia have made Kenyans proud by their performance thus far. This is the first Kenyan club to make it to the group stages of the continental championships and they are not allowing themselves to be pushovers.
Gone are the days when just a mention of Gor and one would take cover, today many, want to be associated with Gor Mahia.
It is said success attracts more friends, and indeed Gor Mahia is scaling greater heights in attracting more interest from across the region.
It is my belief that with focus, Gor Mahia can go all the way and win the Caf Confederation Cup, that is if officiating is fair, unlike what we saw from the Malian referee on Wednesday night in the game against USM Alger from Algeria.
That aside, Karauri’s sentiments sends a huge challenge to the Gor Mahia family: how can we build this club to become a model in Africa?
Several things come to mind. We must look at Gor Mahia as a football club, a brand and not a social welfare organization as it is currently registered.
It is time we professionalized our operations. We need to match our peers in Africa.
I have said it several times in the column and in many other forums that Gor Mahia must have its own club house and stop operating from the office if its chairman.
Time has come for Gor to have its own training ground complete with swimming pool and gym, its own stadium that can host major league matches and above all turn itself into a limited company and float shares in the stock exchange market.
We want to see a Gor Mahia that has a museum, its own sports shop where merchandise is sold and a Gor Mahia that every corporate in this country will want to be associated with.
That way Gor Mahia will have built itself into a brand worth being proud of.
On the pitch, we have done well. We have proved that we can match European clubs if our performance against Everton last year and Hull City a week ago is anything to go by.
My dream now is to see Gor able to face the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Juventus…because these are our peers.