It takes more to earn the tag of an Ingwe legend

Monday January 21 2019

Tindi Biko of Chemelil Sugar FC (right) holds off AFC Leopards’ Kamura Robinson during their Sportpesa Premier League match at Moi Stadium, Kisumu on January 17, 2019. AFC won the match 2-1. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA |

Tindi Biko of Chemelil Sugar FC (right) holds off AFC Leopards’ Kamura Robinson during their Sportpesa Premier League match at Moi Stadium, Kisumu on January 17, 2019. AFC won the match 2-1. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

JOHN ASHIHUNDU
By JOHN ASHIHUNDU
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Legend is the most abused phrase in the world of sport worldwide, more and more being attributed to mediocre, average and ordinary people and the feats they achieve.

The best example is Brazilian busybody Giovanni Rodriquez who was signed by our noisy neighbours a few years ago; only to be rejected by the then coach Zdravko Logarusic, barely a week in to his contract.

Even before the guy featured in any competitive match, The Green Army faithful’s had labelled him a K’Ogalo legend until Logarusic discovered that the guy could have done better in body building rather than football. So is the case with average players masquerading as Ingwe legends.

A legend is regarded as a celebrity who created history to be talked about forever, but not one who dons an Ingwe jersey for six months before leaving them battling against relegation.

Since Ingwe’s inception in 1964, the only true legends can be those who won trophies and went on to play for the national team - Harambee Stars.

The 1967 squad comprising Elijah Lidonde, Joe Kadenge, Anthony Mukabwa, Charles Makunda, Daniel Anyanzwa, and Hezekiah Ang’ana among others are true Ingwe legends.

During this era, Abaluhya FC before changing its name to AFC Leopards provided nine players to the national team that won the inaugural CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. Winger Kadenge was the most famous player of this era due to his superb dribbling skills.

The 83-year old surviving legend often held the ball and passed only reluctantly. The phrase “Kadenge na Mpira” became famous back then because of how long he could hold on to a ball.

By the 1970s, Ingwe had grown significantly to become a powerhouse leading to the invincibles of 1973 who won league without losing a single match. Jonathan Niva and John Nyawanga were outstanding during this era.

The players who fought hard to send the club back to the top-tier premier league in 2009 after we were relegated 2006 and went on to win the FKF Cup are true Ingwe legends.

The other true Ingwe legends are the players who won the league for the last time in 1998 under Tanzanian Sunday Kayuni. Many fans will remember Fred and Boniface Ambani who formed a formidable forward line. Fred was the top scorer with Boniface coming second with just a goal separating them.

AFC Leopards has won the local league title 13 times, but we have players like Peter Lichungu who are true legends having helped Ingwe win the league six times in addition to FKF Cup titles and the Cecafa Club championship crowns as well.

But it was in the regional CECAFA Club Championship where they asserted their dominance, winning it in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Blessed with a galaxy of star players, Ingwe under Ugandan coach Robert Kiberu fielded the most formidable squad that dominated the regional Cecafa club championship taking it in 1979, 1982, 1983, and 1984.

Most notable among them was goalkeeper, Mahmoud Abbas who is still considered the best goalkeeper Kenya has ever produced. Abbas was incredible shot stopper, who commanded the penalty area like a field general, but it was in penalty shoot-outs that he was most effective.

Leopards’ success in the CECAFA Cup was largely due to the penalty saving exploits of Abbas as many matches were decided on penalty shoot-outs where Abbas acted as the ideal wall.

Ingwe also had Wilberforce Mulamba, an extremely talented attacking midfielder who excelled at dribbling, scoring and playmaking and was often the top scorer in CECAFA tournaments.

Central forward Joe Masiga was nicknamed bulldozer for his ability to use his physical strength and speed. Masiga, who also featured for the Kenya National Rugby team, was a deadly striker who inspired fear in opposing defenders. His avuncular structure and breath taking was the stuff of nightmares for many defenders.

Because of the beautiful football they played and good results, the club played to packed stadiums. Chants of “AFC! AFC!” rent the air each time a goal was scored, while the fans danced to the tune of Isukuti drummers running up and down the stadium the entire 90 minutes.

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