NAIROBI, Kenya- All roads led to the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on Sunday morning as football fans from all over the country trooped to be part of the momentous clash between Gor Mahia FC and visiting Hull City FC.
Supporters started streaming to the ampitheatre of Kenyan football located 16km from the Nairobi Central Business District at 9am and the steady trickle turned into a flood by midday when the stadium was more than half-full.
The 60,000-seater facility was rocking to the beat in the high noon sunshine, a departure from the recent heavy rains that have turned most of the country into a deluge.
In their usual style and swagger, Gor supporters, famously known as the Green Army- clad in their traditional green and white attire- entered Kasarani in full song, dance and pomposity that only they can achieve in the country.
It was a sight to behold when supporters decked in the blue and white stripes of their arch enemies, AFC Leopards SC, whom they beat 5-4 on penalties to book the date will Hull, turned up and some even offered to support their Mashemeji (in-laws).
“At the end, this is a Kenyan team playing a wazungus (Europeans) so we are here to support,” Mary Ajuma, a diehard Ingwe fan said as she made her way to the stadium.
Security was tight, with a battalion of regular and paramilitary police officers throwing a cordon that stretched from the stadium perimeter from Thika Super Highway and Kasarani-Mwiki road, to the main entrance and turnstiles.
Motorists and pedestrians were searched before being allowed to proceed in one of the largest security operations ever witnessed for a football game in Kenya.
However, the robust procedure did not sour the electric atmosphere that swept through the stadium and its environs hours before kick-off, setting the stage for a historic moment for Kenyan football.
Among the fun activities; a traditional band belted popular tunes inside the stadium that kept the supporters swaying and dancing.
MCs whipped up the crowd, belting up popular K’Ogalo slogans as some aspiring political candidates for the 2022 General Elections sponsored some supporters to watch the game.
The already charged mood turned manic at 12:30pm when popular reggae Deejay, Kris Darlin took to the decks to spin some of the eternal hits of the genre, including the late Bob Marley’s Iron, Lion, Zion as the world marked 37th anniversary of the icon’s passing this week.
Other tunes that made those inside the venue go almost bonkers included Sky Larkin and Barrack Obama as the Dohty Family outfit strung a medley of club bangers.
The sound of the blaring Vuvuzela horns competed with the booming speakers for attention, adding to the carnival mood inside the cathedral of Kenyan sports.
Some minutes to 1pm, the giant screen in the stadium went live, capturing the attention of the fans who for some minutes, paused the festivities to watch a pre-amble of the game before the entertainment rolled on with a dancing competition.
Gor fans then showered Hull players with the Nigerian Igwe (chief) bow when they made their way round the stadium to rapturous applause, with the lead Master of Ceremonies and celebrated comedian, Jalango, leading the chants.
Outside crowds thronged the leading bookmakers, SportPesa activation tent that came complete with their crowd pulling screening and commentary truck that came complete with its own entertainment line-up of live performances and deejay.
Adjacent to the Presidential Entrance, a Toyota Probox vehicle that has seen better days covered with the tag ‘Probox Overfinch’ over its number plates was packed among high end motors.
It was there as because of the challenge between the Propesa comedy crew and SportPesa CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri where the latter accepted to drive off in the modest car in exchange for his official customised high end Range Rover Overfinch should Gor lose the game.
Gamers got the chance to walk away with merchandise, among them the specially made Hull City in Kenya t-shirts to keep as mementos to the game that is set to be remembered as an occasion of all ages.
-Report by Martin Njuguna