NAIROBI, Kenya- Former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, led dignitaries and celebrities to add the star dust to the high profile international friendly between Gor Mahia FC and Hull City FC, at MISC, Kasarani in Nairobi on Sunday.
Raila was accompanied by Kenyan football legends, Joe Kadenge, Mohamud Abbas and John ‘Bobby’ Ogola who was part of the famous 1987 Gor squad that lifted the Mandela Cup (CAF Winners Cup).
Kisumu Governor, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Leader of the Majority in Senate, Kipchumba Murkomen and Senators Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi) and Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) represented top political leadership at the football festival that set crowd records.
SportPesa CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri led the high-powered team from the leading gaming firm that organised the landmark game that saw Hull play in East Africa for the first time since the Tigers were founded in 1904.
Karauri, who had accepted a challenge from a comedy group, Propesa finally granted them their wish to ride in his state of art official Range Rover Overfinch limousine when K’Ogalo lost 4-3 on post-match penalties.
“I was supporting Gor, I saw them put a good show against Everton FC in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last year and I was convinced they would triumph against Hull.
“But I’m much prepared to go to work with my new vehicle now that they have lost. This dare was a good idea that was worth trying,” underlined Karauri who accepted the challenge to ride in a modest Toyota Probox vehicle.
Former Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President, Sam Nyamweya who was among the leading figures in the game present, noted that the game was an eye opener to local clubs.
“The competition was enough proof that we are capable of being world class in football if we put our house in order.
“I’m glad that SportPesa is helping to further the dream that I had which was to bring four English Premier League (EPL) sides to Kenya,” Nyamweya underscored.
FKF Deputy President, Doris Petra held brief for federation boss, Nick Mwendwa, who was out of the country.
Former Mwingi Member of Parliament, Joe Mutambo, remarked the match was a step in the right direction for Kenyan football.
“I’m confident that one day our country will host some of the greatest EPL clubs including Arsenal and Manchester United,” the former Mathare United FC Manager emphasized.
Mutambo, who served as the Harambee Stars Management Board CEO in 2002, advocated for establishment of football structures and academies that can help with the churning of talents for clubs and the national team.
“Kenya has untapped potential, it is sad that there is so much concentration in politics than promotion of sport,” Mutambo stressed.
Farah Kassim, the Secretary Administration, State Department of Sports, said the Government was happy with the encounter as the friendly helped to market Kenya and Gor Mahia players.
“Today, our football was being beamed live across the world. This is historic. It was a great moment of exposure for our game,” noted Kassim who represented Cabinet Secretary for Sport and Heritage, Mohamed Echesa, at the occasion.
Officials of Gor Mahia arch rivals, AFC Leopards, also put their enemity aside to support K’Ogalo against the visitors.
Leopards chairman, Dan Mule, who was accompanied by his wife, Yuna, said the match was an opportunity to showcase patriotism despite being edged by the archrivals in the Hull City Challenge in Nakuru on May 1.
“Sometimes nationalism has to come first. I’m also praying that two or three players from Gor will get a chance for professional stint abroad,” said Mule.
However, Mule admitted that he feels sad that his club has never had a chance to engage an English opposition during his tenure.
Comedian, Felix Odiwuor aka Jalango Jalango, who had earlier predicted that Gor would beat Hull City 2-1, said he was glad to have met some English players he only watch on television.
His sentiments were echoed by Ohangla song bird, Lady Mourine, who thrilled the 60,000 capacity stadium with her luo popular hits praising the 16-time SportPesa Premier League champions.