NAIROBI, Kenya- The name Bahati M Kilinga may not ring a bell to most but if there was one person who epitomised the drama, colour and fanfare that made the 2018 SportPesa Super Cup memorable, then the 48 year-old Yanga SC super fan fits the bill.
Her presence at the Afraha Stadium, Nakuru was a simply sight to behold.
Bahati- whose name means luck in Swahili- literally eats, breaths and sleeps Yanga, the record 27-time Tanzanian champions who unfortunately, failed to hit the heights that would have taken their super fan to space in delirium after being stunned 3-1 by Kakamega Homeboyz FC at the quarterfinals.
Cut her veins and she will bleed green and yellow, Bahati vows. Her undying love for her beloved team sees her apply screaming yellow make up with green eye shadow on her face.
Throughout the second edition of the annual eight-team invitational tournament that is the brainchild of leading bookmakers, SportPesa, Afraha saw some of the manic football fans from the regional giants decorate proceedings.
The self-proclaimed Commander in Chief of the K’Ogalo Defence Forces, Jared ‘Jaro Soja’ Otieno and Joseph Sudi, the ‘custodian’ of the ‘Gor Mahia FC Bible’ as well as Jacob Juma (AFC Leopards SC) and Florence Onyango (Simba SC) dazzled in Nakuru but Kilinga stole the show.
A day after Yanga crashed out of the Super Cup, Kilinga stayed behind to cheer SportPesa Premier League side, Kariobangi Sharks FC, who incidentally, dress in green and yellow as her favourite team as they took on their mortal enemies, Simba SC.
“I was hoping my team would progress but unfortunately, it did not happen. I’m in so much pain, I’m hurting. I’m not happy, the pain is too much,” she wailed at SportPesa News as she brandished her Yanga SC membership identification that is also a Visa ATM card.
“I pay TSh10,000 per year to remain a member of Yanga and I save my money on this card. Anything I can do for my club to get income, I shall do it. It’s only this way that the team will survive and keep winning,” Bahati who was accompanied by her husband stressed.
What was striking about her devotion to her club was on top of spending an arm and a leg to follow her club wherever they travel, the small-scale businesswoman was among those rallying fellow Yanga supporters to sell club merchandise outside Afraha for their team to benefit commercially.
It took little persuasion for her to turn into a saleswoman and peddle Yanga replica jersey, scarves, bandanas and other items outside Afraha as she joined a group of four that had travelled from Dar-es-Salaam to sell such wares.
SportPesa News established leading clubs in Tanzania such as Yanga, Simba, Singida United FC as well as Jeshi la Kujenga Uchumi SCZ from Zanzibar who were part of the Super Cup give rights to textile manufacturers to produce team-branded merchandise on their behalf.
This is in turn sold to the public and the clubs receive a share of the revenues and surprisingly, it was not until the final last Sunday where Gor played Simba SC that the former’s goods were offered for the supporters to buy, a marketing opportunity lost.
“We sat with the leaders of the teams and agreed to sell the club jerseys Dar, Arusha, Mtibwa, Singida and other towns our team travels to. The manufactures and the clubs agree that the money goes to the teams.
“I would love to advertise the Gor jersey in Tanzania because they are respected and play very well,” Bahati disclosed.
Elizabeth Joseph Mbwambo was another trader from Tanzania who swooped in Afraha to take advantage of the Super Cup for a payday having travelled to Nakuru by bus from the Tanzanian capital.
“I have supported Yanga for eight years and I’m disappointed by their results but I have to accept the outcome,” Mbwambo spoke in flawless and enchanting Swahili.
“We want to thank the Kenyan fans, especially those from Gor who have supported our business that goes to help our teams besides taking our children go to school. There is money to be made from football.
“We should be seeing more tournaments like these that bring a lot of fans together and businesses will thrive. Hotels here in Nakuru, Boda Boda and Bajaj (tuk tuk) riders and many others benefitted a lot,” she added as Bahati nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
“When we go back home, we will advertise Kenyan clubs so as to create demand for their products and it is our wish we can get their merchandise to sell. Football is big business,” Mbwambo emphasised.
Bahati interrupted to stress; “We have sold 35 Yanga jerseys since we came here (Sunday to Monday) and that is good return. Each is going for KSh700. It is wonderful business.”
Metres away from where the Yanga diehards were hawking their goods, Onyango, 61, who has a Kenyan-sounding name professed her unyielding affection for losing finalists, Simba.
Their rivalries are too deep that Bahati swore she would not be caught dead with any red item and likewise, Onyango prefers to ‘burn in the pits of hell’ than to be seen with anything yellow and green.
“I was playing netball at Simba Sports Club when I started supporting the football team. I love my team and I’m proud they made the final even without seven of our best players,” Onyango told, looking around to make sure the enemy was not in sight.
Just like Bahati, she met the merchandise traders from Dar and immediately offered her services as a salesperson, taking every Simba item off them and urging those trooping to the stadium to buy.
“Selling this will give my club money, it needs it. We have a title to defend next season after we won it back from them (Yanga),” Onyango who wore a red t-shirt emblazoned with Simba Bingwa 2018, explained.
Once inside the pitch, the true colours of Bahati and Onyango came to the fore as Yanga supporters threw their weight behind Homeboyz as they played their semi final last Thursday.
This is despite the fact that Homeboyz had knocked Yanga out; giving credence to the adage the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
“This is not Tanzania where you bought the title! Always surviving on penalties and relying on officials to see you through,” Bahati poured scorn at their bitter domestic rivals.
“Simba yaweza! (Simba can),” their rivals led by Onyango roared back and when Homeboyz took the lead through Wycliffe Opondo in the opening minutes, Bahati and fellow Yanga supporters shocked Afraha when they celebrated more than the home fans.
To them, it was a dagger through the heart of Simba and although their arch rivals recovered to equalise before winning on post-match penalties, Bahati was not around to see the Tanzania champions fall to Gor in the final on Sunday, having left with her fellow Yanga faithful after the semis.
She nonetheless left an indelible mark at the tournament and is a model example of how passion laced with business acumen can help domestic football thrive.
It was unsettling that AFC Leopards SC, Sharks and Homeboyz merchandise was not available for sale at the Super Cup and it took the final itself to have Gor wares offered to supporters.
However, Bahati and company gave their Kenyan hosts a big wake up call on how to make hay while sun shines.