A very German humbling

Gor Mahia fans universally known as ‘the Green Army’,are the nation’s loudest and most boisterous fans.Here they show off what makes them tick during a Kenya Premier League match in Nairobi

Bernd Holzenbein may have scored the fastest international goal on Kenyan soil with his 15thsecond strike after kick-off when Eintracht Frankfurt beat Kenya4-1 at the Nairobi City Stadium on June 16, 1971, but it is his provider, Jürgen Grabowski, who was all the rage in the country before, during and many years after that tour. In fact, to a certain generation of Kenya football players and fans, a report of that match has turned out prophetic.

Kenya fans saw a World Cup star for the first time in Nairobi…Jürgen Grabowski,” Daily Nation football writer Polly Fernandes wrote. “They will long remember him… For, till the time he left the field just after half time, he bewitched and bewildered the Kenya defenders, mesmerising them with his dribbling and defence-splitting passes.”

Grabowski’s reputation preceded him before the Eintracht tour, and the media had stories on him and the rest of the team. His mystique rose to the stratosphere when he had to arrive and leave Kenya separately from the others because his services were needed by the West German national team. Eintracht arrived in Nairobi on June 13 without him because he was involved in a European Nations Cup against Albania. West Germany beat Albania 2-0 with Grabowski scoring one of the goals.

He then hopped into the next plane for Nairobi to orchestrate the humbling of Kenya as some sections of the local media put it.

In the next game of the series, on June 22, 1971, Kenya beat Eintracht 1-0 at the Mombasa Municipal Stadium and the country was over the moon. Eckhardt Krautzun, the Kenya coach whose loyalties now lay with the locals and not his native Germany, said with evident satisfaction: “I am proud to be coaching a side that beat professionals. Frankfurt are one of the finest sides in the world and victory over them means a great deal for an amateur team. As I’ve said before, the results of these matches do not matter; what really matters is that some of the players have now shown me where they play best.”

And then he pointed out a fact that Kenyans needed to remember as they swooned over their stars, who were given a heroes’ send-off as their bus left for Nairobi. “But one must take into account that the West Germans were without Jürgen Grabowski, who made a lot of difference to their forward line.”

Grabowski had left three days before the game to join West Germany on a tour of Scandinavia. A member of three World Cup squads for West Germany 1966, 1970and 1974 he was the super sub who killed England in Leon, Mexico, as the champions surrendered their title.

Helmut Schoen, the West Germany coach, had made it a habit to bring in Grabowski at critical moments of the match and the versatile player never disappointed. In the end, he played 44 times for Germany.

Several years after Eintracht’s tour, on my way home from school, I used to pass through the Goan Institute grounds on the days that Luo Union, one of the big clubs sides of the day, trained. It was awe-inspiring to watch at close quarters as some of the big guns of the national team went through their paces. Because it wasn’t always possible to afford match tickets for league and international matches, this was the only chance I had to see Steve Yongo, William Chege Ouma, James Ogolla ‘Kadir’, Agonda Lukio and others in person. But I can never forget Edward Kiiza, the huge Ugandan-born defender, shouting “Grabowski!” at every good effort at goal. To those who played for Kenya in Kiiza’s day, Grabowski remains a legend.

Eintracht crushed a second-string Kenya side 6-0 before a capacity crowd at the Mombasa Municipal Stadium.

Temperamental forward Livingstone Madegwa, who had been axed from Kenya’s first eleven, had scathing comments to make about coach Krautzun. “I am terribly disappointed,” Madegwa said. “I expected a much better side than the one that was fielded. I still cannot understand how coach Krautzun could take out most of the players from the first eleven and leave us inexperienced players. Taking all the players back to Nairobi meant that we had to pick some of the players for today’s match from the streets. I hope in future this is not repeated.”

Eintracht ended their four-match engagement with another emphatic win over Kenya’s first eleven, 3-0, at the Nairobi City Stadium on June 28. Apart from the heroics of Grabowski in just one match, the tour is most remembered for two other significant events in local football. It marked the end of the eight-year international career of Livingstone Madegwa, and added more tales to the legend of Daniel Nicodemus. In the lead-up to the tour, coach Krautzun made it clear that Madegwa had no place in the 18-man Kenya team before relegating the experienced player to lead the second string team. With an eye on the following year’s Africa Cup of Nations, Krautzun was determined to try out as many players as possible before settling on a core side that was taking shape with every match.

I expected a much better side than the one that was fielded. I still cannot understand how coach Krautzun could take out most of the players from the first eleven and leave us inexperienced players. Taking all the players back to Nairobi meant that we had to pick some of the players for today’s match from the streets. I hope in future this is not repeated.

On learning of his fate, the temperamental Madegwa responded by announcing his retirement from international football. “I am going back to my club and I will never think of being selected for Kenya again,” he swore. “I will play for Breweries until my playing days are over or I am removed from the pitch.” Of course, he turned out for the second-string team and to his credit, gave body and soul to the effort. Only Badi Ali and he didn’t seem overawed by the professionals. It is not often that a player establishes his place in the national team, leaves it, and returns after a seven year absence. But then, Daniel Nicodemus was no ordinary player. He was also a part time robber and this other side of him earned him stints in jail (see his full story elsewhere in this book). At independence, he was a regular member of the national team. But as a result of what he did when not playing football, he was handed a three-year jail term in 1967. Nicodemus did his time and when he returned, he did what his colleagues knew him to do best: train like a maniac. And by the time Eintracht were coming to Nairobi, he was in such scintillating form that Krautzun could not ignore him. “Daniel Nicodemus Arudhi, making an almost incredible return to international soccer after a seven-year lay-off from the game, may he, this evening, prove to be the man coach Eckhardt Krautzun is banking on for Africa Cup of Nations fame when Kenya meet Eintracht Frankfurt at Nairobi’s City Stadium,” wrote the Daily Nation on the eve of the first match.

The paper reported that as a result of his sterling performances for Gor Mahia in training, Nicodemus was a virtual certainty to start. And, indeed, he started. The team, virtually the one that would do duty for Kenya in Cameroon the following year, was made up of Mahmoud Mohammed, Joram Roy, Jonathan Niva, Ben Waga, Steve Yongo, Peter Ouma, Kadir Farah, Allan Thigo, Nicodemus, William “Chege” Ouma and John Nyawanga. This team was to Kenya what the 1982 World Cup team was to Brazil – the most colourful, the best, whatever the results of its matches.


It is the team that inspired Dettmar Cramer to declare that Kenya was destined for a place in African football’s high table. On May 13, 1971, on the eve of his departure from Kenya after a three-week coaching tour, he had this to say: “Of the 15 African countries I have coached, Kenya has the best potential. It may not be the leading African nation now but the talent is there and it has to be exploited. This is no lie. I am not a diplomat and I do not go around African countries praising them just to maintain good relations between them and Fifa. I mean what I say.”

At the time he came to Kenya, Cramer was FIFA’s top ranked coach and the most sought after expert on the game in the world. Fifa contracted him to undertake coaching assignments around the world between 1967 and 1974 after he played a notable role as part of West Germany’s coaching staff during the 1966 World Cup.

West Germany lost to England in the final of that event. Cramer then undertook coaching assignments in Japan and the United States before returning to Germany. Because of his expertise in football, he went by the nickname “The Football Professor.” He remains the technical expert with the biggest name to have worked in Kenya although for only a short time. Such were the high expectations on his arrival in Nairobi that he felt constrained to dampen them at the airport. He told waiting journalists: “I am not a superman and I don’t work miracles. With only a short time at my disposal, I can only try to do my best.”

Cramer worked with the Kenya national team which, at that time, was preparing for the following year’s Africa Cup of Nations qualification matches against Mauritius.

The team was being handled by Cramer’s compatriot, Eckhardt Krautzun. For the time that Cramer was in Kenya, he assumed an informal oversight role on the team’s technical bench. On May 12, the media reported that he would have a hand in selecting the Kenya team against Mauritius. That gave the country two eminent Germans at the helm of the future Harambee Stars.

At the end of his stay, Cramer praised Krautzun’s approach and correctly predicted that under his countryman, Kenya was going to qualify for the Nation’s Cup finals in Cameroon. A major development of Cramer’s stay in Kenya was the formation of a Kenya Football Coaches Association. The objective of this move was to give structure to the technical side of the game and make it possible for services to reach the grassroots in a systematic, accountable and sustainable way. The first chairman of the association was former international Peter Oronge.

John Nyawanga, the national team captain was also a member of the executive committee. Cramer urged the coaches to develop a unique playing style for Kenya, one that played up the strengths of the players in the country while at the same deemphasising their weaknesses. He pointed out that Morocco, the then top African nation, which had made a good run in the 1970 World Cup had its own playing style. Cramer asked Kenyans to stop their obsession with imitating European or Latin American styles of play. Forty five years later, in 2017, Sunday Oliseh, former captain of Nigeria’s Super Eagles and now a brand ambassador for the Bundesliga, said the same thing in almost the same words.

“The technical team and administrators need to sit down and decide (how the national team will play). From what I have seen, there is no identity. Is (playing style) it possession football, direct, or a mixture of both?”

Oliseh, a former Borussia Dortmund, FC Cologne and VFL Bochum midfielder asked. That question would not have arisen if Kenya had paid attention to what Cramer advised in May of 1971.

Apart from Oronge and Elijah Lidonde, notable coaches who trained under Cramer and would later make their mark with the Kenyan team were Marshal Mulwa and Mohammed Kheri, both from the Coast. Kenya Breweries had the bulk of players still in the national team who underwent coaching lessons. These were Mohammed Mahmoud, Kadir Farar, Livingstone Madegwa, Ben Waga and John Nyawanga. Gor Mahia had William Ouma and Martin Ouma while Bata Bullets provided Joram Roy and Sammy Nyongesa.

A Kisumu Hot Stars left winger, David Olima, was also nominated to undertake the course. He was studying medicine at the then University College, Nairobi. His Principal declined to release him and he never made to the Kenya Institute of Administration where the course was taking place. In hindsight, given the fortunes of hundreds of players who forsook their studies to follow their passions and do duty for their country innocently unaware that many years of their lives still lay ahead, Olima was one very lucky man. Mysteriously, the list of 30 players to undergo this course released by the executive officer of the FA of Kenya, David Muraya, did not include anybody from the then reigning champions Abaluhya.

The 30 coaches that Cramer instructed represented a focus on grassroots clubs in addition to the big guns. Thus, trainees from little known clubs rubbed shoulders with stars from Gor Mahia, Kenya Breweries and Bata Bullets from Limuru. The clubs from Nairobi that provided these trainees were Luo Sports, Nile Stars, Hamza Heroes, Busia, Nyando, Mumias, Bunyore, Lumumba, Post Office, City Council, Mungoma, Samia and Prisons. Coastal clubs were Lasco, Western Stars and a nominee from the Mombasa District Football Association who happened to be future Harambee Stars coach, Mohammed Kheri. The basic course was a success and FA of Kenya secretary Joab Omino expressed a desire to have Cramer return. “We certainly are interested in having Mr Cramer here again,” he told journalists. “As I said earlier, the short time he has been here is not sufficient. I hope he will stay longer next year.”

This message was relayed to Cramer’s employer, Fifa who agreed to have him return the following year. Wrangles in Kenya football forestalled this possibility, and it was not until 1974 that Kenneth Matiba’s Kenya Football Federation approached the German government for a coach to build on what Crammer had done. The man we got was Bernhard Zgoll, who launched the country’s fabled Olympic Youth Centres. When Matiba left office, the centres collapsed. Dettmar Cramer told officials of the FA of Kenya that every country had to work very hard for itself because Fifa or friendly governments could do only so much. He told them West Germany started a school for coaches in 1921. That is why, he said, the country was producing so many good players and coaches. But his lessons, and those of Zgoll, were ignored.

And for that, it has become impossible to invite a team of Eintracht Frankfurt’s calibre to Kenya again.



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