Football and the nick names craze

Whether as a result of retirement, transfer sale or disappearing acts, football players will always come and go. Many have since come to Gor Mahia and many have left and this dates back to the year 1968 when the club was started.

Of great importance are what they leave behind in form of success and legacy. But do you know that there things they come with or get during their stay at the club and like a peacock, proudly walk away with on their exit? Yes – NICKNAMES.

But where do these nicknames come from?

There are K’ogalo players who earned their nicknames from comparison to other great footballers world over whether during their times or before. Jared Ochieng was nicknamed “Makanaky” owing to the fact that he had dreadlocks like the great Cameroonian Cyrill Makanaky.

Sammy Owino dubbed “Kempes” after the great world cup winning Argentine hit man Mario Kempes. Paul Ochieng was to be nicknamed “Kunde” after another Cameroonian Emmanuel Kunde owing to their resemblance in height and build coupled with calm play.

In the recent years we have also seen a breed of players named after world great players. Collins Okoth dubbed “Gatusso” after the Italian midfield player Genaro Gatusso owing to their command of midfield authority. Antony “Viera” Akumu and Oscar “Zizou” Mbugua nicknamed after French internationals Patrick Viera and Zinadine Zidane respectively. Brazilian player names have also hit the nicknames list with Moses Otieno dubbed “Dinho” and new boy Antony Gathu dubbed “Gaucho” both after Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho. Joseph Njuguna wins the tag “Pablo” after the great Argentine footballer Pablo Aimar.

Wonder boy Dancun Owiti “Macheda” nicknamed in the season 2010 after match winning performances compared to those of Manchester United Italian prodigy Federico Macheda.

Did you also know that Kevin Omondi’s nickname “Ade” is short for Adebayor acquired from his days at the academy? One John Odhiambo nicknamed himself “Baresi” out of admiration for Italian great Franco Baresi, and Tom “Hasler” Odhiambo in his own words says, “it was given to me by Bonie Oduor one day at practice when I hit a volley that reminded everyone of one Hasler had a couple of years ago.” Hasler was a German footballer.

Also interesting to mention is that other players got their nicknames owing to their characteristics both on and off the pitch, and interestingly from events during the matches. So many names interst on this and to pick first is Abbas “Zamalek” Magongo nicknamed after the famous red card against Zamalek in Egypt 1984. Ben “Breakdance” Oloo got his nickname from the way he would dribble his way past opposing defenders in the 80’s during the break-dance craze.

Defender Paul Oduwo “Cobra” was so nicknamed from the ferocious tackles he would give the opponents and his warm ups on the concrete with screw studded boots to scare the opponents. Venom spit only comparable to that of the cobra viper. George Nyangi Odembo would be nicknamed “Artillery” because he released shots that sounded like bullets from a big gun.

Ogolla Michael bore the nickname “Machine” because of the strong presence at the defence and would raze you to the ground like a lawn mower, while George Onyango “Fundi” was so called for being the key architect of Gor Mahia attacks. As a player who seemed to take control of the full pitch during any match, Allan Thigo was branded “Ogango Wuon Pap”. “Omuga” (luo for rhino) would define Peter Dawo’s aggressive goal scoring moves.

Some nicknames would be derived from player’s professions. Full back George Otieno dubbed “Chumb reru”- translated to railway line- since he worked for Kenya Railways. Striker Maurice Ochieng would get his nickname by virtue of being a prison warden at a time when the police were locally called “Sonyi” by estate boys. Tobias Ocholla was dubbed “Jua kali” owing to his industrious efforts as a jua kali guy – rugged and committed to his job, while Duncan “Mwalimu” Makori was a teacher.

Political figures and events have also garnered their fair share in player nicknames. Thus the legendary Nahashon Oluoch was branded “Lule” the saviour after the Ugandan president Yusuf Lule who saved the Ugandans from the reigns of one of world’s worst dictators ever Idi Amin Dada.

Steve Odiaga became “Brigadier” because of his size and look at a time when a brigadier from uganda named Olara Okelo was in the news a lot. So creative fans named him brigadier but he also looked the part.

Austin Oduor was named “Makamu” since it was believed he would never play as long as Mike “Machine” Ogolla was still at Gor. This was in reference to Moi being president and the vice president always being just that, vice president. Gideon Hamisi was dubbed “Aziki” after Nigerian former president Mnamdi Azikiwe during his high school days.

Ethiopian import Michael Teshome Zelleallem was nicknamed “Saddam” by K’ogalo followers having impressed by his ability to shoot. This was in the 1990’s when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait using scud missiles. Kogalo fans at the stadium would be heard shouting “Sadam tuma scud pale” – Saddam send a scud missile there – whenever Teshome had the ball.

Ugandan full back Ivan Anguyo nicknamed “Besigye” after Ugandan politician and presidential aspirant Kiza Besigye.

William “Chege” Ouma leads the special mention category. He got the name Chege after shooting the ball at Jericho Estate’s owanjo soo, breaking Mzee Chege’s window. He was a wanted since Chege was always looking for him and the other boys would always warn Ouma when he was coming so that he’d run.

Peter “Bassanga” Otieno got his nickname after a game in Zaire with the national team. He played a great game winning him a press interview press came to interview. It is after the interview that one of the reporters started suming up and he said something like “kweli huyu Bassanga kutoka Kenya, ametuletea fora na raha” (Trully this Bassanga from Kenya has brought us joy).

The name Bassanga means “one who brings happiness” in Lingala so when the reporter called him a Bassanga, his team mates were so amused and that became his name. In fact many Gor old fans would call him MASANGA instead of Bassanga and when the name hit the estates, they twisted it to ABASSANGA which later with the help of the press evolved to BASSANGA as we know it.

John “Zangi” Okello was originally sengi or isenge after Johny Bokelo Isenge. At some point it became zangi, also back then “zangi” was also a slung canabis and we all Johny loved his weed.

Sammy Onyango would be dubbed “Jogoo” owing to his frequent trips from Thika for Gor Mahia matches aboard buses owned by Jogoo Kiamakia, a very rich business man from Ngong and indeed many of his buses did go to Thika, Muranga, Nyeri and such places.

John Bobby Ogolla would be nicknamed “The six million dollar man” after a powerful cartoon figure in TV productions of 1970’s. So strong was Bobby that his shots often ripped off the net.

Charles “Korea Omondi was so named after touring the country Korea, as a goalkeeper of the Kenyan under 14 team in early 80’s.

Goal keeper David “Kamoga” Ochieng dubbed Kamoga after a deadly Uganda and KCC left winger David Kamoga who featured for the Uganda Cranes. They had their battles with David Ochieng often thus the fans decided he could also be Kamoga like the Ugandan.

Later there came a track and field athlete also from Uganda who had a similar name but he was named DAVIS Kamoga unlike the footballer who was DAVID, he won a silver medal in 96 behind the great Michael Johnson of the United States in the 400m in Atlanta Olympics.

Jerrim Onyango earned the nickname “Ja goal” –luo for goalkeeper- from the fans after his heroic performance in the KPL season 2010, Gor Mhaia was unbeaten in the second leg of the league.

Kevin Ochieng earned the nickname “Master” while still at Mathare United for his great performances that would help the team win. He was always told, “Kweli wewe ni master” (Truly you are a master).

Maurice Ouma “Ole Tunda”got the name coz he was the first to score against Luo Union’s Siang’a in 1975. Ole Tunda is the Maasai herdsman who found the body of the late J.M kariuki in the forest. So to the fans, Moris Ouma ‘found’ how to beat Siang’a hence the name Ole Tunda.

Isaiah Omondi branded “Janabi” (luo for prophet) after the biblical Prophet Isaiah. It is said fans would carry Bibles to games a read a verse from the book of Isaiah before the match.

Peter “Pierre” Ochieng got his nickname while still at Highway Sec. School where they took the French lessons. The French translate Peter to Pierre.

Moses “Dube” Odhiambo was nicknamed after South African reggae artist Lucky Dube owing to the fact that he downs dreadlocks like the great artist and the Gor Mahia fans considering him their ‘lady luck’.

George “Blackbery” Odhiambo nicknamed after the Blackberry smart phone associated with the 2009/2010 market craze and the player’s sterling performance. He would later leave for Sweden’s Randers Fc and his successor Ezekiel Odera, acquired from KCB was nicknamed “Alcatel” in line with mobile telephone models. “Weka alcatel kwa charge” (let the alcatel charge) would be the fans call out when requesting for Odera’s introduction during a match.

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