‘I’m in a lot of pain:’ Ex-Stars defender Odhiambo cries out for medical help

Joseph Odhiambo

Former Kenya International Joseph Odhiambo at Nation Centre on October 25, 2021.


Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Odhiambo could barely walk, and his knees were heavily bandaged.

Joseph Odhiambo Kwanga is a pained man. Remembered for his title-winning contributions on the pitch during spells at Luo Union and Harambee Stars in the 1970s and 1980s, Odhiambo Kwanga, or simply Odhiambo Gor as he is referred to in football circles, is now a pale shadow of his former self.

When Nation Sport recently caught up with him at his daughter’s house in Kamulu in Nairobi County, Odhiambo could barely walk, and his knees were heavily bandaged.

“I need help.  I’m in a lot of pain and I urgently require treatment. Please tell Kenyans I’m sick,” the former defender said in a feeble voice, pain written all over his face.

His illness began in 1979 when he picked what at the time appeared a minor injury while playing for Kenya in the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier match against Egypt in Nairobi under coach Steve Yongo.

“I went for an aerial ball but my marker remained on the ground,”  the 68-year-old who lost his wife in 1998 recalls. “I landed awkwardly on one foot, this one (pointing to his right thigh). It got frozen and the doctors came onto the pitch, had it checked, and recommended that I be substituted.”

“Other than being given painkillers, I was never treated for the ailment.”

He lived with the pain well into retirement. Things got worse years ago.

“I felt discomfort when walking so I began to move with a limp, but that only applied pressure on the other foot. Now I cannot move on either.”

On December 1, Bondo Sub-County Hospital where he has been receiving treatment referred him to a specialised facility for treatment. In the reference note, the medical facility’s chief physiotherapist indicates that Odhiambo has ‘chronic back pain and knee pain bilaterally.’

“He has reduced ODI - 60%, NPRS - 7/10, walks while limping with reduced speed. X-ray shows multiple osteophytes at the knee bilaterally, at the tibial condyles and femur condyles,” the note says.

In 2006, was referred to India for specialised treatment but he failed to raise Sh600,000 required for treatment abroad.

He then visited Kijabe Mission Hospital in Nairobi where he’s been booked for a knee replacement surgery, but he can’t afford Sh1.2 million needed for surgery, physiotherapy, and medication.

Born 68 years ago in Siaya County, the second last born in a family of six received his early education at Kowet Primary School in Alego Usonga Constituency but dropped out due to lack of  school fee to pursue football.

Algenya FC was the attacking midfielder’s first team before he joined Luo Union.  While there, he won the local league title and the East and Central Africa Cup titles in 1976 and 1977 while also starring for Harambee Stars.

“I enjoyed playing football even without a consistent income. The late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga would occasionally come and watch us play.  Raila (Odinga) was a very good forward and would sometimes be disappointed when Joab Omino came in to bench him,” he remembers.

“The football industry in Kenya has always been chaotic. At the time (the late) Kenneth Matiba was the federation’s boss and he consistently had issues with our chairman Dan Owino. The club was split into two, with Owino as general chairman and Rading Omollo executive chairman.”

With two leagues, three FA Cup, and two regional titles,  Luo Union folded up after President Daniel Moi discouraged sports teams using tribal names.

Odhiambo Gor moved to Kahawa Canons as a player-coach before settling at Kenatco FC where he saw out his career.  Help can be channelled to him via MPesa Paybill Number 8043771.

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