What you need to know:
- Gor Mahia fans were eagerly waiting to watch the Brazilian play against AFC Leopards in the derby on Sunday, and might have to wait a little longer for his debut.
- They are also waiting to see if he will raise the bar on the club's blunt attack which has been misfiring in league matches, including Sunday’s barren draw against Leopards.
- Because the world believes that the best footballers come from Brazil, just as people trust every Kenyan to be a prolific distance runner!
The region of Ceara in north-eastern Brazil has a rich history, having been colonised by the Portuguese and Dutch in the 17th century.
Therefore, the rich cocktail of cultures in Ceara, whose regional capital is the city of Fortaleza, must have most certainly contributed richly to the brand of entertaining “Samba” football coming out of this region.
Foreign influence on the people of Fortaleza is also captured in the French national colours of blue, white and red in the emblem of the local football club, Fortaleza Esporte Club, which was founded in 1918 by Alcides Santos who previously lived in France.
Fortaleza have won several regional titles and clinched the Brazilian second tier competition – the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie B - in 2018, earning promotion to the top flight the following season.
But for all its exposure through their bromance with the French, Portuguese and Dutch interests, no one would ever hazard a guess that a player from Fortaleza would land at Kenya’s Gor Mahia Football Club.
Missed the derby
Wilson Silva Fonseca has been the talk of town in Kenya after joining “K’Ogalo” last week.
But he didn’t feature in Sunday’s “Mashemeji Derby” - which ended in a barren draw - but coach Carlos Vaz Pinto clarified that he rested him because he is yet to adapt fully to his philosophy and style of play.
“We had hoped he would be in the starting line-up but changed the idea,” coach Vaz Pinto said.
“He is a good player but yet to adapt to my system and philosophy. It is not only Wilson alone, but a number of players in my team who were rested,” said the Portuguese tactician, who revealed Fonesca will likely start their next league match against money bags Wazito on February 20.
Gor, 19-time Kenyan Premier League champions, will host Zambia’s Napsa Stars in the first leg of their Caf Confederation Cup match next weekend , ut Fonesca is not eligible to feature because his name is yet to be registered with the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
Virtually all Kenyan footballers would love to be associated with Brazil’s free-flowing brand of football, popularly known as “Samba” in the sport’s circles.
The “Samba” brand of football has celebrated “Penta Campeonato” – five Fifa World Cup titles in 2002, 1994, 1970, 1962 and 1958.
"We are pleased to announce the arrival of striker Wilson Silva Fonseca from Fortaleza FC, Brazil," Gor Mahia posted on its website last week, celebrating Fonseca’s arrival from Fortaleza, some 8,376.64 kilometres away from Nairobi.
The announcement was greeted with a lot of excitement from the club’s fans on one hand, but also with a lot of caution and questions in equal measure.
How will the club pay him? Who brought him? How has he performed in his previous clubs?
Will he solve the weak striking link in the playing unit?
These were some of the unanswered questions from the fans of the “Green Army”, who boast a fanatical following across the country, just as their sworn enemies and arch-rivals AFC Leopards.
The fans were right on the salary question, because it is no secret that football clubs have been struggling to pay players since the exit of gaming firm SportPesa as principal sponsors in August 2019.
Gor have always hit the news for go slows, more so before continental assignments, due to non-payment of salaries running into months.
Just like was the case before their Caf Champions League first round match against CR Belouizdad of Algeria last month.
Some of the “K'Ogalo” diehards were quick to do a Google search to know who Wilson Silva Fonseca is and what his background looks like.
Some, unfortunately, got wrong information since the search revealed a 32-year-old Portuguese defender who has since retired.
The issue drew the wrath of the club fans who castigated their officials of bringing retired players as “baggage” to sort out the club defensive lapse which had soaked in 20 goals this season, half of these in the Caf Champions League and the other half in the local league.
However, the fans would later learn that they had to include the third name Fonseca to get the real player who had joined their beloved club.
This is who Wilson Silva Fonseca is - a striker from Fortaleza FC which plays in Categoria Primera B, the Brazilian second tier league, and had hit back of the net five times last season.
But why were the fans interested in knowing the player deeply instead of simply celebrating his arrival and welcoming a player from Brazil, a country considered the bedrock of football from where big names like Ronaldino, Kaka, Ronaldo, Cafu, Neymar, among others, have emerged?
Their lack on anxiety is largely drawn from what transpired in 2013, as “K'Ogalo” were battling to bag their first Kenyan Premier League title after an 18-year drought.
In desperation, they swooped in Brazilian Giovanni Rodriguez who became the first ever player from outside Africa to ply his trade on Kenyan soil.
However, the hype, excitement and bragging of “K'Ogalo” fans turned into agony, shame, ridicule and, to an extent, a nightmare, when Giovanni - who word had gone round was a talented goal poacher - couldn't even juggle a ball in training and went on to disappoint during pre-match warm-ups in the presence of thousands of fans at the historic Nairobi City Stadium.
Gor were on the day scheduled to play Thika United then and there was fanfare since the derby against perennial rivals AFC Leopards was also just round the corner.
Sadly, the beefy Giovanni was not fit and, to hit the nail on the head, didn't show any signs of being a serious, talented footballer like his fellow Brazilians.
Gor’s Croatian coach then, Zdravko Logarusic, and his technical bench, had to release Giovanni without him featuring even in a single match.
The Croatian, who is currently Zimbabwe’s national team head coach, also asserted that the player was “homesick” and couldn't live in Kenya.
To sum it all, it later emerged that Gor was duped by agents who entered a deal with some club officials who are rumoured to have pocketed heavily to acquire the services of Giovanni.
And so on a relatively sunny Wednesday morning, Yours Truly, also a Gor Mahia fan, wanted to know who Fonseca is and to ascertain if he was another Giovanni, or a genuinely admirable footballer.
Accompanied by photographer Chris Omollo, we caught up with the 20-old-year striker who had just signed for the Kenyan Premier League champions four days earlier during training session at Camp Toyoyo grounds in Nairobi’s Eastlands.
Portuguese coach Carlos Manuel Vaz Pinto, who was also appointed to the position just recently, on January 10, took the K'Ogalo's players through preparation for the eagerly-awaited Mashemeji Derby to be played on Sunday, February 7.
Coincidentally, in 2013, Giovanni arrived one match to the derby. Could this be a coincidence? Or is it scripted to be?
We were not the only curious ones at the Gor training session as a number of club fans were all over the grounds just to catch a glimpse of the Brazilian who was attending a full house Gor Mahia training for the first time.
For the local players, it was a chance to show the Brazilian that Kenyan too had great talent and it was evident that each strived to give his all in the session.
After the two-hour session, the fans had seen their new striker and had varied opinions on his qualities and skills.
In the photos posted on various social media sites, some rated him fairly, others claimed he was good while others insisted their judgement would be after two, three matches.
But all agreed that Fonseca had shown the qualities of a footballer and was not another Giovanni Rodriguez.
We approached Fonesca after the training session but to our disappointment (we should have seen this coming), the cheerful Fonesca just smiled but didn't respond to our questions in English.
Like many Brasileiros, Fonseca doesn't understand English completely, and only speaks Portuguese.
Defenders Michael Apudo and Andrew Juma came to our aid by gesturing to him our questions, which he responded to through gestures, with the duo translating for us.
Apparently, coach Vaz Pinto had given players a few hints on how to communicate with the foreigner.
"My stay in Kenya has been good, I'm enjoying the environment here and I’m here to play football," he responded to a question on how he has been coping in the country for the past four days.
"Gor has optimistic fans who have welcomed me well since my arrival.
“My work is to score goals in the club matches and win titles,” he added.
Fonseca, in the brief interview which lasted for almost 10 minutes, the main challenge being language barrier, said he has heard so much about the “Mashemeji derby since his arrival and he is ready to make his debut on Sunday targeting to get his first goal for his new club.
"I have heard about the derby and they have informed me this is the most important game in this country.
“My target is to score goals and for the shortest time I have been in this team, everyone talks of winning in the derby,” said Fonseca.
Gor’s players stay in one of the famous hotels in Buru Buru area but officials of the club failed to divulge more details about Fonseca’s accommodation arrangements, with team manager Jolawi Obondo only saying he was brought by the Portuguese coach.
"We have had problems with these Brazilians previously, but on this, I have watched him and he has the qualities of being a footballer," Obondo told us.
Even though Vaz Pinto refused to grant us an interview, saying we have to seek permission from the club’s communication liaison officer, he had been quoted in one of the local radio stations saying he brought Fonseca to the club because of his top qualities.
"I have seen Silva play before and always I have said that if you bring a foreigner he needs to be better than local players or gives qualities that are different to the team than the local lads,” said Vaz Pinto then.
"I cannot say his level is higher than the other strikers, but what I said is that he is different from the others that we have," he added.
Gor Mahia fans were eagerly waiting to watch the Brazilian play against AFC Leopards in the derby on Sunday, and might have to wait a little longer for his debut.
They are also waiting to see if he will raise the bar on the club's blunt attack which has been misfiring in league matches, including Sunday’s barren draw against Leopards.
Because the world believes that the best footballers come from Brazil, just as people trust every Kenyan to be a prolific distance runner!