What you need to know:
- Juma, a popular man and a common sight during AFC Leopards and Harambee Stars matches, was hacked to death by unknown assailants
- Reunion FC also had a keen fanatic known as Majimbo Otieno, whose death in 1998 could not be explained because he collapsed inside a vehicle parked along Luthuli Avenue
- The difference between Juma and other super fans is the way he was able to stretch his loyalty beyond AFC Leopards and demonstrated his patriotism towards Harambee Stars
Following the death of Isaac Juma, keen followers of local football are probably asking why some of our most ardent super fans have died mysteriously over the years.
This question popped up after it was reported that Juma had been murdered at his homestead in Ebuyenjere village, Mumias West.
Juma, a popular man and a common sight during AFC Leopards and Harambee Stars matches, was hacked to death by unknown assailants. It is reported that he was a victim of a long-standing family land dispute.
Juma had been associated with the teams from the early 1990s and was more or less the ‘king’ in Kenya’s football fandom.
Before he joined the super fans cheering ranks at Ingwe, as AFC Leopards is fondly known, there were others before him. Ingwe had Enos Muhando aka ‘Marola’.
An elderly man, Marola always wore a white kanzu and would carry the official Ingwe flag bearing the image of a football and a leopard with their slogan ‘obulala namani’. He never talked much but would go berserk whenever the team scored.
His favourite statement said in a distinctive accent during the Mashemeji Derby—AFC Leopards versus Gor Mahia— was, “Ingwe huishi msituni na leo wamekuja kurarua Gor” (the leopard lives in the wild and today it has come to maul Gor).
Marola got his nickname from his acts. He would toss himself to the ground and roll over and over after AFC scored. It did not matter whether it had rained and the ground was soggy or it was dusty. That was his way of celebrating.
He made all the fans, including opponents, happy and jovial with his passion and commitment to motivate the players. Sadly, Marola died in 1997 in a road accident.
He was knocked down by a speeding vehicle while crossing Jogoo Road in Nairobi on his way home from an AFC Leopards match at the City Stadium. He died on the spot, and Ingwe has never found his replacement.
Then there was Ben Amimo. He was a founding member of Abaluhya FC in 1964 and remained a super fan until he died in 2008 after a freak accident along Wabera Street in Nairobi. He missed death narrowly after a vehicle crushed his foot while crossing the road.
The leg was badly affected that he died months later.
Amimo was a unique super fan, just like Juma, he could speak both Luhya and Dholuo. During heated moments, he could be heard hurling abusive epithets in Dholuo targeting Gor Mahia (K’Ogalo) fans.
Amimo was also a walking encyclopedia as he knew the history of the club because he was in the meeting that founded Abaluhya FC in 1964. In his death, Ingwe lost a staunch supporter again in a road accident.
Reunion FC also had a keen fanatic known as Majimbo Otieno, whose death in 1998 could not be explained because he collapsed inside a vehicle parked along Luthuli Avenue.
Majimbo doubled up as a taxi driver. His death remains a mystery to date. Although the fortunes of the club that was previously known as Luo Union dwindled over the years, it never got Majimbo’s replacement.
And forget Jaro Soja, the so-called K’Ogalo Fan No 001, there has never been a louder fan of Gor Mahia like Simeon Apingo Nyawawa. The man from Kendu Bay had the loudest voice, the lewdest insults and was also a choirmaster who could mobilise fans to endless singing sessions.
A professional driver, Apingo was as funny as they come with an unmatched fluency of Dholuo. He was a master entertainer who could engage fans in pre-match banter and post-match game analysis like a master tactician would.
Having watched the club for many years, he was always accurate in his observation of individual player performance. He knew the exploits of the club and would regale younger fans with tales around the club’s dominance.
If soft-spoken Juma was described by some fans as someone who could drink, eat and sleep football, Apingo was the celebrated stadium clown, whose mastery of idiomatic expressions attracted many fans, who jostled to sit near him. It is said that Apingo would not entertain anything coming between him and his beloved club, Gor Mahia.
A popular story is that he once worked as a personal driver of a Cabinet minister. That one day he was on duty and the minister’s wife asked him to take her to buy some provisions.
The outing included a visit to the salon. Apingo became quite impatient when he realised madam was taking longer yet there was a crunch match that afternoon between Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries FC.
He never bothered to tell anybody, instead drove the official car with GK registration to the basement of the ministry’s headquarters, safely parked it and left the key with the watchmen and rushed to the stadium. He basically sacked himself after preferring to abandon work and go watch his favourite team playing. Many years later, Apingo was employed elsewhere as a long-distance PSV bus driver. He died in 2000 near Keroka after the bus plunged down a steep valley.
Then there was ‘Doctor’ John Otieno Dibogo, aka Otieno Owadgi Omande, aka Nyamson. He had a hunch back, which gave him a unique demeanour and gait.
He often cracked jokes around his physical condition like nicknaming himself ‘Nyaruath’ or ‘Young Bull’. He would say he was the real bull because he had a hump. For many years, Otieno worked at Kenyatta National Hospital as a telephone operator at the main switch board.
Those close to him often repeated the story that he was at his best when people called his line and he would introduce himself as “Doctor Otieno here, can I help you?” This cracker would make callers assume they had called a private clinic at the hospital.
Of course, after asking if that was the switch board, Otieno would answer in the affirmative and ask, “which extension do you want?”
Away from work, Otieno explained that he deserved the title ‘doctor’ because he worked in a leading health facility. Funny at football matches and his work place, Otieno was ever in a full suit.
On the evening of June 8, 2018, while crossing Langata Road near Nyayo Stadium, he was knocked down by a speeding car. He died on the spot, with Gor Mahia losing a great and loyal fan once again in a road accident.
The difference between Juma and other super fans is the way he was able to stretch his loyalty beyond AFC Leopards and demonstrated his patriotism towards Harambee Stars, Kenya men's national football team.
Juma would paint his body with official colours of the respective teams and dance throughout the match. Few people would even pick him out when he was not in his full cheering attire.
Juma was not the singing type like Gor Mahia’s choir masters Tobby Suba or Tom Bwana. In any case, Juma rarely sat among the fans and he never shouted himself hoarse to be heard.
His association with Harambee Stars gave him maximum visibility and even earned him trips beyond Kenya whenever the team was engaged abroad.
As football fans mourn him, many are wondering what is that jinx that follows super fans. May they all rest in peace.