Maragoli United. Abaluya United. Two legendary football clubs that were part and parcel of the exciting, politically tumultuous, football scene in a recently-independent Kenya. Honestly, I had never heard of Maragoli United until a few days ago, but back then, it and Abaluya United, among others were the ish! They were among the first official Kenyan football clubs and from these two clubs, a hero, no, a legend, emerged!
It was the 60s’ and football was the most popular sport in the country (definitely still is). Nairobi was the epicenter of the football scene with many of the football teams that were part of the first Kenyan championship based in the city. The football clubs in Nairobi back then were extremely tribal, and in most instances, all the players in a club would be from the same ethnic community (go here if you want more information on how ethnicity played a part in early Kenyan football)
Back then, Kenya was just an infant nation trying to find its place in this new big world and trying even desperately harder (and failing miserably) to unshackle itself from the reins of colonialism. Back then, our economy was thriving, with an average GDP of 6.6% p.a., and we had the opportunity to become one of the wealthiest nations in the continent.
One name stood out during this era, a name that has become engraved in our history books. A name that is still heard today when we talk about true Kenyan legends. A name that had Kenyans speaking in one tongue every time he kicked the ball, scored a goal or dribbled past a defender.
This is a man who almost single-handedly catapulted our nation to football dominance in the region from the very first international game he played.We associate this name with the beauty that can be Kenyan football, or Kenyan anything if we could just put our mind to it and love our nation.
Who am I rambling on about you ask? Joe Kadenge, baby!! Yes, he of the ‘kadengenampiraaaaaaaa….kadengenampiraaaaaaa’ fame. The man who was instrumental in the early successes and exploits of AFC Leopards (formerly Abaluya United) back then making it into one of the most successful Kenyan football clubs of all time. In addition, he was our powerhouse when it came to our participation in regional competitions such as the Gossage Cup and the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, which were the precursors to the CECAFA Cup.
He burst into the limelight when he scored the fastest goal in Kenya Premier League history while at Maragoli United. He has gone on to win numerous other accolades throughout his career and even after retiring from the beautiful game.
Did you know that the 1958 Gossage Cup was unofficially referred to as the ‘Kadenge Tournament’ owing to the massive popularity, skills, drive, and passion of the Kenyan right winger? Well, I thought you should know!! In the final match of the cup, his goal, and later his assist helped us win the 1958 Gossage Cup. Wow!!
This was just the beginning of a lustrous football career for Kadenge, as a player, and as the coach of our national team.
I am even getting goosebumps just writing about this man!! Now, can you imagine watching him play? Watching him move? Seeing his story, his battle, his wins, his tenacity, and the moments that made him, him? If eyewitness accounts and oral narratives are anything to go by, this man was pure magic on and off the field, and I wanna see it, I wanna live it!
He epitomizes everything we should strive to be, on and off the field. Kadenge is passionate, Kadenge is a patriot, he cared for something, and he helped it grow. Where would our football be, if the likes of Kadenge and other football greats did not exist? Where? We probably would not be a footballing nation at all.
We owe it to him, to all football legends of our nation, and to ourselves and to our children, to immortalize the contributions they made to our football. Sure, there is an autobiography here and there, but that is not enough! At least, I feel that that is not enough!
We need a movie, people! A movie based on his perspective of Kenya then, of football, of how tribalism affected the game then and now, the challenges he went through as a person, a player and as a coach, and how he feels the game has grown. Let’s be honest, many of us have never seen him play. But, what an honor, what a privilege it would be to travel back in time and see him score his first goal, or be in the stands as he takes away our breath with his out of this world dribbling skills, or watch him take Abaluya United from glory to glory. As fans, we need to feel connected to this icon and this part of our history, and I am convinced that a movie would do the trick.
He is a walking, breathing encyclopedia of not only our football history, but our national history as a whole, and we need to get his story now, first hand, for our sake and for the sake of future generations.
Imagine inspiring a new, refreshed, enterprising, footballing generation where more Kadenges’ emerge. What a country that would be! I feel that is what we can get if we make a movie about the life of this footballing legend.
The idea is already out there, as depicted by the concept note developed by Black Arrow FC. I did not even know these guys existed until I stumbled on their page this week, but they are doing a really good job of wanting to tell Kadenge’s story. All these fellows need is partners to support the completion of the film. If you are out there and you feel compelled to help then please visit this page.
That being said, we are now at a conundrum! If a movie does happen, who is going to play Kadenge? Who do you have in mind?
Leave your comments below on who you feel should play Joe Kadenge if a movie was to be made about him. You can also tweet me with your ideal actor for the role on @gina_maha.
Let’s get cracking people, we have a movie to make!!