Reason Moi dismantled clubs with tribal names

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Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards fans along Moi Avenue, Nairobi ahead of the SPortPesa Premier League match at Nyayo Stadium on May 7, 2017. (Courtesy, Twitter)

Former President Daniel Arap Moi will be remembered for, mostly in sports, is his yearning for unity among teams.

In his quest to achieve this, he ordered organisations that were using tribal names to change their tags to reflect national outlook and foster unity in the country.

Moi had worked under Jomo Kenyatta for 12 years as vice President and realised that some organisations were formed along tribal lines and many feared they were pushing some tribal agenda.

Notable ones were Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema), Akamba Union, Luo Union Football Club, Maragoli Football Club, Abaluhyia Football Club.

When he demanded that clubs change their names, people became curious and furious that the new President was out to hamper the growth and development of football in the country.

However, it later came to bear fruits as football players from rival communities started joining clubs, which were traditionally considered enemies.

The move saw Abuluhya Football Club change to AFC Leopards, Luo Union FC changed to Re-Union FC, while Gema and Akamba Associations wound up.

For Gor Mahia, it took the diplomatic skills and intelligence of the late Dr Robert Ouko to convince Moi that the name Gor Mahia had no tribal connotation.

Ouko told Moi that once lived a Luo legend called Gor Ogada, who was fondly referred to as Gor Mahia or Gor K’Ogalo. 

The word Mahia means something or somebody mysterious. Gor, the man would turn into a young woman, an old man or a middle-aged man due to his charms or magic.

Moi wanted to use sports in general and football in particular to achieve a cohesive society, which he actually did.

After teams changed their names, we started seeing players crossing over to ‘rival’ clubs.