This year, one of my plans is to watch all of AFC’s Leopards matches. Out of 9 matches I have watched 8. I felt bad when I missed the match against Western Stima in Mumias two weeks ago, but I had to visit a former classmate who had lost her sister. Sometimes your friends come first.
This time, AFC Leopards (Ingwe) was playing against Rangers FC in Mumias on Sunday at 3pm. I was not going to miss it. I sent my money to the person who was organizing the trip; Kshs. 1500 return. A real bargain. I was in town early so I could buy red canvas shoes.. these go well with the red & black uniform of Ingwelets (female Ingwe fans), which we planned to wear. And we rocked it!
Fans travelling by whatever means: hired school buses, tour vans, personal cars etc, assembled at Kencom Stage in downtown Nairobi for some noise (if you were near you heard the vuvuzelas &whistles around 9pm) before prayers and departure. We sped on through the night, singing various songs and getting high on drinks that are carried specifically for the journey. Drinks & miraa were shared generously. Songs were sung throughout the night.. it was morning when I realized just how much I had been talking and was losing my voice, so I decided to shut up for a while.
The journey from Nairobi to Mumias took us through Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Bungoma.. then Mumias. Near Bungoma, at around 6am, we came to a scene where a trailer had overturned, spilling its precious cargo that had already been looted: Dock Beer. I am sure you have never heard of this brand! Neither have I!
This must be one of those for-export-only brand! So next time you feel fancy about taking some foreign beer know that manufacturing is probably local. Some looters were trying to hawk it to us, big mistake. When you are in bus full of a group of people who know each other, and you are trying to sell beer you just looted… to cut the story short, no one paid for no beer. I got myself two cans. Breakfast you see.
One of AFC’s veteran fans, Doc Walela, had a welcome breakfast for all traveling fans in his home, and we passed by. I tried eating a mandazi but by this time I realized my mild cold had turned into a throat infection. The only thing I could swallow was liquids so I turned to Dock. I’m liking this name, Dock. Our bus then left for another fan’s place, who hosted us for lunch. Meanwhile, after showering, I slept peacefully under a tree all morning. Nothing beats sleeping under a tree on a sunny day!
I was woken up at lunch time for a meal of brown ugali, chicken and traditional vegetables. I had taken some Celestamine (they really work) and was feeling better so I gobbled down my meal. Busaa and chang’aa were provided too Nothing beats eating under a tree on a sunny day after a breakfast of Docks and a morning sista under the same tree!
We made our way to the Mumias Sugar Complex, where the stadium is located. The place was already full even though it was 30 minutes to kick off. The Isikuti and whistles filled the air. the singing and dancing in the stadium was on another level. The players were out warming up. Koops, our coach, waved to us and we acknowledged with whistles and loud cheers. Rangers FC, the team that conceded 6 goals without scoring any against Thika United, was looking to redeem themselves. Oh how wrong they were!
The whistle went off. The game started. It was starting to look like a tough one, like we may not score. However, our Captain Imbalmbala opened up for us with a header from a corner. I didn’t actually see the goal because of the many people who were on their feet in front of me. But I sure heard the celebration! The linesman was disputing the goal but the referee allowed it!
Two minutes later, I saw fans celebrating and knew we had scored again! Allan Wanga made it 2-0. Too bad I didn’t see that goal either.. I’m telling you being in the stadium is not just about the game, it’s about the atmosphere there. The noise, the dancing, the electric wave that engulfs the stadium when a goal is scored, the moment of bonding when all are united in screaming “Ingwe! Ingwe! Ingwe!” as the players come nearer the fans to celebrate a goal!
Bageya and Victor Ochieng’ made it 4-0 and it was almost half-time. Unfortunately, Rangers equalized to make it 4-1. It was half-time.
Time to dance. Everyone who could took to the dance floor: the space between the benches and the field, and shook their shoulders or waists or whatever body parts to whichever tune they were hearing. The fans who sat in front of me had these tall cans of Tusker, and offered some. It’s my rule book that you don’t turn down free beer, it’s just rude 😉
By this time, my cold was starting to take toll and the weather was changing, becoming cloudier. I asked my friend the pharmacist if I could take another pill, and he said it’s ok. I borrowed a bottle of water from someone so I could use it to swallow the pill. I put the pill in my mouth and took a swig of the “water”. It was KC!!!! (Kenya Cane) Burned a hole down my throat. So much for not mixing alcohol and pills.
The second half started. We sat down to enjoy the goals that were yet to come. I was rooting for 4 more goals. It started raining, lightly at first so the referee let the game continue. Bageya and Victor Ochieng added a goal each, making it 6-1!!! I saw these goals, saw how our midfielder Salim Kinje made some clever moves!
The rain got worse, even hail stones at some point. The referee stopped the game for almost an hour, while we sheltered. Some fans though, took advantage of this moment. To dance in the rain, what freedom! They didn’t care about the mud that now covered their clothes, or about skidding and falling in the pools of dirty water!
After the rain stopped, players and some fans helped drain the water from the pitch, clearly the drainage isn’t perfect. They used banners, bottles, anything they could find. The match resumed but the rain had stopped our goal momentum and it was Rangers FC who scored their much needed consolation goal. The match ended 6-2!
I bet the gate collection was close to Kshs. 1,000,000. Since it is a home game, it’s our club’s for the taking. Rangers FC has been having some financial problems and I’m sure they could do with the milli.
After the game, some fans went to Kakamega, Kisumu, Bungoma, or their rural homes for the night, and to celebrate in their own ways. Most of us traveled to Nairobi on Monday morning.
This was my first time in Western Province and though I didn’t do much sightseeing, I had a wonderful time. I look forward to the next game in Mumias.
AFC Leopards is on top of the KPL table with 23 points from 9 matches. We are unbeaten this season.