Shabana FC “Tore Bore” the pride of Kisii town was once one of the best teams in Kenya and certainly one of the most popular.
In 1987 was the best season ever for both Shabana and Gor Mahia. The Might Kogalo boasted a galaxy of stars that enabled them to win a continental crown plus the league and the local cup. Shabana FC finished 3rd in the league and also boasted a strong line-up many of whom played for the national team.
One interesting aspect of Tore Bore at the time was their contingent of Tanzanian players all of whom had played in the Tanzanian league before relocating to Kisii; Seif Hassan Puzzo was a dependable fullback as was the towering Sammy Simiyu Biseko who was a Tanzanian from Mwanza. There was also Salim Mabruk and Hussein Omar “Tigana” to complete the Tanzanian contingent.
Aside from Nyandoro and Motego there was Okoth who was a goalkeeper at the time, Shabana had a strong crew. There was the free scoring Ricnard Otambo who was always amongst the top 3 scorers in the league; the younger brother of Kenya hockey legend Chris Otambo. Others were talented midfield playmaker Willis Owegi, sweeper Alfred “Fwaya” Oloo”, Sylvester Mageni and Evans Ombuna. Coming off the bench were players like reliable backup goalkeeper Issa Masese and Vincent Abuga lterio student and was popularly known as “Export” for his short stature.
Shabana was formed in the early 1980s, founded by Kisii based businessman Dogo Khan. They were promoted to the top flight in 1985. In their first season at top flight they finished 10th out of 18 teams. It was quite an achievement for a newly promoted side. In 1986 they improved to 8th position.
The success of Shabana FC was directly connected to lterio secondary school. lterio acted as the nurturing school for Shabana players. The three most famous players to play for Shabana during this period: Henry Motego, Henry Nyandoro and Mike Okoth Origi all started to play for Shabana while still at lterio. In 1987, the lterio team led by Motego, Okoth and several other Shabana players went on to win the national schools’ championships. They beat the much vaunted Kakamega high school. No one had expected lterio to beat the Green commandos as Kakamega were popularly known. They had won the national schools title in no less than 5 out of the last 7 competitions and produced more league players than any other school they had also beaten lterio in the 1986 final.
Iterio’s victory in the 1987 schools title was a harbinger of things to come as the 1987 season ended up being the best ever for Shabana. They surprised everyone by finishing 3rd in the league behind only Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. The technical bench had the Brazilian trained Akbar Khan who was the brother of team founder and owner Dogo Khan.
In 1988, Shabana represented Kenya in the Africa Champions cup. Both Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards had opted to play in the Cup winners cup. In the first round, Shabana played Kabwe Warriors of Zambia. After winning the first leg 1-0 in Gusii, Shabana lost 4-1 in Kitwe thus exiting in the first round. It was a bridge too far for a young Shabana team full of recent school leavers.
Shabana’s home form at the Gusii stadium was the Key to their success in the league. The atmosphere was intimidating for visiting players. Their fan base was amongst the most passionate in the country and very demanding even to the point of threatening Shabana players with violence if they lost and threatening visiting players with the same if they won.
Henry Motego who often played at right wing or center forward was as strong as an ox. His powerful shots from long range from his rocket launcher of a right foot were the bane of many a goalkeeper at local and international level.
Henry Nyandoro who started to play for Shabana in 1985 while a student at lterio was one of the most talented Kenyan players of that era. This was quite an achievement considering the high levels of footballing talent available in Kenya at the time. Nyandoro also played for Volcano United in 1986 before returning to Shabana in 1987. In 1990 he decamped to AFC Leopards again but was soon drawn back to Shabana again in 1991.That year he played one of the most memorable matches for the national team, steering Harambee stars to a 3-1 win over the Uganda Cranes in the 1991 CECAFA cup. He also featured for the national team at the 1992 Africa nations cup.
Mike Okoth Origi the younger brother of Gor Mahia legend Austin Oduor, was probably the most famous Shabana FC product of the golden era. Interestingly he started out as a goalkeeper and he was the keeper when lterio won the national schools title. It is rumoured that he quit goalkeeping after soaking four goals from Kabwe Warriors. The following year he surprised everyone by finishing as the league’s leading goal scorer. After a solid performance at the 1990 Africa Nations cup, he was signed by Belgian side KV Oostende. He became the first Kenyan ever to play in a top tier European league.
Unfortunately, the club could not hold onto their best players, Simiyu had left of AFC while Motego and Okoth joined Tusker in 1988. Shabana had one more crack at continental football in the 2000 when they played Hay al Arab of Sudan in the CAF cup, once again they lost in the 1st round, going down 0-2 on aggregate.
The club’s fortunes started to fall in 2006 when they were relegated from the top flight after 21 years. They refused to play in the lower divisions and the club was disbanded. In 2008, the club was revived and started its path back to relevance.
The Kenya premier league could benefit immensely from a team like Shabana which already has a built in and committed fan base. Aside from Gor Mahia and AFC, Shabana is probably the only team that could regularly draw crowds. One of the issues holding Shabana back has been vested interests and agendas by various individuals. For Shabana to return to the top flight, is about good governance, hard work, commitment and selflessness from the fans, players and officials.
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