Farewell tribute to former Gor Mahia Chair Zack Mbori

He was the fourth Chairman since the club's formation in 1968

Zack Mbori received his trumpet call last week. According to a public announcement put out by the family he will be buried on Sunday 9th April 2017 near Oyugis Homa Bay County.

Mbori leaves behind an exciting history of club soccer management in Kenya. He was chairman of Kenya's most successful football club, Gor Mahia FC. Of all the past chairmen, none left a mark as significant as Zack Mbori.

He was the fourth Chairman since the club's formation in 1968. Before him was Zack Ramogo, the founding chairman. Peter Anyumba, who salvaged the club in 1973 after a break-away by Luo Union FC. He gave the famous statement “as long as Luo women continue giving birth to baby boys, Gor Mahia shall never die "In 1976, the club under Anyumba's charge won the league unbeaten. A top scorer's record that stands to date of 26 goals was achieved by Maurice 'Sonyi' Ochieng.

David Opar came in and also left a record after guiding the club to the first ever continental finals. Although they lost to Canon Yaounde of Cameroun in the final match it was Kenya's first. During Opar's tenure, the Moi government gave an ultimatum to all clubs to change their names from ' tribal' to names that did not have any ethnic connotation.

On learning that Gor were going to abandon their name, David Opar fainted in his office. Anyway Gor did not change their name after their patron Robert Ouko intervened. The rest is history.

Zack Mbori replaced Opar in 1982. An alumnus of Alliance High School, he was among the pioneer human resource specialists in Kenya. As professional as they come, Mbori served for many years with Kenya Shell Company Ltd as the Personnel Manager, as HR Managers were then known.

Earlier, Mbori had served in the Kenneth Matiba-led KFF as a board member so he was not new to football matters

The rowdy and loud K'Ogalo fans thought his soft spoken demeanour was a sign of weakness, They were dead wrong. Two years before, Gor had just come out of an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Cameroun's Cannon Yaounde. There were rumours flying around that some players had been compromised. Allan Thigo was the player-coach. Shortly after the team came back, Ugandan David Otti was recruited as coach to replace Thigo.

All seemed well and the club actually won the 1980 and 1981 CECAFA tournaments held in Malawi by defeating their arch rivals Abaluhya FC 3 -2 and Simba 1 – 0 respectively.

His officials in Gor Mahia included, Otieno Kola (Vice Chairman), Alex Obondo (Secretary General), Abdallah Bekah (Treasurer) Amos Nandi ( Team Manager) Sam Ogutu (Team Doctor)

This is the group that underwent a test in 1982 when Gor Mahia players boycotted training accusing the club of picking Lenana School as a training camp. It dawned on many that the players were actually serious with their demands when they demanded to be addressed by the chairman.

When Mbori went there, he asked them only one question " Are you boys serious that you want to kill Gor Mahia?" Before he received answer he declared the Madagascar trip cancelled, the camp disbanded and ordered them to assemble the following day at Gill House for the club's decision.

In 1982, Gill House was a quiet and lonely place on Sundays. There were no noisy matatus as it is today. The building actually housed several government ministries. The ' kamukunji ' was held outside the building where deliberations were made and verdict announced on the spot.

Mbori did his intelligence and by the time the meeting was held he knew the ring leaders and the innocent ones. Players were warned, suspended or expelled. That is how players like Allan Thigo, Mike 'Machine' Ogolla, Andrew Obunga and George Ayuka left Gor Mahia , some never to play football again. Mbori proved to many that being soft-spoken was not a weakness.

Zack Mbori is credited for bringing sanity to Gor Mahia. The first thing he did when he assumed office was to ensure players received weekly allowances as opposed to daily. This was to be paid on Mondays after weekend matches as opposed to Fridays before the matches. By paying on Fridays, players would go clubbing forgetting that matches were played on Saturdays and Sundays.

When Coach David Otti left, the patron Job Omino and him brought Len Julians, the first European tactician to guide Gor Mahia. To improve accountability, he introduced an advisory council of elders which had among others; Barack Mbaja, Richard Kwach, Jeremiah Odede and Emmanuel Oduor.

Mbori was not done yet. When he expelled many key players, fans feared the club would collapse and would actually be a punching bag for their arch rivals AFC Leopards. Coincidentally, the next fixture was a derby game against Ingwe whose fans were in a celebratory mood chiding Gor fans about how they would be soaked in an avalanche of goals come weekend.

Few fans knew what Mbori had in mind. Apparently, he had sent word to all Gor Mahia branches countrywide to send him players for all the vacant positions. In came Peter 'Kolobot' Okello from Embu Posta FC, Juma Okoth, Peter 'Pierre' Ochieng from Black Mamba. Later on came Jaffer Mwidau from Benham FC, Abdalla Shebe from Feisal FC, Isaiah Omondi, George 'Fundi' Onyango from Lake Warriors, Tairus Omondi and Hesbon Omollo from Kenatco FC.

With a new coach on board, the club was on an ascendancy. This is the team that had matured by 1984 and ready to take on Zamalek toe to toe. Zack Mbori left the club abruptly after in-fighting. Rather than subject himself to an acrimonious election he left the seat to his Vice Chairman Douglas Oyieng' Odolla to act. This is the man who found a nurtured team that went on to win the 1987 continental club.

What many did not know about Zack Mbori was that he served for long as the chairman of Nairobi Club. He was synonymous with his old school Volvo and Citroen. On retirement, he took up golf seriously and was a common feature at Muthaiga Club a walking distance from his home in Muthaiga. His next door neighbor happened to be a former Gor Mahia winger, Senator Chris Obure.

Apart from Mbori, other former Gor Mahia football enthusiasts who later in life took up golf were David Okello, George Owen Nandi and Abdallah Bekah.

The passing on of Zack Mbori brings an end to the original old school club soccer administrators who took no prisoners with wayward players. He believed in the straight and narrow for footballers under his charge. Did it all for their love and dignity of football.

Rest in peace Zack Mbori Ondiek.