I’ve lived off Thika Road, since I was 5 or so – but, somehow, never been to the stadium for a sports event. It’d always be rowdy, and scary. A lot could happen to a pedestrian on the short walk from the highway to the entrance.
Muggings, mostly before the match. After the match, anti-riot policemen in running battles with disoriented fans. Match losers of the day. Of course, that means more muggings. So it was never a go-to place on match-days. I had to get older for that experience.
That came later, in my college days. College gives you a gang to roll with, on varying levels of sobriety. I could handle whatever that walkway from the tarmac to the stadium threw at me. Now, I was, perhaps, the danger on that walkway. College, too, demanded an alliance to an English Premier League team.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham – made relevant in Kenya by Victor Wanyama. An EPL team, and associated paraphernalia gave you relevance in college. A little like the East-West Hip Hop vibe in Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur’s heydays.
I wasn’t really a soccer fan, and my alliance swung around. It was mostly determined by whoever was buying the drinks at the bar, on the day. A Fan for Hire. It’s still unclear, but on 7th July, 2019 – I ended up at Kasarani Stadium. It was a rare, one-off match up pitting Kariobangi Sharks with an English premier League team – Everton FC. It was a promotional thing ending in a stale 1-1 draw, then into a penalty shootout.
My gang and I had arrived at the stadium, maybe an hour to kick off. As we made way down from the tarmac, the hawkers had arrived for business. Everything in life you wanted, or could ever need – was on sale. Colorful bandannas, sweets, referee whistles, rat traps, rat poison. Heck, someone was hawking a 2-in-1 blender!
My gang was hooked by a guy with a wide tray selling pale, whitish tubers. The popular aphrodisiac tuber – Mukhobero tuber. It’s not empty talk. It’s indeed an aphrodisiac. There’s some undisputable life values my gang wouldn’t toy around with. This was one.
As we haggled the price, a long, scrawny white hand reached over our heads and grabbed a handful of Mukhobero roots. We broke gang quickly, and discovered the owner’s hand was adorned in body paint – from head to toe. Thankfully, he had khaki shirts!
It was Isaac Juma – The Super Fan!
Up to this point, he hadn’t said a work. He had a whistle on his lips. But he had a weird sense of energy, quite tangible – like, he was emitting rays of energy. He threw a few Bukusu words to the seller, and beams into a wide smile. Kumbe the seller had snitched. Ati we were haggling the price of Mukhobero!
“Sasa Mukhobero ni kitu ya kung’ang’ana ndugu? Nitawalipia. Hii Nairobi mna mashida sana”. He says and dances down the pavement.
The seller says Isaac Juma’s a regular, on every match day. He snacked on Mukhobero roots, and if he didn’t have any money on him, he’d pay in Bonga points. In my mind, I added Mukhobero roots to the list of things I could pay for by redeeming Bonga Points.
Redeem Bonga points to pay for almost anything from shopping, utility bills to subscriptions. Other than buying talk-time, voice, data and SMS, you can even redeem Bonga points to buy shares at the NSE.
Isaac Juma’s brutal demise has sent the sporting fraternity into shock. The unfortunate, and needless attack has robbed the country of a charming, outgoing and ebullient fan. He had carved a stellar reputation, as one of Kenya’s most prolific soccer fans, and a colorful entertainer. Juma was aged 58 – but, amazingly looked and danced like a guy not a day past 35!
For three decades, Juma hadn’t missed a single match up by Harambee Stars, or AFC Leopards. It smacks a new definition to the terms – loyalty and patriotism.
Rest in peace, Isaac Juma. The soccer fraternity shall never forget.