- To his family he was the patriarch that always left everyone with a smile
- To his “honest and trustworthy one” — Amina — he loved uncontrollably
- Even at his peak — both at Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars — when Magongo was either in camp or travelling for international assignments, he always spared time to call back home
- When he was around home, he set aside one day when he took over the kitchen and the result: a finger-licking delicacy that was devoured to the last bone
- Magongo’s memories on the pitch might feature once again in their minds but it is the ones they shared off the pitch that will forever be in the hearts of his sons and daughters
Exactly 18 years ago today, a Kenyan football legend breathed his last. After battling bronchial pneumonia for almost three years, Abbas Khamis Magongo succumbed to the disease at the Mater Hospital in Nairobi.
It all came unexpectedly. After spending two weeks admitted in hospital in November 2000, Magongo was discharged with the doctors giving all indications that he was bound to recover. Indeed he showed steady progress but on that fateful Monday, Magongo experienced difficulties in breathing early morning and was immediately rushed to Mater.
“When we arrived at the hospital, the doctors did some tests on him and they told us that his condition was really bad. He died in hospital, it was really sad. We all thought he would recover and live longer,” recollects his daughter Elizabeth Mulisya Magongo who had accompanied her mum and uncle Tom David Malive to hospital.
Death had robbed Kenyan football of the dynamic player who stood at the heart of K’Ogalo’s midfield in their only continental cup triumph to date — 1987 Mandela Cup. To Gor Mahia fans, he was “Oriek” or “Zamalek” — a nickname he picked during the ill-tempered match against Zamalek in 1984 in Cairo that saw him banned from continental football for two years — but to his family he was the patriarch that always left everyone with a smile.
But he is no more. Since he passed away mid-day on January 29, 2001 life has never been the same for the Magongo family. Amina Ndindi Magongo, his wife, followed him to his grave 17 months later — July 4, 2002. She was laid to rest by his side at the Kariokor Muslim cemetery.
“Life was never the same for mum. She sunk into depression after dad’s death and since she was diabetic her insulin levels rose. It was too difficult to swallow the pain of losing my parents in quick succession,” narrates Elizabeth sipping her cappuccino as we settle down for our interview.
The two lovebirds — Abbas and Amina — shared a lot during their life and their last words to their firstborn Elizabeth were also identical.
“Elizabeth, take care of the kids. Ensure that they never lack. Teach them to love one another just as we raised them and to always be there for each other,” Elizabeth recalls Magongo’s words.
As a player, Magongo was easy to love. He had an eye for the killer pass and the knack to score important goals. One such goal was a first time volley from the centre circle that flew past legendary AFC Leopards goalkeeper Mahmoud Abbas during the 1984 Mashemeji Derby and another was the beauty that came off the inside of the cross bar on its way in against Esperance in the first leg of the Mandela Cup final.
Back home, at Outering Estate near Buruburu in Nairobi, he was a “man of the people”. The star who mingled freely with all and sundry.
“Every time he returned from a trip abroad, all my friends would congregate at our home. He always brought us gifts such as jerseys, sweets and toys for all the kids in the estate. Every day was like a party for us. He had so many friends who kept visiting us from fans to his football friends and also neighbours. He was adored by many,” narrates Pillie Abbas Magongo, his last born daughter.
“Every year on December 31, the whole estate would camp at our home. We would crack the fireworks at our compound and all our neighbours would eat and drink with us as we celebrated New Year,” she added.
To his “honest and trustworthy one” — Amina — he loved uncontrollably. He met her at the stadium, Amina was a football fan and he never let her slip from him. He married her and never wasted an opportunity to prove she meant everything to him. He cherished her as the mother of his children.