In July of the year 1963, the Football Association of Kenya organized countrywide trials to select a Kenyan team to participate in the Gossage Cup that was to start later in September as well as Olympic qualifiers a few weeks later.
The best talents from across the country were called in for the final selection held on the weekend of 1 and 2 September of the same year.
After grueling tests, some very new faces were discovered; Livingstone Madegwa, Enos Bondo, keepers Michael Falvey, an Englishman who once played for Swansea Town, and the super talented James Siang’a aged 16.
Other new players also made it through – 17 year old Stephen Yongo as well as Hudson Imbusi.
All the new discoveries made the cut to feature in the Gossage Cup joining the likes of keeper Bob Esrkine, a Scotsman, defenders Nassir Omar, Peter Wasiembo and Mohammed Dii, midfielders George Situma, Amrani Shiba, Jabir Ali Riziki, Ali Sungura, Joe Kadenge and strikers Otto Bevilacqua, an Italian, Zachariah Changamwe, Nyangweso, Robert Samuels and Daniel Nicodemus.
Save for Siang’a, all the newbie’s in the team made their national team debuts at the tournament held at the City Stadium, Nairobi.
Despite being left out, Siang’a got his chance in early October to represent the nation when he was named in the Kenya U17 team that traveled to Uganda to contest the Middlesex Wanderers trophy against their Ugandan counterparts, who went on to win 3-1.
Madegwa and Yongo were also part of the trip the others being Clement Okech, Francis D'Souza, John D'Souza, Makundu, Odhiambo, William Omar, Ejaz Hussain and Musa Athman.
A week after that trip, Siang’a was once again drafted into the senior national team where he understudied top keeper Ashiq Hassan as Kenya hosted Ethiopia in a first leg 1964 Olympic games qualifier at the Donholm Road (now City) Stadium.
Close to a month later, Siang’a was between the posts for Kenya for his national team debut when Kenya, then coached by legendary Elijah Lidonde, went to Addis Ababa for the reverse tie.
After that game, the rest was history as, time and again, in years to come, he was considered the first choice keeper for the country taking over from the ever dependable Benedict Okoth.
It is however worth noting that other shot stoppers such as Gilbert Otieno, Johnstone Tiema, Mahmoud Mohammed, John Ogutu, Omar Abdullah and Joseph Were all emerged along the way to challenge Siang’a for his position, whose reign lasted a cool 12 years till the second quarter of 1975.
In that year, Kenya had been paired with Sudan in the first round of qualifiers towards the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations.
After falling off 1-0 in the first leg, Kenya, then coached by another legend Joe Kadenge hosted the same side on 20 April but lost 2-0 at the City Stadium to bow out 3-0 on aggregate. That was the last time Siang’a stood between the posts for Kenya.
In months to come, the Kenya Football Federation (KFF) appointed Kenya Breweries Coach Ray Wood to take charge of the national team – and he never considered Siang’a but instead gave a chance to his deputy Mohammed Magogo.
Part of the reason that kept him out was that he had made two boobs in a crucial league game that saw his side Luo Union fall 2-1 to rivals Gor Mahia.
Four months after being snubbed for national duty, he went public, an angry man;
“If the Kenya Football Federation feel I am no longer good they should at least have the courtesy to tell me so. I would have willingly announced my retirement from international soccer. To have just kicked me out like this is embarrassing and humiliating” he was quoted by a local daily
Despite the setback that saw him ‘retire’ from National duty at age 28, he went on to represent his club till the year 1977 before calling it quits altogether.
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