For three straight years, from 1972, the Kenya U20 side participated in the East Africa Youth Cup - but each time fell short of lifting the crown.
During the same period, the senior national side ended up empty handed as they failed to deliver any further trophies to East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup they wrested in 1971.
A little better
1974 in particular was a bad one for Kenya; out of three games played, the senior national side won none. After a 0-0 draw with Tanzania during the second edition of the newly christened CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, the team went on to lose 3-2 to Zambia. A similar loss to Seychelles thereafter meant the year ended with no win.
The U20 did a little better, as the team won its first game – a 2-0 win over Zanzibar in Uganda during the East Africa Youth Cup held in May.
They then went on to lose the next two games to Tanzania (4-1) and Uganda (1-0) to finish as second best to Tanzania.
The next year, 1975, the federation hoped for better fortunes from both the junior and senior sides. Bernard Zgoll, who handled both teams in 74 was left to concentrate on football development at the grassroots.
His role at the junior level was taken up by Kenya’s irreplaceable left back Jonathan Niva (RIP) who made his debut for Kenya on 28 February 1965 – together with William Chege Ouma, in a 1966 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Uganda.
Kenya Breweries Coach Ray Wood took over the reign of the senior side – after Joe Kadenge’s short stint during two 1976 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers over Sudan in April.
In late June, the Kenyan junior side was to kick off their chase of the elusive regional crown. To prepare for the tournament, the team hosted Congo’s red devils in Mombasa – and posted a credible 0-0 draw.
Niva, the Player - Coach when Kenya participated in the first ever Africa Cup of Nations in 1972, carried forward no less than seven players who were in Zgoll’s team the year before; keepers Mahmoud Magogo and Jairus Adam as well as Tom Baraza, Apolo Anangwe, Binzi Mwakolo and Luo’s Peter Onyango.
To top up, he brought in the likes of Jomo Opwande, Gor’s Morris Ouma, Edward Kiiza, George Yoga, Jerry Imbo, Kisumu hot Stars Benson Obala, Gema’s Abdalla Lassi, Morris Okwaro and Tom Olaba.
In the their first game played at the Mkwakwani Stadium in Dar, the Kenyan juniors kicked off on a high beating 1974 Champions Tanzania 3-1.
Unstoppable Binzi scored a brace and Anangwe the other as the team came from behind to cancel out Abdullah Hussein’s early goal.
Binzi scored the lone goal in the next game as Kenya beat fancied Uganda 1-0. The Kenyan juniors went on to win the junior title for the first time ever after a 0-0 draw with Zanzibar in their final game. At last Kenya had landed a trophy.
Less than two weeks later after that fete, Niva, dubbed Simba wa Mayeye after his bearded face, was back home and where he dropped his coaching tag and recoiled back to a player as he joined camp for preparations for the 1975 CECAFA Senior challenge Cup.
In late October, the Kenyan team – that included Magogo and Adam from the U20 side, was in Zambia for the regional showpiece. Interestingly, their Coach Niva was the team Captain – and separately the assistant Coach of team.
A 2-1 win over Zambia in the first game and a 1-1 draw in the next game against Uganda sent the team to the semis where they dismissed Tanzania 3-2.
Player of the Year
A win over the Taifa Stars sent the team to the final where they met first timers Malawi. It looked all lost as Malawi led 2-1 late into the game but header specialist Charles Ochieng nodded in a late equalizer to eventually send the game to post match penalties that Kenya went on to win 5-4 to claim their first ever CECAFA crown.
As skipper Niva was handed the trophy by the then Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and after returning home, he had the honors of presenting it to President Jomo Kenyatta at State House Nakuru.
Indeed 1975 was a memorable year for Niva as Coach, player, Captain, the 1972 Footballer of the Year, as well as runner up (to athlete Julius Sang) Sports person of the Year.
Niva, Kenya’s second most capped player (after Musa Otieno) with 90 appearances, retired from international football with a final home game against Nigeria on 8 February 1976 but continued coaching the National side - after Wood, till end of 1978 and the U20 side till 1980.
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