News: The Emperor's apology

On Wednesday 11 November 1970, West German Coach Ekhard Krautzun, in just his first game in charge, led Kenya to a 2-0 win over fancied Ethiopia at the City Stadium in a 1972 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

Goals in each half by Arthur Okwemba and William Chege Ouma gave Kenya a comfortable good cushion.

Luciano Vassalo

For the return game,a Kenyan team of 18 players camped in Ethiopia for over a month – from 25 October well ahead of the game planned for 29 of November.

In the reverse tie played on on a Sunday at the Haile Selassie Stadium, Addis Ababa, Kenya held the hosts to a 0-0 draw - till the 59th minute.

The next minute, Uganda referee Rajab awarded Kenya a penalty after skipper John Nyawanga was man handled by an Ethiopian defender in the box.

Dependable left wing back Jonathan Niva stepped up to beat keeper Abebe to send Kenya 1-0 up against Ethiopia who were coached by one of their finest players in the early 60’s - Luciano Vassalo.

Wild scenes

But as soon as Kenya went 3-0 up on aggregate, the game came to an abrupt stop. Ethiopian players protested the penalty award and after Niva scored all hell broke loose as a section of the 45,000 crowd rushed on to the pitch to rough up the referee, his linesmen Mubanda and Mubanada – both from Uganda, as well as a number of Kenya players.

The fracas left three Kenyan players inured – Stephen Yongo, keeper James Sianga and Daniel Anyanzwa who had to be treated on the pitch.

Close to 250 policemen poured in to quell the wild scenes as the irate Ethiopian fans rained on the visiting players. But as was reported then, some of the baton wielding cops took advantage to clobber some of the Kenya players, a result that saw keeper Siang’a as well as reserve left back Paul Ndula spend a night in Hospital. Other Kenyan players were also reported injured – defender Samson Odore, penalty scorer Niva, Allan Thigo, Livingstone Madegwa and Jackson Aluko who made his national debut in that game. Coach Krautzun had also suffered a small injury.

The referee, with deep injuries on his head spent a few more days in Hospital undergoing treatment.

Counter accusations

In the wake of the fracas, that took a whole of 20 minutes to quell, the game was abandoned altogether.

What happened next were accusation, and counter accusations between the FA of Kenya and that of Ethiopia as well as the outspoken Krautzun.

Other than the 'undeserved' penalty, as the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) said, Kenyan Coach Krautzun is accused of having run to the field of play with an unnamed reserve player, an act that the Kenyan FA swiftly denied. Prior to the Niva’s goal, anxious Ethiopian fans had time and again complained that Kenyan players were employing ‘time wasting tactics’, a matter that agitated most of them. 

“The fans behaved like wild animals. That’s the only term I can use to describe their behavior” said the Kenyan Coach Krautzun. 

“This was the most shameful part about the whole thing. Instead of protecting our players, police beat them up” said team manager Joshua Odanga

“If the police had in fact struck any Kenyan player it was probably in the heat of the moment when they were trying to stop the fighting’ said EFF Chair Yadnekatcheous Tassema


"Kenyan players were on occasions rough and aggressive and could hardly be said to be keeping within the rules of the game” came another accusation from the EFF of which Ekhard responded to;

“It was obvious the fans did not act violently because Kenya players played rough, but merely because they could not accept defeat”

After all the happenings on Sunday, the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie, reached out to the Kenyan team for a cup of tea over which he’d apologies.

Through the Kenyan Ambassador to Ethiopia - one Peter Echaria, Haile Selassie requested the Kenyan contingent to cancel their Monday flight for the tea, which they agreed to.

As they sipped the tea, and as part of his sincere act of contrition, the Emperor handed each of the Kenyan players a bouquet of flowers.

 Days later, after exchanges of letters from both Federations and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) a deliberation on the matter was made.

Close to a month later, as confirmed by the then Chair Dr. Mohammed Halim, EFF were fined 1,000 francs (£100) as Kenya was awarded the abandoned game which gave them an express ticket to the next round to face Mauritius in the final qualification round in July of 1971.

A 2-1 home win - after a Niva penalty in the first half and Kadir Farah winner in the second half was followed by a 0-0 return leg result that sent Kenya through with a 2-1 aggregate to their first ever Africa Cup of Nations held in Cameroon in February 1972.

The squad in Ethiopia

Keepers - James Siang'a (Gor), George Muriuki (Maragoli) Defenders - Joram Roy (Bata Bullets), Jonathan Niva (Abaluhya), Daniel Anyanzwa (Abahluya), Paul Ndula (Gor), Midfielders - Joe Okeyo (Gor), Steve Yongo (Gor), Allan Thigo (Gor), Jack Aluko (Gor), Livingstone Madegwa (Kenya Breweries), Martin 'Oswajo' Ouma (Gor), Strikers - John Nyawanga - Captain (Kenya Breweries), Benson Obala (Gor), David Asibwa (Abaluhya), William 'Chege' Ouma (Gor), John Chore (Gor)

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