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May 25, 2018

SportPesa made history by bringing Kenyans together in football

Gor Mahia FC fans troop to the MISC, Kasarani for their international friendly between their team and Hull City FC on Sunday, May 13, 2018. PHOTO/SPN
Gor Mahia FC fans troop to the MISC, Kasarani for their international friendly between their team and Hull City FC on Sunday, May 13, 2018. PHOTO/SPN

Sunday, May 13 will be a day to remember because of what happened at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. The game of football once again brought an entire nation together and it was all thanks to leading bookmakers SportPesa who organised this epic match.

A huge international friendly that featured domestic giants, Gor Mahia FC and visiting English side, Hull City FC will be remembered for years to come. Those who were lucky to witness the spectacle will be grateful for the memories that will linger on for ages.

The experience was dubbed #HullCityInKenya and it was beautiful. An exciting reminder, if anyone needed one, of the astonishing passion that Kenyans have for football. An enthusiastic crowd of 60,000 fans from all walks of life filled the country’s sporting cathedral and put on a dazzling show of raw patriotism.

Gor Mahia FC fan 'number 1' Jared 'Jaro Soja' Obonyo (left) and Hull City FC midfielder, Stephen Kingsley salute fans at the end of the international friendly at MISC, Kasarani on Sunday, May 13, 2016. PHOTO/AFP

Gor Mahia FC fan 'number 1' Jared 'Jaro Soja' Obonyo (left) and Hull City FC midfielder, Stephen Kingsley salute fans at the end of the international friendly at MISC, Kasarani on Sunday, May 13, 2016. PHOTO/AFP

Incidentally, more supporters were locked outside the venue after the largest sporting facility in the country was filled to its rafters. This even served to create an unforgettable experience including one for those who missed out on the action.

In retrospect, the last time Kasarani had anything close to what happened on Sunday took place on January 12, 1997. This was when Harambee Stars hosted the Super Eagles in a 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifier where Kenya recorded a memorable 1-1 draw under the late German head coach, Reinhardt Fabisch

The title, #HullCityInKenya, was chosen by organisers in honour of the Tigers’ maiden trip to Africa.

“It was special. My group of player and staff will remember this forever,” said Hull City head coach, Nijel Adkins as he brilliantly summed up the experience later on Sunday when they were hosted to a dinner by SportPesa.

“The unifying power of sport was there for all to see. Everyone knows that Kenyans are good in athletics and they can run fast but we wanted to prove that we are good in football as well.

“When we set out to play our part in helping to showcase our talent we never expected we would witness anything like this and we can only do bigger things next time,” SportPesa CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri, remarked.

Hull City FC eventually won the match 4-3 on post-match penalties after a pulsating 0-0 draw.

Hull City striker, William Keane speaks to a ball boy after the end of their international friendly against Gor Mahia FC on Sunday, May 13, 2018. PHOTO/SPN

 

The experience

Fans began arriving from 9am local time (+3GMT), six hours ahead of kick-off. Domestic football, ethnic, religious and racial differences were put aside as Kenyan football lovers trooped to Kasarani to back the home side while according visiting English Football League Championship side Hull the respect that melted their hearts.

Massive queues formed along Thika Super Highway as thousands willingly walked to the stadium located 16km from Nairobi’s Central Business District in the hot sun.

“It was unbelievable. My players were taking photos of these masses of people who were making their way to the game in the bus as we headed to the stadium. The cheering as we passed them was unreal,” the Hull boss Adkins later said.

While the scenes outside Kasarani were a spectacle to behold, inside a thunderous atmosphere was brewing and it hit its peak when both teams emerged for their pre-match practice. You had to see it to believe it.

The organisers had also arranged a good amount of entertainment- it was not just the football. This played a huge part hyping up the crowd and creating a fantastic atmosphere that will be remembered in the history of domestic football.

 

The atmosphere

Fans maintained the explosive atmosphere from kick-off right through to the end of regulation time. All the while, the crowd acknowledged the good football that was played at the brand new Kasarani pitch.

Neither side could fashion victory in the 90 minutes of regular time and the victory had to be settled via post-match spot kicks.

Hull City FC players applaud the fans following the conclusion of their international friendly with Gor Mahia FC at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on Sunday, May 13, 2018. PHOTO/SPN

 

Gor keeper, Boniface Onyango saved the first two from Hull to invite delirium from the fans before Tigers keeper, Callum Burton who came on in the 68th produced his own heroics to stretch the shootout to sudden death.

Burton then denied Kevin ‘Ade’ Omondi and Cercidy Okeyo to clinch it for Hull in the shootout but that did little to puncture the joy of the supporters.

Some invaded the pitch to snap photos with the Hull and Gor players as others trooped out to continue the party outside.

 

Huge appetite for football

The Kasarani spectacle left no doubt there is huge appetite for football and sports can stoke patriotism and unity under the national flag.

It was a timely wake up call to authorities, who were no doubt watching the match live on television, to tap into the momentum and accelerate sporting development.

Inspired by the record turn out, SportPesa will no doubt be inspired to organise ‘bigger’ events as SportPesa CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri pledged but at the end of it all, the buck stops at the Government.

Missed the match? You can watch it on YouTube below.

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