His passion and desire to do more in the beautiful game only grew after leading Kenya to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, a historic year both for him and for the entire nation. Despite not being at the helm of a prominent club or the national men’s football team, former Harambee Stars Coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee is still very much involved in local football, which he has stated on numerous occasions has and always will be a part of his life.
In the last of a three-part exclusive series titled "A chat with the Ghost: Chronicles of the Ex-Harambee Stars boss", we venture into this and a little more on his personal life.
The beginning of Liberty
“Liberty was actually born out of Harambee Stars frustrations,” Mulee began.
“In 2002, we were going to play our second last qualifier and we were to camp in Ghana for ten days and there was nobody to pick us up from the airport which was really frustrating.
Through connections in Ghana and the founding Liberty members from the West African region, Mulee was able to launch the academy in Kenya in 2008.
Mulee remains very actively involved with the running of the academy as he continues to coach young players who come with the dream of one day playing professional football.
Liberty Academy has produced and molded a phenomenal breed of players over the years with the most notable names being former UEFA Champions League winner, Inter Milan FC midfielder McDonald Mariga and the current Kashiwa Reysol striker Michael ‘Engineer’ Olunga.
“It has not been easy to run Liberty especially after the demise of my colleague a few years back but over the years, especially after producing Olunga we have been able to stabilize operations.
“We got Olunga when he was only 12 and it’s been an incredible journey for him as a player and for Liberty,” Mulee stated.
Before deciding to ply his trade in the Japanese League, Olunga played for Girona in the Spanish top flight where he made a mark and will always be remembered as the first Kenyan to score a hat-trick in La Liga.
The lanky forward, who is an Engineering graduate, is a constant in the national team and got his name on the scoresheet most recently in a 3-0 home victory over Ethiopia in a 2019 AFCON Qualifier with a fantastic long-range effort.
“I am happy when I see Olunga doing great things in football and currently in Japan. I believe that this is just a stopover in his career because he has the capability to play in any major league in the world.
“Even as a 12-year old, we at Liberty knew that he would go on to become part of the future of Kenyan football and we thank God that it has come to pass,” Mulee underlined.
Mulee went on to assert his belief in the future of Kenyan football, stating that it is promising and the steps being taken by the federation and other individuals is key in ensuring that Harambee Stars can make a resounding statement to the world.
“There are a lot of emerging academies, talent searches and teams looking out for the young players and they have the patience to develop them.
“The federation has also taken a huge step to train many coaches which has always been an issue in this country. Talent is in plenty but developing it was the main problem,” Mulee underscored.
“Raw talent needs to be attended to so even when this breed of young players are brought into the national team, they have that level of football education.
Following past success of Jonathan Niva and Marshall Mulwa as coaches of the national team, Mulee burst out into hearty laughter when asked whether he and his fellow Kamba tribesmen had a secret that helped them succeed.
“I have tried to analyze why mostly Kambas can bring out that mentality and impetus that makes the national team a force to reckon with.
“I concluded that it’s merely due to the fact that we pick players without discrimination. One just has to be honest with himself during team selection,” Mulee stated.
“There is a perception that football in this country belongs to certain tribes but football is a God-given talent. It doesn’t matter which part of the world you are from, you can either play or you can’t,” he underlined.
Aside from his coaching prowess, Mulee currently works as a popular sports radio show host and a television commentator for local league and regional football matches.
The father of three boys (Jesse, Jeff and Carl), confessed to not supporting any football team both locally and abroad but admitted to having a deep liking for Tusker FC, with whom he won three league titles during his 10-year stint with the club.
Mulee salutes the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and long-serving Arsenal FC manager, Arsene Wenger, for the decorated tenures they had with their respective clubs but none of them make it into his top three coaches of all time.
“I have to include Jose Mourinho in my all-time list. His philosophy seems to work everywhere he goes and I have seen him win many trophies with so many different teams.
“Stephen Keshi when it comes to matters of African football is a top manager. Those two are the ones who stand out the most for me,” Mulee confessed.
When speaking of some of the best players that he has managed, in the blink of an eye, the first name off the top of his head was the man who led them to the 2004 AFCON finals, Dennis Oliech.
“Dennis will never miss out on that list. He’s number one and a close second has to be Titus Mulama.
“Mulama is the most intelligent midfielder that I have ever coached, I’ve never had the privilege to manage a player with so much brain on and off the pitch.”
“The late Bernard Agunda will definitely have to be the last one. He was phenomenal and he could turn things around at any moment of the game, with the ability to score at will,” he added.
The 49-year old conceded his love for African food with matumbo, fish, kuku kienyeji and a side of ugali topping the list as his favorites.
A hobby that not many knew about the veteran coach is that he is a lover and collector of music, with a major focus on indigenous African tunes.
“Music is very important to me. I have countless albums in my house and the different sort of mood I’m in determines the music that I listen to.
“Every country I go to, I make sure to collect a variety of their tunes. I mostly listen to praise and worship when I wake up but when I’m in a real good mood I listen to Rhumba and some Teddy Pendergrass when I’m feeling romantic,” Mulee stated.