BLESSING IN DISGUISE?

How Masha fled from war-torn Congo to become football luminary in Kenya

Masha transacted business with Kakuma for two good seasons before linking up with top tier side, Nzoia Sugar.

In Summary

•Masha was the toast of the day during their recent league outing against Mathare United at Moi Stadium, Kasarani 

•Fresh from high school, Masha threw himself into the deep end of competitive football at the peak of his teenage when he featured for Flambeaux Raha in the Congolese provincial league.

Nzoia's Gaetan Masha during Premier League match against Mathare at Kasarani.
Nzoia's Gaetan Masha during Premier League match against Mathare at Kasarani.
Image: ERICK BARASA

“For there is no new thing under the sun, Only this uncomely man with a smoking gun in the gloom. . . What the devil will he gain by it? Digging a hole in the mud and standing all day in the rain by it Waiting his doom; The sharp blow, the swift outpouring of the blood,

Till the trench of gray mud is turned to a brown purple drain by it. Well, there have been scars...Won in many wars . . .”

When celebrated English writer Ford Madox Ford published the above poetic piece ‘Antwerp’ in October 1914, he had experienced first-hand the devastating effects of World War I.

His classical masterpiece captures the imagination of the world, including the psychological scars inflicted on humans by senseless warlords who sacrifice other people’s lives to massage their own egos.

Unfortunately, some people are slow to draw valuable lessons from the tragedies that have befallen mankind in history resulting from such vanity.

It doesn’t surprise then that Nzoia Sugar attacking midfielder Gaetan Masha has been forced to seek refuge in Kenya from his native home in Congo, where perennial politically instigated violence has virtually rendered the central African nation uninhabitable.

Masha (L) vies for the ball against Cersidy Okeyo of Mathare during their premier league match
Masha (L) vies for the ball against Cersidy Okeyo of Mathare during their premier league match
Image: ERICK BARASA

The diminutive lethal attacking midfielder, who unleashes terror on opponents in the Kenyan top-flight league at whim, would now be wreaking havoc on teams plying trade in the Congolese premiership if he had not fled from the war-torn nation.

Masha was the toast of the day during their recent league outing against Mathare United at Moi Stadium, Kasarani where he made splendid runs down the right channel, pulling marvellous tricks on the Slum Boys’ defence that nevertheless stood firm never to concede a goal.

Born on August 7, 1998, Masha’s football journey took off at Sud-Kivu Baraka, where he spent his formative years before skirmishes erupted.

“I began playing football at a very tender age. My father always encouraged me to put more effort into practice because I had great potential in the sport,” said Masha.

The fifth-born in a family of six, Masha was about 11 when he joined an academy side called Boston formed by a football enthusiast in the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, he was attending Akye Ago Primary and upon completion in 2009, secured a chance at Lycee High School where he studied until 2014. “At Akye, we clinched a title but at Lycee we lost in the final,” said Masha.

Fresh from high school, Masha threw himself into the deep end of competitive football at the peak of his teens when he featured for Flambeaux Raha in the Congolese provincial league.

“I was only 16 years old when I joined Flambeaux in 2014 and stayed there for two seasons. My father, Masha Abedi, had turned out for the side as a midfielder during his heydays,” he added.

It was purely by sheer fate that Masha established himself as a footballer in the Kenyan top tier where he currently turns out for one of the country’s oldest clubs, Nzoia Sugar.

He and his family would soon find themselves hurled into the throngs of a refugee camp after fierce gunfire forced them to collect the most essential of their belongings and travel several miles into neighbouring Kenya.

“I arrived in the country from DRC and joined Kakuma Camp straight away. Fortunately, there was a lot of football being played in the place, leisurely though,” said Masha.

Masha (L) contests for the ball with Norman Ogolla of Mathare during their premier league match at Kasarani.
Masha (L) contests for the ball with Norman Ogolla of Mathare during their premier league match at Kasarani.
Image: ERICK BARASA

At Kakuma, he found quite a number of teams already formed and opted to join one of them.

“Eventually, some people proposed that we should form a football team and join the Division Two league, which we ultimately did. I made the select- squad,” he added.

Kakuma United was born and the team got material support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It was also during this period that he was among the vibrant youths selected to join the U-20 side of the outfit to participate in the Chapa Dimba Soccer tournament.

Masha transacted business with Kakuma for two good seasons before linking up with top tier side, Nzoia Sugar.

“Some officials from Nzoia were present during the playoffs of Chapa Dimba tournament and got impressed with what they saw us do on the pitch.

“After contacting Kakuma United’s management, Nzoia gave us an appointment to travel to Bungoma, where we tried out for the side for three good days,” said Masha.

Masha, who draws great inspiration from Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi, keeps his dream of featuring for Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga alive.

His best Kenyan Premier League encounter was against Kenyan champions Gor Mahia in 2019. Although they crashed to K’Ogalo 3-0, the Congolese relishes the day he says he ultimately got the first opportunity to face off with a team he has always held in high esteem.

It was also the special moment he brushed shoulder with Kenneth Muguna, the Kenyan international midfielder whom he respects quite a lot.

“It was one match I enjoyed featuring in because I had always savoured the opportunity to play against them,” said Masha.

When he is not on the pitch playing football, Masha spends most of his time in Kakuma with his brothers and friends.

“Other than football, there is nothing much I do. So I prefer visiting family and friends at Kakuma either during league intervals or at the end of the season,” said Masha.

Gaetan Masha (L) shields Norman Ogolla of Mathare during their Premier League match at Kasarani.
Gaetan Masha (L) shields Norman Ogolla of Mathare during their Premier League match at Kasarani.
Image: ERICK BARASA

How does he find life as a refugee?

“I’m totally okay with life at the Kakuma camp because despite my refugee status, I enjoy unbridled freedom,” he adds.

And although Masha hopes to go back home someday to battle for his motherland in the Congolese national team regalia, he admits he wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to turn out for the Kenyan national team should need arise.

 

BIO

 

Name: Gaetan Masha

Date of Birth: August 7,1998

Place of Birth: Sud-Kivu Baraka, DR Congo.

Education:

Akye Ago Primary School

Lycee High School

Clubs:

Flambeaux Raha

Kakuma United

Nzoia Sugar