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Football legend Joe Kadenge to launch biography

The popular refrain Kadenge na mpira, which for decades has been a common recital amongst aspiring youngsters on dusty football grounds in Kenya, has finally been immortalised in a new book set to be launched in Nairobi this evening.

Joe Kadenge: The Life of a Football Legend, authored by veteran sports journalist John Nene, is the long awaited untold story of Kenya’s foremost football legend.

Befitting of the special place that Kadenge holds in the history of Kenyan football, the biography’s launch also comes just eight months after the legendary footballer celebrated his 80th birthday.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Mr Nene said the book is in recognition of Kadenge’s impact on Kenyan football during his playing career spanning almost two decades.


“Kenya has produced many great football players, but Kadenge stands out amongst his peers and successors for his exceptional talent. But the book is not just about Kadenge, it is also about other top player of his era,” Nene said on Thursday.

The 300-page book captures the important and dramatic moments of Kadenge, who is widely considered Kenya’s most accomplished footballer of all-time.

The book traces Kadenge’s arrival on the big stage way back in 1958 when the barefooted prodigious 23-year-old’s virtuoso performance played a significant role in Kenya’s victory in the Gossage Cup tournament – a forerunner of the present day Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.

So impressive was the young Kadenge that the tournament was unofficially christened ‘Kadenge Cup’ in acknowledgement of his great performance.

Other chapters of the book recount some of the less spoken about curious incidents during Kadenge’s career, like the costly love affair that left Kenyans crying after top goalkeeper James Siang’a was almost killed by his teammate William ‘Chege’ Ouma in an ambush at Kaloleni Estate in 1968.


Then there is also the tale of the double life of talented footballer Daniel Nicodemus ‘Arudhi’, who was a great footballer during the day yet, unbeknown to many of his adoring fans, was a dreaded gangster under the cover of darkness.

Joe Kadenge: The Life of a Football Legend, also unravels what made the maestro tick on and off the pitch, what made him quit international football briefly in 1965 and his subsequent comeback two years later.

The biography is by all means a must-read for any Kenyan sports journalist worth his salt and who has an aspiration of penning a similar publication in future. Football fans with a deep interest in the history of Kenyan game will also find the book a priceless read.

In the publisher’s word, Joe Kadenge: The Life of a Football Legend is the stuff of legend; a real tour de force, brilliant and uncompromising, told in simple conversational style that feels like listening to a great storyteller… a story that will capture the attention of all Kenyans.”

But more importantly, the book is a first of its kind in the local football circles, given that none of Kenya’s football stars of the past – or even the present – is known to have comprehensively documented his life and times on and off the pitch in such a manner as the new book does.


It has taken the author years of deep reflection and intensive research to finally publish the book, which should have actually been out in 2010 to coincide with the hosting of the Fifa World Cup on Africa soil for the first time ever.

For lack of better word, the publication of the book has been indeed a monumentally painstaking effort in a country where sports federations and government agencies hardly keep data or facts which a prerequisite in such a project.

The author’s simple proposal to alleviate such challenges is for the government, through the Sports Ministry, to consider establishing a national sports archive to make it easier for sports journalists and other writers to produce more of such publications.

“I hope that this book will set the ball rolling in the documentation of the lives, achievements and records of our past sports heroes and heroines.


“But this will only be possible if the writers have access to accurate information. This is where the government should come in and establish a national sports archive for posterity and as a resource for writers and other interested parties,” Nene said.

Former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who will be the chief guest during the launch, says the book could not have come at a better time.

“The story of Kenyan football cannot be complete without the name of Joe Kadenge, both by longevity of playing and the duration of remaining a star. It is my hope that the book will inspire the next generation of players,” Mr Odinga writes in the book’s foreword.