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My Gor, my life: Jaro Soja

For many years, Gor Mahia diehard fan Jared Obonyo has wowed Kenyans with his flashy attire branded in the club’s colours.

Jaro Soja, as he is better known, tirelessly markets the club at no cost as a result of his obsession with the team.

His house in Kayole is furnished in Gor Mahia colours. When he dies, Jaro wants to be buried in a coffin with K’Ogalo’s stripes and in a grave with similar colours.

He wants his coffin draped with the Gor flag and when his remains are being lowered into the grave, the club’s anthem to be played.… K’Ogalo, Gor, Gor Mahia, K’Ogalo, Gor timbe duto yuagi (Gor Mahia, all teams are crying out for you.)

“One day I had been sent home for fees when I found a group of people listening to a Gor Mahia match on radio. I was so impressed that I delayed my trip. The fans’ passion was infectious and it rubbed off on me. That’s how my love for Gor started,” said Jaro.

Transferred school

So much was his love for the team that at nine, Jaro convinced his parents to transfer him from Odendo Primary School that had green and brown uniform.

He moved to Nyabeni Primary School where the uniform matched Gor Mahia’s green and white kit.

When he was in class seven, the school uniform was changed to blue and white like that of Gor’s bitter rivals AFC Leopards. This forced him to transfer to Okolo Primary School that had a green and white uniform.

In 1989, Jaro and his father watched a Mashemeji derby pitting Gor against AFC Leopards. George Nyangi scored the only goal that helped Gor win the match. This drove his father into frenzy, deepened Jaro’s love for Gor and strengthened his relationship with his old man.

Nickname

Jaro was nicknamed Soja (soldier) at his first work place at Muhoroni Sugar Company. He liked the name given by his colleagues because he always wanted to be a soldier since childhood. To date, he is still inspired by the Kenya Defence Forces.

“Even if I never became one, I am a soldier at heart,” said Jaro.

“Gor Mahia’s nickname is the Green Army and I yearned to be the commander. When I got the ‘post’, I became a brand,” said the 35-year- old.

After working for some months at the sugar firm, Jaro began mingling with top politicians from the region.

“I met former Education assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny who hired him as his bodyguard. After sometime, I became part of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s security,” said Jaro.

When he moved to Nairobi in 2001, attending Gor games became a priority. Between 2009 and 2012, he dressed in white and green as well as in a monkey’s mask. This made him famous, but nobody knew the identity behind covered face.

Commander-in chief

“Back in the day, I only wore the Gor attire on the days that team had a game. Since nobody knew what I looked like, I decided to rebrand myself. To some people, I could have been a criminal. This was the right opportunity to achieve my dream of becoming the commander-in- chief of the Green Army,” said Jaro, whose name Jared was corrupted by friends.

He now unveils a new camouflage attire every season and has customised his bicycle to match the club colours. It has siren that most Nairobi motorists are familiar with, as it is a signal that Gor Mahia is playing somewhere.

“In March, I was at the airport to receive our players who had returned from Tunisia. This was one of my most memorable moments, as I impressed many tourists at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport who were waiting for flights. One group told me that I should keep up the spirit and this made me happy,” he said.

Jaro said contrary to what people think, he does not indulge in any drug abuse, nor drinks alcohol, and that he is the biggest enemy to hooliganism.

“I neither drink alcohol nor smoke. I simply support Gor Mahia because it is a club that is very close to my heart. People can show their love for a club without necessarily overreacting,” he said.

“Some people take advantage of the mob to cause havoc, but I hope one day they will realise how much they are hurting the club’s image and business,” said Jaro.

He said sponsors shy away from funding clubs because of hooliganism. Jaro said ardent football fans know those who really have their club at heart and those out to spoil. Those who care want their clubs want business to expand and prosper.

Jaro said people keep off stadiums because they no longer feel safe as a result of increasing hooliganism caused by aggrieved fans.

He said even as football authorities work to weed out trouble shooters from stadiums, it was the responsibility of fans to cheer for their teams responsibly.