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The magic of Koth Biro still kicks in Ziwani

Koth Biro Tournament is underway at Ziwani and lack of a sponsor doesn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the football lovers who throng the pitch.

The year’s championship is in memory of post-independence hero Tom Mboya who was assassinated in 1969 as a result of political intrigues in the Kenyatta Government.

The former Cabinet Minister grew up in Ziwani. For a man of his status, you would expect a befitting event, but never mind the tournament goes on.

No go zones

Koth Biro is a Luo word that means the rain is coming. The name was coined in the late 1980s when one of the players from upcountry shouted “tumalizeni haraka hii mechi koth biro” (let us finish this game because the rains are coming).

At that time, Majengo and Kaloleni were no go zones due to insecurity and youths from these areas were feared.

Local veteran players organised matches between Umeme FC and Kaloleni FC to help prevent youths from engaging in wayward activities.

More teams entered the tournament and the top competitors were Gwangi, Katanga, Bedjos, Riverside, Mash and Umeme bees. Umeme won the inaugural title in 1985.

Umeme, Mash and 1000 Street FC are the most successful teams. Dandora’s 1000 Street won the cup seven years in a row before a goal by Kenyan international Victor Wanyama of Nyoi Stars eliminated them in the semi-finals in 2010.

Chairman Charles Handas said Koth Biro has helped youths to turn around their lives.

“Through football, young people have turned away from crime and drug abuse. Some now have flourishing careers because they were consistent and patient,” said Handas.

Scouting talent

The tournament is a platform for coaches and scouts to identify talent before the new league season kicks off. It is also an avenue for Kenyan Premier League players to maintain fitness and the injured to get back to shape.

“Coaches scout for talent at this tournament. Koth Biro gives upcoming players a chance to brush shoulders with stars such as Macdonald Mariga and Humphrey Mieno. This motivates them to work harder,” said Handas a former Gor Mahia player.

He said the championship has helped reduce deaths among youths. “We used to bury young people frequently who were killed during robberies or died from drug abuse,” he told Nairobi News.

His sentiments were echoed by Makongeni Youth coach Nicholas Ayaga, who urged the Government to support the tournament.

“By tapping talent to act a feeder to the national team Harambee Stars, we are playing our part in promoting football as well as saving youths from idleness,” said Ayaga.

Renowned players such as Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama, his brother Mariga, Jamal Mohamed and Dennis Oliech all played in the tournament.

Others are Gor Mahia assistant coach Bobby Ogolla and former Harambee Stars goalkeeper Mohammed Abbas.

Some Premier League players who are presently taking part are Mieno, Kevin Opiyo, Francis Ouma, Athman Buki, Wilson Obungu, Jamal Mohammed, David Gateri and Dennis Mboya.

The quarter-finals are slated for January 2 and 3 while the semis will be held the following weekend.

Defending champions Pelico, Hamza Heroes, Shauri Yoyo, Nela, Makongeni, Kenyatta Hospital, NIBS Ruiru, Kasarani, Githurai and Intercity are some of the participants.

For the first time, a team from Kiambu – Subuya is also taking part in the off season championship.

Last year the tournament was not held due to renovations and lack of sponsors.