Chris Makokha will be remembered alongside two institutions which he helped put on the map of Kenya.
These were the then Kakamega-based football club, MOW (Ministry of Works) FC, later changed to MOTCOM (Ministry of Transport and Communication) FC that he and the indefatigable, hardworking Peter Omedo as secretary general led with an impeccable degree of success.
The team used to terrorize such established clubs like AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia, Kenya Breweries , Re Union, KTM, Scarlet, Kisumu Hot Star amongst others.
There is also the famous Green Commandos football team of Kakamega High School that reigned supreme in the world of secondary schools ball games with their beautiful passing game and potency in attack.
Under the tutelage of Makokha, the two institutions that he coached were a hard nut to crack in the field. More often than not, in the league where I officiated, his team either won the match or at worst drew against the Nairobi-based giants – AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia, Breweries and ReUnion.
I remember one mid-week match in 1985 against Gor Mahia where I was the centre referee and which Gor badly needed to win to upstage Kenya Breweries to the title. But even with their array of stars Gor could only manager 2-2 draw against a polished MOW FC side, grounded in the technical aspects of the game thanks to Makokha.
For once Gor Mahia supporters, who all along believed I was against them, gave me a standing ovation at the final whistle. I could not believe it when both Makokha and Gor Mahia secretary general, the late Mahallon Danga Obiero followed me to the dressing room to congratulate me for a job well done.
Makokha told me: “GMT, once I saw you were the centre referee, I knew I would win the match but I am happy with the draw. With this neutral and strict stand of fairness, I am sure you will one day be a Fifa accredited referee.” And for sure, four years later I became an accredited official with the world soccer governing body.
Through Makokha and his Green Commandos, a healthy number of fabulously talented players ended up in the national team. Incidentally, he was a physics teacher at Kakamega High.
In 1987, as assistant coach to the late Reinhard Fabisch, and against all expectations, they guided Harambee Stars to the All Africa Games football final. At a packed-beyond-capacity Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani Ambrose “Golden Boy” Ayoyi, Wycliff Anyangu, George “Nyangi Odembo, Anthony “Pikipiki” Ndola, Vitalis Owuor, Austin Oduor, Hassan “Carlos” Juma, David “Kamoga” Ochieng and co. gave the well-endowed and drilled Egyptians a run for their money before succumbing to a late, solitary goal scored from a suspiciously offside position.
The centre referee was Ethiopian referee Tesfaye Gabreyesus (now Eritrean) and match commissioner former CAF secretary general Mustafa Fahmi.
In 1988 Makokha led Harambee Stars to Morocco for the Africa Cup of Nations Cup competition. Kenya were eliminated in the preliminary stages after losing 3-0 to both Nigeria and Egypt before drawing 0-0 with Cameroon.
Makokha was such a humble gentleman. He never ever confronted match officials even when the officiating did not seem to favour him. To his players, he always told them to play to the whistle and leave the referee to do his part and let the crowd judge how fair the officiating was.
Makokha passed on in Eldoret on Monday. A coach par excellence. His contribution to football especially the youth will be sorely missed.
By GMT Otieno