Several years ago, when I was working for a short lived lifestyle magazine called ‘Expression’, I received an invitation to attend the first ever Kisima Awards at Carnivore (Vurous).
The awards were touted as our Kenyan version of the American Academy awards, also known as the Oscars, although Kisima was broader and covered so many disciplines.
Among the outstanding people I recall who appeared at those awards was one young chap, Hardstone Ngunjiri, who had then just released a massive hit, Uhiki. Hardstone got hitched and disappeared soon after.
The other chap I recall was a tall, lanky footballer called Musa Otieno, who led a shy Harambee Stars squad to the dais to receive their award.
Something about Musa Otieno set him apart, put him in a class all of his own. He had that shy smile, spoke slowly, didn’t look excited and was quite calm.
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That was when I learned that the former Harambee Stars skipper was also known as “Otero”. For those who were young then, Otero was, or is, Sheng for a hero, you know, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Commando’ or Sylvester Stallone in ‘Rambo’.
If you know what I mean, those heroes could demolish defences all on their own. Musa Otieno could demolish football defences, well, almost all alone!
Musa’s fellow heroes in the all conquering Reinhadt Fabisch (RIP) Harambee Stars squad have since faded. Like the flamboyant but diminutive midfielder, Samuel Odhiambo or something, who dazzled the whole nation with his skills but faded after those memorable outings against Cameroon and Nigeria in 1996.
Not Musa Otieno.
He lived on. Grew stronger. He joined Sanlam Santos of South Africa, where he became a pillar of their defence. I remember and respect Otero because he always came back home to us, his people, to lend a hand.
I learned a couple of days ago that Otero had been taken ill with Covid-19 and was receiving treatment at IDH Mbagathi. I saw a picture of him wearing an oxygen mask with tubes in a hospital bed and sadness wrapped itself around me. Otero was down with the cursed thing!
Today I wish him quick and full recovery. Musa got infected doing what he has always done; helping his community. He was distributing food to disadvantaged members of the community when he caught the virus.
I am sure when he recovers, this tall man, a man who knows no tribal differences, will do it again. Kisima showed me a man I’ll respect for a very, very long time.
By Maneno T Mwikwabe