Francis Xavier: The story of a winner and a star

By Hillary Mukasa

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Midfield King: Francis Xavier in a
Previous match at Moi Sports Complex Kasarani

If a player has represented Shabana, KCC and AFC Leopards in his career, and is still highly respected by all three groups of fans, you know he is something special.

Francis Xavier begun to show his football brilliance while a teenager. He started playing football in standard 8 because of his small size. During the district championship, Xavier left camp and went back to his primary  school St Peters (Mumias Boys Boarding School)  to study since he was a candidate but he paid the price of being a star when a GK land rover from the Ministry came for him the following Monday to return to camp. His coach then was Mr., Protus Makokha a FIFA referee (RIP). After his KCPE he crossed the fence and joined St Peters High School. In form one he was selected to represent Western province in the Panasonic tournament held centrally in Nairobi. His small size became immaterial compared to his brilliant talent.

In the first edition of the Panasonic tournament the head coach Sammy Nyongesa chose a national (U-17) team. Xavier was selected alongside other upcoming talents such as Martin Musisi, Athman Mbugus, Alfred Kiragu, Allan Tingu, Walter Odhiambo, Dennis Chweya, Ken Odhiambo (former Bandari Coach) among others who represented Kenya in the Gothia Cup in Sweden. At his high school St Peters Mumias he played alongside notable players like Idd Abubakar, Tom Ochura, Gilbert Okoth, (goalkeeper at Mumias Sugar) Reverence Nangalama who joined Rivatex FC, and Floyd Mugo a super talented player at Utalii who wasted his talent and went to the USA. He was comfortable with both feet and an alcoholic. Xavier played for Pan Paper FC of Webuye while in high school.

The next stop at the Gusii glamour boys

From the football factory of Western province he joined Shabana fc from the conveyor belt. Shabana was coached by Maurice Ochieng formerly of Gor Mahia FC. Xavier became an integral part of Shabana and played in midfield. He became an accomplished player without a doubt and did well to score 8 goals that season and become the top scorer of the team. At Shabana he found a very polished midfielder in the name of Henry Nyandoro (deceased), Richard Otambo, Moses Gikenyi and Rashid Omar. Evans Nyariki was on suspension and joined tusker FC when his ban was lifted. Xavier admired Henry Nyandoro the midfield general at Shabana simply because he had great composure, technical ability to handle the ball and leadership when the team was down.

In a league match against Nzoia Sugar FC Xavier remembers with nostalgia how Nyandoro delivered a perfect inch killer pass to him only to find himself with the goal keeper to beat. Initially Xavier thought he was offside but Nyandoro who had unbelievable vision had made no mistake. Xavier did not disappoint and reciprocated by putting the ball behind the net. Position 2 in the KPL was the best for Shabana when Xavier played for them. “Most of the Shabana derbies were against neighbors Sony Sugar and it was sometimes terrible. I remember Alex Mwalo a defender at Sony Sugar being very rough and bad mouthed and really hit me hard in a match”. Recalls Xavier. Their toughest matches in the KPL were against Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Tusker and Ulinzi Stars.

Best 11 at Shabana

Jack Gatheru, (2) Ayoyi (a nick name), 3 Alfayo Lusiki (4) Rashid Omar, 5) Machiwa Charles (deceased), (6) Joseph Gikenyi 7) Moses Oira, (8) Xavier Francis (9) Richard Otambo, (10) Henry Nyandoro (late), (11) George Omweri

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Francis Xavier (Squatting 2nd from right) at Shabana FC.

Milk not the only product at KCC

 Every year Francis Xavier improved and he was amazing. In the 90’s many corporate teams enjoyed sponsorship from their parent organizations. Eldoret KCC was one such beneficiary. Xavier signed for KCC in 1996 and it was a pleasure to have him in the team. By then transfers were flexible and anytime as long as the two teams had a mutual agreement. Eldoret KCC was the 2nd team outside Nairobi to win the prestigious Moi Golden Cup. The first was Rivatex from Eldoret. In 1997 KCC beat AFC leopards 4-1 at Nyayo stadium to clinch the coveted trophy that marked a triumphant season for them. It was Xavier’s and KCC’s most fantastic moment. The same year the team finished 3rd in the KPL after losing to Utalii FC in a must win match for them to avoid relegation. In 1998 KCC lost controversially to Mathare United in the finals of the Moi Golden Cup. Clear goals from Dennis Chweya and Frankline Obare were denied.  In 1998 Xavier played for KCC in the CAF Cup against Costa Dol Sol of Mozambique. The two teams drew 1-1 on aggregate and KCC unfortunately lost on penalties at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret. Xavier did not play the return match as he had lost his father.

In 1999 problems emanated in the company and financial crisis led to the disbandment of the team in December 2000.

Best 11 at KCC

  1. Oliech 2) Salim Baabu, 3) Protus Fenzo 4) Ken Ambundo, 5) Tom Oloo 6) David Chumba 7) Dennis Chweya, 8) Wilberforce Kilibwa 9) Tom Rero, 10) Francis Xavier (11) Mark Sirengo

At the AFC Leopards den

The trophies kept coming for Xavier season after season and he continued to experience different challenges and different lessons. At the ingwe den Xavier again won the prestigious Moi Golden Cup in 2001 by beating Mathare United in the finals.

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Francis Xavier Standing (2nd from left next to Captain Nicholas Muyoti) at the AFC Leopards den

In 2001 the superb Xavier was appointed as the assistant captain to Nicholas Muyoti. Mickey Weche was the head coach while Vince Ombiji was his assistant.  Politics emanated at the AFC Leopards den when Angote the Chairman left leaving a leadership vacuum. There was fighting for leadership in the team after 2002.In 2004 there were parallel leagues in Kenya and there was no AFC Leopards in 2004 and 2005.In 2006 the team under Coach Edward Manoa was built around Francis Xavier, youthful players such as Victor Wanyama, Farid Ahamed, Geoffrey Kokoyo, Otto Kiviri and Ramadhan Balala, In the 2004/2005 parallel league corporate teams played in the Bob Munroe league while community teams played in the FKL league run by Hattimy. In 2004 Xavier joined Mumias Sugar FC.

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Francis Xavier (In green) tries to evade two opposing players from Reunion FC at City Stadium in one of the top flight encounters

Donning the National Colors

Xavier donned the National team colors when James Sianga (RIP) was the head coach. Harambee stars won the Castle Larger Cup tournament.

Life after football

After enjoying a glittering football career he left behind a wonderful legacy as a player. He now began to achieve football management marvelously. In 2013 Xavier was the Team Manager of AFC Leopards and the team won the GOTV shield cup. They participated in the Continental Championship and beat an Ethiopian Military side only to be eliminated in the 2nd round by Super Sport from South Africa. In 2013 Xavier joined Wazito FC as the Coach and left on mutual understanding. At Wazito FC he was assisted by Frankline Obare and Francis Oduor. In 2016 he joined Vihiga United as an Assistant Coach to Edward Manoa and in 2017 Vihiga qualified for the KPL.

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