Kakamega versus Musingu High School Football Derby. Is it a battle of titans – The Story

By Hillary Mukasa
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The football theatre: The new look Bukhungu Stadium that is a host of many derby matches between Kakamega High School and Musingu High School. (Photo-Courtesy)

The phrase ‘Derby’ most likely originated from the Derby, a horse race in England in 1870. It has been used as a noun in English to denote any kind of Sporting Contest. Football Derbies may be about factors involved like history, animosity between a country’s different regions, religion and footballing honors.

This story is about a derby but not the El Clasico between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona or the Old Firm Derby between Scottish clubs Celtic and Rangers that generates heavy income, has a history of pitch invasion, vandalism and several deaths. The story is also not about the Mashemeji derby in Kenya between perennial arch rivals Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. This is the story of the Kakamega derby between the Green Commandos of Kakamega High School and the Scorpions of Musingu High School. Kakamega town is the heart of Western Province and the heartbeat of football.A town that is alive with football.

Team of the Decade loses in the 1978 derby

 In the 1978 derby Pius “Khoi Khoi” Masinza scored 2 goals for Musingu against the Green Commandos to sink them. Musingu represented Western Province in the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA)football Nationals only to be eliminated by the eventual winners Khamisi Secondary School from Coast Province. Nicknamed Khoi khoi because he was as dark as Shaka the Zulu Pius Masinza the Games Prefect of Musingu High School doubled up as an MOW player. He was beneficiary of the Bernhard Zgoll Olympic Youth program in Kakamega that had been seconded by the government.   After his studies in Musingu he played for AFC Leopards in its most glorious period. Peter Ouma of Green Commandos says “In fact I believe the greatest of those derbies happened in 1978 although the Green Commandos lost unfairly because I scored two goals and they were ruled offside. I still believe that the Green Commandos squad of 1978 was the best of all time. That Musingu proceeded to the Nationals and did not win the title led to adetermined Green Commandos to clinch the National Championship in 1979 to become the first from Western Province to achieve that feat. After the 1979 victory the Green Commandos would clinch the trophy back to back 5 times before Musingu interrupted.  While a student Peter Ouma played for a star studded MOW and later joined Kenyatta University to study a degree in Business Economics. He also played for Hakati FC and the best ever assembled AFC Leopards team alongside Pius Masinza but this time as team mates and not as arch rivals.

Read also The Giants of Kakamega High School “class of 1995”. Is it the best assembled school team to ever grace the game?

Washington Muhanji says “I was in the Green Commandos squad in 1978. Our first choice goalkeeper had been sent home for fees and our second team goalkeeper had broken his hand on a Tuesday and the derby against the Musingu Scorpions was on Saturday. Our Coach the late Chris Makokha came for training and told us the problem we were facing and asked who would volunteer as a goalkeeper that weekend. By then I was a left full back and I told him I would try. So he gives me the gloves, puts the balls on the 18 yard line and asks the players to shoot and score one at a time. That was the training for the next two days. Come Saturday I was between the sticks against the Scorpions. I played my heart out to stop the Scorpions who had amazingly gifted players like Pius Masinza, Zephaniah Ingosi, Josephat Amgeye and Titus who attacked from the word go. After his schooling days Muhanji played for Lanet Scarlet’s, AfC Leopards, Harambee Stars and in Oman.

Henry Were, a Kakamega High School alumnus from 1978 to 1983 says: “during my 6- year stay at the school I only witnessed Green Commandos lose ONE competitive match; the 1978 KSSSA Provincial final 0-2 loss to a Pius Masinza inspired Musingu High School at Bukhungu Stadium. The next time Green Commandos lost a decisive competitive match again was 6 years later, to Musingu again during the KSSSA National finals in Mombasa a few months upon completion of my studies”.  The football fanatic is the Director of Sports at Moi University.

Scorpions versus Commandos bring down the curtain in 1984

When football came to Kenya bythe boats and ships it arrived at the Coast first before spreading to the rest of the country. Howeverit is in Western Kenya where it was cemented.In 1984 something truly unique was achieved. The pulsating final of the KSSSA National Championship in football between the Scorpions and the Green Commandos at Shanzu teachers college showed their star quality. It tells of a story of two great teams with exceptional talent. Everyone felt their impact.The two schools had established themselves as football powerhouses.

Keffa Tasso the Captain of the Musingu Scorpions whose football life has been nothing but spectacular recalls: “Kakamega High School had a very good team and deserved the reputation they held for many years. Their midfield was the most difficult department with the awesome trio of George “Nyangi” Odembo, Peter Zimbo Owade and Dennis Munyendo. They were a very difficult nut to crack”. They were at the peak of the art in footballing sense and they were surrounded by good players. “We had a team that really believed in supporting each other. We knew the Strengths of the Green Commandos and we had beaten them twice in the year and the belief was there. We had Tom Omboko, Enock Momanyi, Makomere, Mike “Computer” Wambani, Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo, Joe Serenge, Julius Were and Mugalla among others. We beat the Green Commandos 2-1 in the finals of the 1984 KSSSA National Championship for football”. Tasso the boss in midfield joined AFC Leopards “Ingwe” after completing his studies at Musingu. When Ingwe were crowned Kenya league Champions in 1986 unbeaten, Keffa Tasso was a key player in the immensely gifted squad.

 

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The Musingu Scorpions: Symbols of passion, dominance, defense, transformation, and rebirth and ardency. Above is the team before the final of the KSSSA Finals in 1984 in Shanzu TTC,Mombasa against fierce rivals Kakamega High School. Standing (L-R) Peter Obura, John Kabwoya, Noah Ndunde, Akhonya, S. Shikangania, Jacob Lijodi, Andrew Mugaisi, Keffa Tasso, Thomas Omboko, Masika Ingunyi, Joe Serenge, George Ambaitsi, Coach Johnston Mukonyi,
Squatting; Livingstone Injete, Reginald Asibwa, Arthur Odhiambo, Julius Were, Michael Wambani, Maurice Makomere, Geoffrey Patya, Festus Ocholi, Enoch Momanyi   (Photo-Courtesy) 

Keffa Tasso the Captain of the Musingu Scorpions whose football life has been nothing but spectacular recalls: “Kakamega High School had a very good team and deserved the reputation they held for many years. Their midfield was the most difficult department with the awesome trio of George “Nyangi” Odembo, Peter Zimbo Owade and Dennis Munyendo. They were a very difficult nut to crack”. They were at the peak of the art in footballing sense and they were surrounded by good players. “We had a team that really believed in supporting each other. We knew the Strengths of the Green Commandos and we had beaten them twice in the year and the belief was there. We had Tom Omboko, Enock Momanyi, Makomere, Mike “Computer” Wambani, Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo, Joe Serenge, Julius Were and Mugalla among others. We beat the Green Commandos 2-1 in the finals of the 1984 KSSSA National Championship for football”. Tasso the boss in midfield joined AFC Leopards “Ingwe” after completing his studies at Musingu. When Ingwe were crowned Kenya league Champions in 1986 unbeaten, Keffa Tasso was a key player in the immensely gifted squad.

Tom ‘TT’ Tera of the Green Commandos recalls the bitter sweet memory of that final: “While the Green Commandos had their share of football greats, Musingu also had stellar names. Most of the Musingu players joined Mumias Sugar FC while most of the Green Commandos players joined Motcom, AFC Leopards and Rivatex FC after their high school education. During the Provincial finals at Sigalagala that year I remember the match between us and the Scorpions was abandoned. We were leading by a goal when Musingu fans celebrated a side netting as a goal. Our Principal Mr. Kinaro would not stomach that and he asked us to leave the pitch. In the replay at Bukhungu the Green Commandos beat the Scorpions 3-1.  I remember the bitter loss to Musingu in the 1984 finals at Shanzu Teachers College like yesterday. The Green Commandos had led 1-0 throughout the match but with 5 minutes to go, Mike “Computer” Wambani did the unexpected. Like a programmed computer he scored two quick goals within 5 minutesto the end. The lone goal of the Green Commandos had been scored by Stephen “Rossi” Etole.”One of the finest players of his time, Mike ‘Computer’ Wambani had blistering speed, was a prolific goal scorer and serial killer. The defenders thought they were marking him but he was marking them instead.That win expressed the collective dream of Musingu High School. The win any school would be proud of. The Scorpions essential Coaches Mr. Mukonyi and Mr. Obura had done what other Coaches had failed to do against Chris Makokha between 1979 and 1983.  Later on Chris Makokha poached Mike Wambani the assassin so that he would not assassinate the Green Commandos again. Immediately Tom Tera completed his O-level examination, a van belonging to Rivatex FC was waiting for him at the school administration block. The story is not about tom Tera.

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The Giant Killers: Captain Keffa Tasso (L) and Mike Wambani the speed merchant. Above they are seen in Mombasa heading to a match with their tools around their necks during the 1984 KSSSA National Championships in football

1985-Drama halts a repeat of the 1984 KSSSA National Final.

This year marked another Provincial final match where both teams emphasized on a relationship between the ball, treating it well and with skill. The finalists were none other than the Green Commandos and the Scorpions. The venue was Kibabii High School in Bungoma and the year is 1985. The Green Commandos emerged as the victors with a 1-0 win. They therefore got the bragging rights as the Provincial Champions to represent Western Province in the Nationals in Kitale. Musingu went to Kitale to defend the Crown they had won in 1984. After beating Kangaru High school 1-0 in the semifinals the Green Commandos were set for another showdown against the Scorpions who had also romped into the finals. Fate would not allow this to be. Fabian Atambitsa the Green Commandos sweeper narrates: “It was around 2 am when we were told to pack our belongings to return back to our school. Those who were asleep were woken up to park. Our coach Chris Makokha was also woken up and he tried in vain to request the Security to allow the team to be allowed to play in the finals. When we returned to Kakamega High school is when we learnt that we had been disqualified from the Championship. The School did not take any step against us because they were not sure whether the reason for the disqualification was genuine or witch hunting from any of our opponents. It turned out to be that ReubenAdaro the hero turned villain had been found with a girl in the dormitory trying to eat the forbidden fruit”.  With a smile I asked Fabian how a mistake by one player in the dormitory would lead to the disqualification of a whole team that had genuinely cruised to the final. His answer was “A player should have discipline on and off the pitch”. Musingu lost the finals to Homabay High School who had replaced the Green Commandos. While in Kakamega High School Fabian Atambitsa played for Eldoret KCC and later plied his trade at Rivatex FC and Panpaper FC.

Derby of equals in 1986

In 1986 the Scorpions beat the Green Commandos 1-0 in the Districts finals at Chavakali High School. The late Alfayo Odongo scored the winning goal. Musingu High School therefore proceeded to the Provincial finals with the bragging rights as the District Champions. The Green Commandos proceeded to the Provincial Championships by virtue of being the defending Champions. St Peters Mumias was the venue.   In the final match the two foes met again.  The Green Commandos Commanded by beating the Scorpions 1-0 in the Mumias final with a goal from Mike Otieno. When speaking to Mike Otieno about this particular match he wasn’t remembering that he was the scorer of the lone goal but Fabian Atambitsa told me this classic striker had scored a colossal number of goals for the Green Commandos and would not recall some of them. Mike Otieno says “it was more passionate to win for the Green Commandos than winning for Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars. The joy of winning from the fans and everyone was overwhelming” Fabian Adambitsa of the Green Commandos says: “Some of the toughest opponents in the Musingu team were the late Alfayo Odongo who apart from having amazing footwork’s was extremely fast and opportunistic before goal.  Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo of the Scorpions was the midfielder one would ever wish for.We proceeded to the National competition that year in Thika and were crowned as the undisputed Champions without losing a single match. Our first 11 was 1.Charles Atsole 2. Patrick Namayi 3. Julius Were 4. Reginald Asibwa 5. Fabian Adambitsa 6. Hezron Osuka 7. Mike Wambani 8. Stephen “Rossi” Etole 9. Mike Otieno 10. Sylvanus Bulinda 11. Joash Okon’go”

What they say about the rivalry in 1987

On the 1987 derby Mike Kisaghi the Kakamega High School goalkeeper says: “We played Musingu in the Provincial finals and beat won 3-1 with goals from Tony Lwanga, Zakayo Omenda and Isaac Kwoba. Musingu Scorpions scored the consolation goal through Anthony ‘Ofaque’ Okumu. The threatening players from Musingu were the late Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo, the late Alfayo Odongo and Joseph “Killer” Ngaira. That year The Green Commandos lost in the Nationalfinals against Iterio in a penalty shootout at Bukhungu Stadium in a rainy final. It was a grudge match as The Green Commandos had beaten Iterio in the finals in Thika in 1986. Iterio had scored first through Richard Otambo while the Green Commandos equalized through Mike “Computer” Wambani.After his playing days at Green Commandos, Kisaghi played for Gor Mahia and the National team amongst other teams.

Anthony “Ofaque” Okumu of the Scorpions says this about the 1987 derby: “We met the Green Commandos at the Provincial finals and the match was abandoned and a replay ordered. I strongly believe this was stage managed as we had a very strong Scorpions team that was a threat to the Green Commandos. In the return match Kakamega High School beat us although we still proceeded to the Nationals held in Kakamega. In the Nationals we beat Iterio but we were disqualified and chased away from Kakamega High School by Police. The reason we were disqualified is that our fans invaded the pitch to celebrate the win. When the Green Commandos met Iterio in the finals at Bukhungu, the Musingu fans in hundreds of course cheered Iterio High School to revenge on the Green Commandos”. That reminds me of the African Cup Winners’ Cup final in Zaire in 1994 between Kenya Breweries and DC Motema Pembe of Zaire.In an Interview with Festus Serenge the Musingu defender he remembers like yesterday how AS Vita Club the bigger team in Zaire had their entire fans rally behind Breweries. Unfortunately for Breweries these fans did not travel to Nairobi for the return leg to cheer the Brewers. The return leg was a story Kenyan fans love to hate. After playing for the Scorpions, Okumu was at the heights of his power and played for MOW, Shamako Babes, Mumias Sugar FC, briefly at AFC Leopards and Harambee Stars. The leader on and off the pitch was a High School teacher and today is currently working at the Kakamega County Government as a Ward Administrator. He still exercises and with a clean living looks as youthful and energetic as ever. Mike Obonyo of says “During my first stint at Kakamega High School the encounter I recall was my first derby against the Musingu Scorpions in 1987 in the Provincial finals at Bukhungu Stadium in which we emerged victorious. We qualified for the Nationals that were held in Kakamega. I had been at Menengai High School in Nakuru where Chris Makokha scouted me but I had not encountered such ecstasy in a football match”. Mike Obonyo played for KFA, MOW, AFC Leopards and the Harambee stars Under 21.

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The Mighty Green Commandos team before the KSSSA Finals against Iterio High School at Bukhungu Stadium in 1987:  Standing L-R: Chris Arochi, Isaac Kwoba, Patrick Namai, Danston Imbwaga, Patrick Mapiri, Zakayo Omenda,James Osiema, David Inonda, Mike Kisaghi, Squatting (L-R) Elphas Khamadi, Moses Kung’ombe, Protus Makokha, Mike Wambani, Mike Obonyo, Tony Lwanga, Joab Musine, Reginald Asibwa.   (Photo Courtesy)  

Festus Serenge who started as a midfielder at Musingu and ended up as a defender says: “Whenever these two Giants met there was fearsome rivalism. In the stadium the fans were separated. Regardless of the results of the match war was inevitable. Sometimes exchange of words and emotions begun even before the match. During this derby fans from Kakamega supported the Green Commandos but some supported Festus Serenge their son from Bukhulunya”. After his studies at Musingu, Festus Serenge played for Rivatex and Kenya Breweries. He was in the Kenya Secondary Schools team that played in Zambia in 1986.

 Bukhungu lights up in 1993

As a boy old enough to tell football artistry I got the honor to watch the finals between the Green Commandos and the Scorpions at Bukhungu Stadium in the District finals in the year above. Before the District finals I watched a breathtaking semifinal match between the Scorpions of Musingu and St Peters Mumias. Kakamega High School was the venue of the match. I decided to watch that mouthwatering derby next to Coach Chris Makokha so that I could hear his comments and analyses on the match. What I remember most till this day as I pen down this story is the goal scored by the late Musingu Striker Steve ‘Okush’ Okumu. He dribbled past all the opposing defenders of St Peters with artistry to remain with only the goalkeeper to beat. Okumu the wizard of dribble beat the advancing goalkeeper effortlessly leaving him on the ground for dead and put the ball in the empty net. I have seen such goals on video clips scored only by world superstars like Diego Maradona and George Best. And what were Chris Makokha’s remarks. “That player is great.” The football technocrat didn’t say more than that. He needn’t have to. In the Districts finals the Green Commandos faced Musingu in a packed Bukhungu Stadium. Both teams had characteristic abilities of flashes of individual brilliance. The match had everything football should have. You don’t hear WOW! In football matches. You hear shouts, blaring songs, fans cheering, and food vendors yelling as they hike up and down in the stands. But that day at Bukhungu you would hear fans say WOW.  While the midfield of the Green Commandos had players such as Yussuf “Negro” Ahmed, Abubakar Yussuf and Solomon Shikanda, Musingu had the late Bernard “Makambo” Agunda as the focal point. His abilities on the ball were remarkable. Musingu also had Bernard Makuto who was small in size but big as a player. While the attacking of the Green Commandos had revered players such as Maurice Sunguti, Japhary Oyando, Sammy Okoth and the likes of Abdul “Daddy” Abdalla, Musingu had the irresistible Steve ‘Okush’ Okumu who caused all kinds of nightmares upfront. Between the posts the Green Commandos had Dan Shikuku who was gifted with exceptional reflexes. On the opposite side Musingu had Charles Akwata in goal.  He had a huge frame like a wardrobe and could hold the whole ball in one hand making it look like a tennis ball. Both teams played scintillating football with a virtuous display that can only be defined by superlatives. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and had to be replayed. Chris Makokha was very experienced in reading the opponents game and the return match proved to be easy for Kakamega High School as they won 2-0 to proceed to the Provincials and met Chesamis High School. This one was more of a kick boxing match as Chesamis played roughly with aun sporting spirit. How I wished even the Provincial finals would have been a repeat between Musingu and Kakamega High School because when they met it wasn’t the score that mattered but the way of winning following the FIFA rules and that established the greatness of Western Province football.Even if the match against Chesamis was repeated 10time it would never equal that between Kakamega and Musingu.

Chris Makokha
Coach Chris Makokha and Mr. Kwendo in one of the Green Commandos matches of yester years. Both heroes are deceased.

The derby galvanized by players Crossing Over

In an article by Odindo Ayieko on “Why Dan Shikanda is a traitor to some AFC Leopards fans:”He says if a heart could be divided Shikanda’s would be green (Gor Mahia) on one side and blue (AFC Leopards) on the other. The original owners of AFC Leopards then known as Abaluhya, would turn in their graves were they to know a former Gor Mahia player leads their beloved club. John Okello Zangi was the first player from Gor Mahia to play for AFC Leopards. I remember fans called him Wanyonyi. In the year 2000 Luis Figo completed the most controversial transfer in football history when he moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid shocking the world. When given the number 10 jersey by legend Alfredo Di Stefano he did not look happy. His returns to the Nou Camp were haunting. Missiles were thrown at him. A banner that read “We hate you now, for we loved you then” perhaps hurt him most.

Much as the fans saw it as a crime to cross overit was common for players to cross over from Musingu to Kakamega High School and vice versa. Some of the notable names who crossed over from Kakamega to Musingu were Washington Muhanji and Mike Otieno. Players who crossed from Musingu to Kakamega areIsaac Kwoba, Mike “Computer” Wambani, Reginald Asibwa, Julius Were and Festus Ocholi among others. This crossing over increased the rivalry between these two neighbors. After being crowned as the 1986 KSSSA Champions at Green Commandos Mike Otieno joined arch rivals Musingu High School. This move brought the enthusiasm that was expected in a derby. Mike Otieno was the catalyst. In the derby between the two in 1987 Mike Otieno would receive a baptism of fire in from the Green Commandos fans who heckled him. Mike Obonyo says this on that match: “During the 1987 derby between the Green Commandos and the Scorpions Mike Otieno had just left the Green Commandos under the normal crossing of players between the two schools. He had been very instrumental in the emphatic win by the Green Commandos in the KSSSA National Championship in Thika in 1986. The Musingu fans sang Oti-Oti Oti to give their brilliant striker morale. On the other side the Green Commandos fans sang Asi-Asi-Asi khumira Oti”. They urged their reliable defender Asibwa to swallow Mike Otieno.

Very, Very passionate fans

Who are the most important people in football? The players? The Managers? The Chairmen? The Administrators? No, the most important are the fans because without them there would be no such thing as professional football. Despite the fierce rivalry between teams and countries, fans are united by their love for the game. That’s what brings them together and what sees them apart.

The derby between the Green Commandos and the Scorpions drew fans like a magnate. The players would never escape the euphoria of the fans. The fans of the winning team celebrated jubilantly while for the losing team the tears came in floods. Sometimes players feeling like the whole stadium would collapse on them during celebration after a goal was scored. Players idolized by the fans.

Read also The never forgotten football legends of kakamega high school: green commandos “class of 1986”

Fred “Kapro” Serenge has this to say on the 1984 football extravaganza: “The Provincial finals between the Green Commandos and the Scorpions at Bukhungu Stadium had a lot of stakes. The fans arrived at the stadium as early as 8 am. The Scorpions fans went to Bukhungu Stadium on foot and took over Kakamega town. It was a battle of supremacy. The fans carried food in banana leaves because nobody wanted to miss the match. By 9 am the stadium was full to the brim. There was tension in town between two rivalries. The Musingu fans were led by the late Tom “lipusi muya wa Chibley’Chibukosia. This match was eagerly awaited and there was commotion amongst fans on the pitch. When the big match begun the whole stadium went wild and then silent.Both teams played with flamboyance.They played football for the people with deep passion. After that match there was a problem because the Musingu team could not leave the Bukhungu stadium because the Kakamega High School fans had blocked the road for hours. Since then the rivalry has never ceased to be. I am yet to watch a match of this magnitude with the stadium filled to the brim. Fred Serenge a brother to both Joe and Festus Serenge of Musingu scorpions played for Kisumu Breweries, Kenya Breweries and AFC Leopards. He is a former coach of Kakamega Homeboys and the Harambee Starlets youth side.

Fever Pitch

Mike Obonyo says this about the passion of the fans in Kakamega: “I realized how people were crazy with football in Kakamega. What I had experienced in Menengai High School had no comparison with the fanatical Kakamega High School fans. Before a match the build up by the cheering squad starts a week earlier. The stadium was always packed when the Green Commandos were playing and the Stadium was electric. Cheering by the fans was from the beginning to the end”.

Ask your friends to name the two most successful school teams in Western Province…and if they give the answer as Kakamega and Musingu High School, then it shows that they really know their football.

 

11 thoughts on “Kakamega versus Musingu High School Football Derby. Is it a battle of titans – The Story

  1. Great writing . But there is a piece of school football history that we all ignore . Kakamega high school was not the first school from western to win the national football championship. The first school was kamusinga under the tutilage of the late Ashitiva before he came to Kakamega high school .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This piece deserves a award 👏👏👏a piece with entising content to read and all this is what a sport man would like to read and hear about. Big up coach and journalist Mr. Mukasa

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was in Musingu and did not know whether to like or hate Kakamega because it appeared they specialised in beating Musingu, or they put in a lot of effort when meeting Musingu. They would struggle against Teams like Mukumu, Nyang’ori but beating Musingu was almost guaranteed. And the draws were ever unfair – in preliminary rounds, we did the donkey job to beat the teams that gave Green Commandos hard time. The draws vever paired those teams that gave Green Commandos difficult time in early stages of the tourament.

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    • Hahaha nevertheless your team Musingu was great too

      On Mon, Sep 21, 2020 at 12:38 PM Mukasa Football Diary wrote:

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  4. As an alumni of Musingu this articles has just given me some nostalgia about the great two footballing teams in western. Wow! could not resist reading the entire article. Good piece of work.

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