Johnstone Mukonyi: Does he occupy a special place in the hearts of Musingu High School Football fans?

Johnstone Mukonyi (extreme left) with the 1982 Musingu Scorpions team in the Provincial finals in Bungoma.  (Photo –Johnstone Mukonyi)

He mastermind a tactical victory against the seemingly invincible Green Commandos of Kakamega High School in the finals of the KSSSA National Championship in Mombasa in 1984 to become Champions of the Country? Hats off to Mukonyi. Nurtured players that would become national class? Hats off to Mukonyi. He coached MOW in the top tier of the Kenya football league in 1984? Hats off to Mukonyi. Johnstone Mukonyi is one of the most important, influential and successful managers in the football history of Musingu High School. Coach Mukonyi became revered when he led the Scorpions of Musingu to a 2-1 win over the Green Commandos in Shimolatewa in an interesting final against the football super powers from Western Kenya. The Green Commandos had won the Championship 5 times in a row and were unbeatable. Keffa Tasso the decorated captain of the triumphant Scorpions team in 1984 describes Mukonyi as a coach who understood the game very well and was undoubtedly the reason for Musingu’s success story. Mukonyi doubled up as a teacher and a top Coach. “He studied the game and was superb in coaching both theories in class and practical’s on the pitch”. Adds Keffa Tasso.

How he begun

Mukonyi started as an assistant coach to Stanley Ashitiva in 1980. He then took over fully as the head coach in 1982 when Mr. Ashitiva moved to Bungoma High School. If Ashitiva built the foundations of football in Musingu, Johnstone Mukonyi built a great house on top of them. In Johnstone Mukonyi Musingu had the man to lead them to glory. They played to win and destroy their opponents. “I attended a number of coaching clinics organised by KSSSA Western branch where renowned coaches like Jonathan Niva were the facilitators. These trainings took place at Kakamega and Lugulu high schools on different occasions” Recalls Mukonyi. “This celebrated coach was a father figure to many, a giver and an honest gentleman”. Mike Otieno describes coach Mukonyi. The coach attended several short courses in Nairobi organised by KFF for Super league teams the equivalent of the Kenya Premier League. The facilitators were from FIFA and mainly in Germany.

Bousted Mukolwe a product of Mukonyi says “Mukonyi had a great understanding of football and could motivate players to get the best out of them. He was like a father to most of us. I joined the Scorpions when I was 13 years. Mukonyi established a youth team for us. Many players in the Musingu team were big in body size. Players such as Justus Wekesa, Kennedy Madegwa, Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo, and Enock Momanyi   were among those endowed physically.  Anthony “Ofek” Okumu, Oigara and I were small in size. The late Oigara could not be in the first team because he was small in size. By 1985 I was drafted in the senior team alongside Festus Serenge”

Mukolwe remembers the starting 11 of the remarkable Musingu scorpions in 1982 to be

1.David “Zoff” Simiyu   2. Jacob “Peugeot” Simiyu,   3. Baraza   4.Maraka    5.Enock “Manocky” Momanyi   6. Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo   7. Maurice “Tricky monkey” Magomere    8.  Dennis Cx3” Munyendo     9. Justus “Simulambo” Wekesa     10. Kennedy Madegwa    11.Henry Oigara/Henry Litu. 

 Mukolwe now a football coaches himself and a member of the Kenya Football Coaches Association (KENFOCA) remembers when the 1982 squad of Musingu drew with the Mighty Green Commandos at Kakamega High School. This was in the District finals of the KSSSA football Championship. During this epic duel the Green Commandos had household names such as Dan Musuku, Mike Amwayi, Joseph “Kempes” Mukatia, Mike “Ocheche”   Amwayi, Peter Lichungu and Ronny Watsiera just but a few to mention.

The Scorpions in the KSSSA National Championship in Machakos in 1982

Standing L-R

Justus Wekesa, Maraka, Enock Momanyi, Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo (RIP), Dennis Munyendo, Maurice Makomere, Kennedy Madegwa (RIP), Henry Oigara (RIP), Johnstone Mukonyi-Coach

Squatting L-R

Litu, Bungei, David “Zoff” Simiyu, “fullback”, Mukhobi, Gondwe

Coaching at MOW

“Tom Sabuni was the Coach of the Ministry of Works (MOW) football team before Chris Makokha and Stanley Ashitiva took over. The two football technocrats recruited me as their assistant. I took over MOW in 1984 when Chris Makokha became diabetic. By then some of the greatest players from Musingu were Pius “Khoikhoi” Masinza, Anyonyi, Washington Muhanji, Justus Wekesa, Gabriel Olang and Dennis Munyendo amongst other super talented players”. Coach Mukonyi. Asked about the most notable players in MOW in 1984 he mentioned Aggrey Litali, Chaga, Milimu, Aromba, Lihanda, Bakari, Mike “Computer” Wambani and Gabriel Olang before he joined Volcano United.

Johnstone Mukonyi addressing MOW football team at Bukhungu Stadium in 1986.  (Photo-Johnstone Mukonyi) 

Why Musingu was a football powerhouse

Mukonyi the Electrical Technology and Physics teacher says this on the reason Musingu was a footballing icon in football “Mr. Kinaro the Principal I found in Musingu was a staunch supporter of sports. Then came Nathan Anaswa in the position of school Principal and luckily he had the same passion as Kinaro”. Mukonyi made Musingu to be the school to study at and play football. During his era at Musingu as the coach the scorpions were one of the best high school teams in the country. “The boy’s commitment to soccer was unwavering. They could put in every effort, energy and time without expecting any payment. There was high discipline among the players and luckily drugs had not infiltrated the beautiful game”. Johnstone Mukonyi. During his time at Musingu the school participated in the KSSSA National Championships in 1978,1980,1981,1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987. In 1985 the finals of the KSSSA in Kitale would be a repeat between the Scorpions and the Green Commandos had the latter not been disqualified after their player was found in the ladies hostel which was against the regulations. Musingu lost to Homabay High School in the finals that day. They had beaten Homabay in the preliminary stages.

The Scorpions team that reached the finals of the KSSSA football Championship finals in Kitale in 1985 against Homabay High School.   (Photo-Johnstone Mukonyi)

Standing L-R

Arthur Odhiambo, David Sikolia, Isaac Kwoba, Anthony Akhonya, Protus Munyendo, Wenslaus Ambata,Thomas Omboko, Masika Ingunyi, Job Masinde, Johnsone Mukonyi-Coach

Squatting L-R

Joe Serenge, Livingstone Bumbe, David Lubanga, Geofrey Patya, Brian Tiema, Festus Serenge

Front row

Steve Matalanga and George Ambaisi

Stiff Competition

About his toughest opponents in the eighties Mukonyi has this to say “Kakamega High School, St. Peters Mumias, St. Mary’s Kibabii from Western, Kisumu boys and Iterio from Nyanza, Chewoyet from Kapenguria and Menengai from Rift valley were the teams that we would meet and feel the weight. The rest were just pushovers”

The greatest players Mukonyi nurtured in Musingu

Mukonyi recruited great players that he could mould into anything he wanted. Under his guidance, several amazing footballers came into prominence and reached heights they could not even imagine. Winning the 1984 KSSSA football Championship proved the springboard from a mere coach to a celebrity. “Mukonyi was a good and strict coach. He always put his wings around his team of players. Football was in his life. Mukonyi never coached for the love of money or fame but to develop talent. I pity those coaches who are like Donald Trump and never learnt from the late Chris Makokha, Sammy Nyongesa, Jonathan Niva and Mohammed Kheri. I respect him for whatever he did for us. It is immeasurable. Much respect to Mr. Mukonyi and God bless him”. Mike Otieno gives testimony. The  great players from Musingu that passed through the hands of Mukonyi include captain Keffa Tasso, Washington Muhanji, Alfayo Odongo, Mike “Computer” Wambani, Arthur “Coimbra” Odhiambo, Mike Otieno, Gabriel Olang, Dennis Munyendo, Festus Serenge, captain Pius “Khoikhoi” Masinza, captain Patrick Mutai, Thomas Omboko, Joe Serenge, Anthony “Ofek” Okumu, Bousted Mukolwe, Andrew Mugaisi, Maurice Makomere, Justus Wekesa, Enock Momanyi, Tom Meja, Joseph “Killer” Ngaira Mbapale, Julius Were, John Kabwoya, Reginald Asibwa, Wenslaus Ambata, Noah Ndunde, Job Masinde, Protus Munyendo, Lumumba and George Ambaisi.

“Johnstone Mukonyi was the coach who nurtured talent just for Chris Makokha to benefit. Talents such as Isaac Kwoba, Oigara, Dennis Munyendo, Mike “Computer” Wambani and Julius Were, just but a few to mention were poached by Kakamega High School.” Festus Serenge justifies the super role of Coach Mukonyi in nurturing talents. After the KSSSA National Championships in Kitale in 1985 for the Scorpions, Festus Serenge was selected in the Kenya Secondary Schools National team that clinched the Secondary Schools Championship in Zambia. “Coach Mukonyi believed in youth development and he was a mentor who was always patient for results. He converted me from a midfielder into a defender. He was very fair in squad selection and told me he would make sure the boy from the village makes it to greater heights. That was me. He was always a winner.” Adds Festus Serenge.

Aging gracefully: Johnsone Mukonyi (Center) with Mike Otieno and his wife at his home in Matete, Kakamega.

Johnstone Mukonyi earns his place among the most successful coaches in the KSSSA football competitions. He was a true leader. He knew it and made everybody know it. He is retired but will never be forgotten because he is one of those magical people you will never forget.

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