After winning the league in 1979, Gor Mahia had to watch on the sidelines as AFC Leopards became the first team to win the Kenyan league three times in a row between 1980 and 1982.
With seven league titles to their name compared to our four and Kenya Breweries’ three titles – our biggest rivals were in the bragging zone as the most successful club in the country.
The Gor Mahia squad by the end of 1982 was a mix of veterans and promising newcomers and had been rocked by internal politics among the players.
Something needed to be done to break the domestic dominance by AFC Leopards and hold off upcoming challengers such as Kenya Breweries and Scarlet FC.
The club recruited Briton Len Julians, a former Arsenal player, to oversee the rebuilding of the team. Most of the aging players were released and new upcoming talent recruited. Among these were midfield engine Charles Otieno from Kisumu Hotstars, exciting striker Abdallah Shebe from Feisal FC and Kenatco FC goal poacher Hesbon Omollo.
They joined upcoming stars John Okello ‘Zangi’ and Sammy Onyango ‘Jogoo’ who had been recruited earlier.
The season got off to an inconspicuous start, with Gor Mahia finishing last in their CECAFA club championship group after losing to AFC Leopards and Uganda’s Sports Villa. They were then eliminated in the first round of the African Cup Winners Cup by Burundi’s Vital’O. That poor form was replicated in the league with the club only collecting one point from their first three games, drawing with Nzoia and losing to Motcom and Kenya Breweries.
Four consecutive wins after that (against Kenatco, Cargo, Reunion and KTM) would have fans finally believing in the new coach as the club reignited what would be an exciting title chase campaign.
With the main title challengers going on an 18 game unbeaten run, and with a striker (Charles Odero) in red hot form that would see him score 28 goals that season, Gor Mahia had to be at their best to match them.
Gor Mahia put together a run of 33 without loss with new striker Hesbon Omollo scoring 18 goals complemented by 15 goals apiece from John Okello ‘Zangi’ and Gideon Hamisi while Abdalla Shebe notched seven goals.
Victories over Panpaper, Kisumu Posta, and AFC Leopards in the run-in was enough to finally bring the title back home despite losing to challengers Scarlet (who finished 2nd) on the final day of the league.
This was indeed one of the greatest moments for the club, laying the foundation for three consecutive league wins and forming the nucleus of the team that would go on to win the Africa Cup Winners Cup 4 years later.