The year 1987 will go down in the history of the club as one of its greatest years ever. Not only did the club conquer all the domestic titles available, but they swept the continental scene as well – becoming the first club from the CECAFA region to lift a continental trophy.
The previous year – 1986, had not been a good year for the club. It had relinquished the league title that we had won three years in a row to perennial rivals AFC Leopards and suffered the ignominy of losing to them twice in the league. It also failed to defend the CECAFA title they had won the previous year.
A cup win in the newly revamped Football Association Cup, renamed Moi Golden Cup, over Bandari had lifted the gloom of a disappointing season and ensured a return to continental football and a two-year hiatus occasioned by a CAF ban. Fans were looking forward to 1987 with optimism.
Gor Mahia had retained the squad that had largely been built by Len Julians, bringing in only three major players that would walk into the starting line-up; little known Peter Dawo and Kisumu Hot Stars duo of Anthony Ndolo and Tobias Ocholla.
Gor Mahia began the league campaign in dominant style – winning 12 of their first 13 matches and drawing only once. New signing Peter Dawo also announced himself to the fans by scoring six goals in his first five league outings – and perhaps signalling an end to the club’s goal machine Hesbon Omollo as its premier striker.
Dawo would extend this excellent start to the African Cup Winners Cup – renamed Mandela Cup, by also hitting a brace in the club’s first match, a 2-0 win away to Marines in Somalia before hitting another brace in the return leg as Gor Mahia won 3-0. Gor Mahia would then overcome Sudan’s El Merreikh and Togo’s Entente Deux to set up one of its epic match of the year – the semi-final match against Benin’s Dragons L’Oueme.
Having fought to a barren draw in Benin in the first leg, Gor Mahia sorely missed dependable defender and Captain Austin Oduor as Dragon’s scored twice to hold us to a 2-2 draw going into the final minutes of the game. With the Beninoise going through on away goal, Peter Dawo’s last minute header from a Tobias Ocholla throw-in sent the capacity crowd into wild celebration as camera’s captured Dragon’s famed Nigerian goalkeeper Peter Rufai in tears.
“We had the fans behind us and we really did not want to disappoint. When we got the throw-in, I knew that was our moment. I just decided to throw it straight at goal and luckily, Dawo was there to do the rest,” Tobias Ocholla speaking to Cafonline.
A dogged performance away in Tunis saw Gor Mahia hold Esperance to a 2-2 draw, Dawo once again scoring the decisive equalizing goal after the Tunisians had been awarded two penalties to cancel out Abass Khamis Magongo’s opener.
Over 60,000 fans thronged Moi International Sports Center in Kasarani to see Gor Mahia hold out for a 1-1 draw to finally lift the cup that had eluded them in 1979. Peter Dawo scored his 10th goal of the tournament to give Gor Mahia the lead in the first half and even though the Tunisians equalized Gor Mahia held on to see them lift the cup.
“Dawo had been really bullied by one Esperance player from the first leg so we came up with a tactic to distract him. We went up to him and the two of us and pretended to be arguing to keep him away from Dawo. It worked, and we scored!,” Austin Oduor speaking to Cafonline.
On the domestic scene, Gor Mahia had disposed Eldoret’s KCC, Nzoia, Kisumu Breweries and Kenya Breweries in the Moi Golden Cup to set up a dream final against rivals AFC Leopards. Because of their continental run to the finals, the finals of this had been rescheduled to January 1988. Midfield engine Charles Otieno and Peter Dawo both struck to ensure the club retained the trophy before wrapping the league title with a 2-0 win over Motcom in the same month.
Peter Dawo’s effort was recognized by CAF by being named among the top 10 African players that year.
No club in Kenya has been able to replicate this feat ever since and indeed this was one of Gor Mahia’s greatest Moments!