Explore the Christmas tale of John Kasongo, the footballer who possibly scored the fastest goal in FKF Premier League history.
Any football aficionado who grew up in the 80s would surely reminisce about the golden era of Kenyan football. It was a time when legends were born, heroes were celebrated, and the thrill of the game united us all.
In those days, if you had an elder brother who loved football, you were destined for an unforgettable childhood filled with cherished memories.
The 80s were an era when KBC brought the excitement of FKF Premier League games right into our living rooms. Despite the limited camera work and the absence of replays, fans were glued to their TV screens.
In many villages and towns, once could find just one TV set for a population of over a hundred, but every weekend, around 4 pm, fans would gather at the video halls to witness the FKFPL action unfold.
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Yet, amid the nostalgia and camaraderie of those days, one story stood out among the countless tales shared by fans—a story of a striker named John Odie Kasongo.
This is the story of a man who might just hold the record for the fastest goal in FKF Premier League history, a feat achieved during a heated Mashemeji derby.
"I remember him during his playing days. He was a joy to watch and was also a nightmare for any defender," reminisced retired former Harambee Stars goalkeeper Mohamud Abbas in an interview with Pulse Sports.
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As recounted in Koderoh Diary, the stage was set - Gor Mahia versus AFC Leopards. The ball rested in the center, and Gor Mahia initiated the kickoff with an attack.
But it was swiftly cleared by an AFC defender, Sebastian Andulu, who sent it flying past Paul Ochieng, past Tobias Ocholla, and into the path of John Odie Kasongo. With grace and precision, Odie seized the opportunity, racing toward the goal as Joseph Asembo guarded the net.
Left and then right, Odie spotted his location and expertly placed the ball to Asembo's left. The result? Probably the fastest goal ever in the FKF Premier League, although we will never know for sure.
Born in Nairobi's Jericho estate in July 1964, John Odie Kasongo was a son whose destiny was unknown at birth. Little did anyone know that he would grow up to become one of the greatest footballers of his time.
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His journey into football began when he was in Secondary School during a time when Kenya had four soccer youth centers, known as Olympic centers.
Yet, while Odie's passion for the game burned brightly, his opportunity to shine arrived in 1981 when a scout took him to join Re Union FC.
However, Odie's initial encounter with the team proved daunting. He found himself surrounded by formidable players like Ben Omaya 'Japolo,' Apolo Obota, and Martin Oswayo Ochieng, his uncle, who were giants on the field. Their presence intimidated the young Odie, prompting him to run away from Re Union without a second thought.
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"With his size, Odie, who played at the back as a defender did not look forward to going against players such as Masiga, Tony Lidonde, Hamieno Musee from Kahawa Canon who were huge strikers in the Premier League then. One thing he knew was that, he could not go against these men of God," the publication indicates.
On June 15, 1982, Odie, now a form four student, decided to give his dream another shot at Re Union. Ben Omaya, now the team manager, welcomed him back into the fold. However, Odie was no longer a defender. After three months of rigorous training at Pumwani Sports Ground, he still could not break into the first eleven.
"He remembers that their lineup used to be read at Forest Lodge Westland’s, they used to sit outside, the line up was read out aloud and if you had made it you were safe, if you were not in the lineup you were on your own and it was up to your team mates to collect some coins for you to get your ticket back home," it adds.
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One memorable incident from those days involved a match against Canon Sportive. The opposing team demanded an appearance fee of 15,000 shillings, while Re Union received a mere 21 shillings for a group of seven players to split among themselves. After 45 minutes of play, Canon Sportive refused to continue unless they were paid in full, and the management obliged.
The FKF Premier League in those times was a year-round affair, featuring 22 teams. For Odie, the more he played, the fitter he became.
It was only when the late Erick Omonge, a striker and former Kenyan international, was transferred to Mombasa that Odie finally got his chance to wear the Re Union Jersey.
While in Mombasa, Omonge had not trained diligently, but his presence was crucial for a significant match against AFC Leopards.
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Odie had hoped this would be his breakthrough, but Omonge secured his position in the starting lineup as usual, despite doubts from the team manager.
However, after 15 minutes of play, Omonge raised his hands, signaling that he needed to be substituted. The team manager insisted that Omonge complete the full 90 minutes, but Omonge removed his shoes and refused to re-enter the field.
It was at this moment that John Odie Kasongo seized the opportunity and never looked back, donning the coveted jersey number 7.
The publication also reported that Odie's move from Re Union to AFC Leopards was anything but conventional. At the time, he was the captain of Re Union, but the chairman deemed him too old for the club, despite the issue being primarily about pay – a mere 2,000 shillings. Odie was only 28 years old when Re Union's chairman, Mr. Onyango, dismissed him as old.
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In 1992, Jack Johnson, who had left Re Union to join AFC Leopards, invited Odie Kasongo to join him at the club. Johnson promised Odie a salary of 40,000 shillings, but Odie negotiated for 70,000 shillings, which he felt he deserved.
Their first meeting took place at Stanley Hotel, in the presence of AFC patron Cyrus Jirongo. Just 24 hours later, Odie found himself sitting in the back seat of a Mercedes-Benz near YMCA, and he had no idea who had passed him an envelope containing 70,000 shillings.
He ran back home to hand the envelope to his wife and then dashed back to the camp, a journey that took him from Mathare estate and back again.
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At that time, the Re Union FC and the memorable lineup that included the John Owuor, Caleb Onyango 'Kale Kale,' Apolo Obota, Alex Mwalo, Mark Shida, the late Erick Omonge, the late Musa Bazoka, the late Charles Ochieng, Washington Odhiambo, and himself, John Odie Kasongo.
Interestingly, Odie's children have pursued academics over sports, with only one of his sons having played rugby for KCB's 15-a-side team. While his family may not fully grasp the magnitude of his footballing legacy, they proudly celebrate his name, which has become larger than life itself.
And speaking of quick goals, let us not forget the legendary William 'Chege' Ouma, who once stunned fans with his lightning-quick goal for Gor Mahia against Kenya Breweries in 1975.
Additional information Koderoh Diary