When the lights went out at Nyayo

Never has a power outage been more welcome for Kenyans than the one which occurred at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium during the semifinal of the 4th All African Games football tournament on 9 August 1987.

Dream tournament

Home side Harambee stars had enjoyed a dream run, qualifying for this stage after finishing second in Pool A behind Cameroon. The Reinhardt Fabisch coached side had started their campaign with a 1-0 win over Tunisia courtesy of Ambrose Ayoyi’s late goal. They would then play out a pulsating 3-3 draw against Cameroon, the goals coming from Ayoyi, Wilberforce Mulamba and Mickey Weche.

Decisive fixture

Heading into their decisive final pool game, the Stars fell behind to a 13th minute Madagascar goal and trailed at the interval. Mulamba would pop up with the equalizer ten minutes into the second half before George “Nyangi” Odembo unleashed a blockbuster of a free kick to secure the 2-1 win and a semifinal date against Pool B winners and CECAFA rivals Malawi.

The blackout

The hopes of a nation lay on Harambee Stars when they kitted up to face Malawi in the semifinal under the floodlights at the Nyayo National Stadium on 9th August 1987. The Malawians took the game by the scruff of the neck, racing into a 1-0 lead and putting the Harambee Stars on the ropes before the lights gave in. The floodlight failure was attributed to a power outage, an explanation that was taken with a pinch of salt by the Malawians. The match was called off after a prolonged stoppage and decision made to have it replayed the following day.

Replay and penalty shootout

The two sides would play out a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra time, Ayoyi’s equalizer cancelling out Charles Phiri’s goal before David Ochieng’s penalty saving exploits saw the Kenyans advance to the final with a 3-2 penalty shootout win.

They would then fall to a 1-0 final defeat to Egypt at Kasarani on 12 August 1987,settling for the silver medal in what remains Kenya’s best outing to date.

P.S: Power outages too are still commonplace in Kenya today.

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