The 'signing' of Giovanni Rodriguez by Gor Mahia, big lesson to Kenyan clubs reveals how K'ogalo officials were duped to 'acquire' the Brazilian, who head coach Zdravko Logarusic, later deemed surplus to requirement

By David Kwalimwa

In December, a renowned football agent walked into the Gor Mahia SC secretariat in Nairobi and claimed to have a deal that would change the face of Kenyan football for the better - and forever.

Armed with DVD's of a football match from the Indonesian league, the agent (name-withheld) claimed to have a Brazilian player ‘who was eager to join the Kenya Premier League as soon as possible’.

On studying the clips, most of the club officials approved the deal. According to Gor Mahia deputy Secretary General Ronald Ngala, “The player in the video was very fast and skilful, he could also go past players with little ease just like Were (Paul) of AFC Leopards. We thought this is a player that would improve our team.”

Everything was thereafter, set in place to ensure the Samba Star (Giovanni Rodriguez) arrived in Kenya. After all he was scheduled to be the first South American player to feature in the Kenyan Premier League.

During his first visit to Nairobi City Stadium - the home of Gor Mahia's training ground - a confident Rodriguez told, "I will definitely prove myself soon. Many will ask why a Brazilian should come to Kenya to play football, its interesting yes, but I love Africa and I love Kenya. There has to be a first and I want to be that first Brazilian who came to Kenya to play football. I am not a tourist."

An understandable hullabaloo thereafter, greeted the local football scene with social sites abuzz about the latest import.

After all Gor Mahia, had under the noses of most clubs including rivals AFC Leopards, stolen a march by pulling a fast and historic signing that would attract the attention from virtually every corner of the continent.

The club administrators might - in the same breath - have licked their lips on the repercussions the media hype on the player would have had on gate collections.

Right? Wrong.

On the contrary, the person who arrived at the airport following the completion of the deal looked more of a business man seeking holiday in the Coastal town of Mombasa, other than a football player.

Three training sessions later and the player was deemed surplus to requirements by coach Zdravko Logarusic.

“After watching the player in the last one week, it is our opinion as the technical bench that he will not fit in our system. He needs time to work on his fitness and, perhaps, we can consider him when the new transfer window opens."

“Moreover, we have also discovered after interacting with him that he has some personal problems he needs to work on and this means he has to go back home before he can have the necessary focus to play football. He is also home-sick,” said Logarusic.

Then the controversy.

Ngala adds: “I am tempted to think this is not the player we saw on video. Or else that video is more than two years old.” Which begs the question? How did the club agree to negotiate and sign the Brazilian without the tacticians consent?

This reminds me of the parting shot of the club’s former assistant coach Ken Odhiambo. “The officials of the club contributed as much to the poor results registered during my stint. They would send texts to us imposing players and tactics before matches and threaten us with the sack if we didn't obey them.”

Still, the next challenge at hand involves how to get rid of the player. Noises have been made to the effect that Rodriguez had signed a two year deal worth Sh150, 000 per month, and the agent has indicated that the player intends to honor it. Which means the club should pay out the agreement in full in case they intend to terminate it.

Lessons learnt?

“We (the management) have now learnt our lesson. Gor Mahia will hence forth, never sign a player without watching him live or inviting him for trials,” Ngala concludes. Time will tell.