The country is yet to come to terms with the brutal death of Kenyan football super fan, Isaac Juma. The fifty-something-year-old is said to have been murdered following a land dispute in his home village in Mumias West, Kakamega County. It is a sad reality that shook the nation and whose ramifications are immeasurably indescribable. It is sad.
Isaac loved football, and indeed football flew in his blood. He was rightly described as a supporter number one of Kenya national football team Harambee Stars, and FKF Premier League side AFC Leopards – who enjoy a huge following from the Western part of the country. He was a legend!
Juma, who had worked as a shoe shiner cum newspaper vendor for over four decades in Nakuru, was hacked to death on Wednesday night (January 26, 2022) by unknown people in Mumias, Kakamega County.
However, as tributes continue to pour in from all parts of the country, one key question is, was Juma celebrated enough when he was alive and what can we do to create a permanent legacy? Isaac Juma manifested his love for football through colours painted on his body. A solitary figure he was; Kenya one, as he was fondly referred to by fellow football lovers, could paint his body with red, black and green colours whenever Harambee Stars were in action, and you could spot him in blue and white colours whenever AFC Leopards were playing.
TV cameras loved him too, as he offered a different level of energy during games, and was attractive to the eye. He celebrated passionately and ranted unequivocally when things did not go as expected. He had a usual spot in every stadium he visited and you could see him dance all the time with the crowds cheering him up. He was a source of positive energy to both the team and its fans.
For more than four decades, Juma would travel from Kakamega to Nairobi every time the national team was playing. In a previous interview with him, he said that missing a match was never an option to him, regardless of what it took. “Seeing our national flag colours ignited something in me. I ate, lived and breathed football. It gave me full satisfaction. Through football, I have been able to travel to different countries,” he said.
And as an indication of just how much he sacrificed, Juma further said that some of his personal decisions to support the team came at a cost, huge costs that he somehow lived to regret. “There is a day I left a sick child in the house and went to the stadium, on coming back I found the child dead, it was painful I was judged and at that point, I tried to give up on this but I couldn’t. It’s something that is in my blood,” Juma narrated.
He could spend his own resources just to get to a football venue, and all this for the love of the game. “Most of the times I travelled I used to personally source for funds and accommodation. Thank God for my brother who never got tired of hosting me and also helped me in painting my body,” he said.
In the past years, we have witnessed huge crowds of football fans fill the stadiums but the likes of Juma are rare to find because of his passion, sacrifice and commitment to cheering his team under any circumstances. At times fans lose hope in their teams and move on to other things. Juma did not, and even when Harambee Stars was a laughing stock of modern-day fans, he stood with the national team and gave it his unwavering support.
It is from this background that the late Isaac Juma and indeed his family back in Mumias deserve a little more than the tributes pouring in. First, and urgently so, there should be thorough investigations into his brutal murder, and the perpetrators brought to book. Justice must be seen to be served.
Secondly, the Federation of Kenyan Football (FKF) now under a caretaker committee should come up with a way of supporting Juma’s family during this trying times, and after. Such resources will go a long way in helping the family to pick up themselves, as they come to terms with the sad reality of losing their own who was also the country’s treasure.
And as a way of creating long-lasting memory, the federation could consider naming one of the stands in Kasarani or Nyayo national stadiums after Juma.
AFC Leopards should also consider doing a few of such and Juma shall have been celebrated ideally. What a sacrifice! All for the love of football. Juma was indeed an unsung hero.