Up close with Gor Mahia legend Peter Dawo

Peter Dawo
For very obvious reasons, Peter Dawo needs no introduction.

His legacy, all acquired in 1987, will precede any form of a formal preamble for the highest ever ranked Kenyan player in Africa.

With ten goals, nine of them headers, Dawo delivered the Cup winners Cup as Gor Mahia licked mighty Tunisian club Esperance in the finals, a historic first for a club from East Africa. That achievement is yet to be matched by any East African club 23 years on.

In that year [1987] Dawo ended up 7th in the African Player of The Year ahead of Ghana’s Abedi Ayew Pelé then at French Ligue 1 side Olympique Marseille who went on to be the best in Africa in 1991/2 and 3.

While many strikers depended on their feet to score, Dawo’s feet failed him - in a way, but they facilitated his leap up in the air where he never let a ball go to waste as his head did all the scoring.

After his claim to fame, he never lasted long on the local scene as several clubs in Africa and beyond came chasing him down for a professional stint.

With a Kshs. 150,000 signing fee in his hands and a package worth $850 a month, he landed in Egypt for a one year stint [in 1990] with Arab Contractors in the top league. He then moved to Al Seeb in Oman the next season for half the salary he got in Egypt. He returned home after that year and when a lot more of him was expected, Dawo one day woke up and called it quits just five years after he caught Africa’s imagination in 1987.

The legend, a father of five, and an uncle to [Patrick] Oboya is now bereaved after his wife passed on just three months ago. KenyanFootie.com brings him Up Close.

Read on

Mr. Dawo, thank you in taking time off to have a chat with KenyanFootie.com. Kindly gives us a brief of your past.

Dawo: Thank you for tracing me and most importantly for seeking this interview, I feel extremely appreciated.

I was born in Kericho in 1964 to Hezekiah and Sylvia Dawo. My father worked in Kericho for Brooke Bond. I had my early education at Highlands Primary school till class five after which I moved to Kisumu where I completed my primary education at Arya Primary School.

I then moved to Greenfields in Kitale then to St. Mary’s Yala where I cleared my secondary education. After that I landed at Railways Training Institute (RTI) based in South B for my tertiary education.

Tell us about your early football

Dawo: I loved the game straight from Primary school all the way to college. I featured for all my school teams where I was also a sound Hockey player.

But I blossomed when playing at RTI which prompted Gor Mahia to come for my services. I joined the team in 1987.

Did you have a nickname?

They called me Omuga, meaning Rhino. As they say I used to charge down on defenders . . . he he

The year 1987. Tell us about it.

Dawo: This is a year I can’t forget. It’s memorable for me to date. After joining Gor it did not take me long to make the team. This was the year the team had been entered into the then prestigious Cup Winners Cup.

The goals came and Gor lifted the prestigious Cup and the rest I must say is history. This was a year of glory for Kenya as the National team went on to reach the finals of the All Africa Games only losing out to Egypt.

1987 is a year saw Gor win a treble; the League ahead of its arch rivals AFC Leopards, the Domestic Cup – Moi Golden Cup after a 2-0 win against AFC in the finals. Man, and off course the Mandela Cup (Cup Winners Cup).

Other than the goals in Mandela Cup (10), I was also the top scorer in the league after scoring in virtually all the games.

What a year that was and it marks the highest point of my playing career.

So how did you deal with all the fame that came your way?

Dawo: It was very overwhelming to gain all attention. Mind you it was only my first season in the Super League (now the Premier League).

I did not let it get to my head but in every corner I turned I was a recognized man, it’s like everyone knew me. I stayed focused and hoped for a lot more as the achievements in the Mandela Cup brought lots of opportunities.

Tell us more on the opportunities.

Dawo: Several clubs came calling. South African club Hellenic is one that showed the greatest interest and in 1989 I was to join the club. But after lots of discussions, the club suddenly kept mum and the deal fell through. There was also ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast as well as two clubs from Belgium (can’t recall the names)

Next came Egyptian club Arab Contractors in 1990 who signed me up on a one year contract with an option to renew for another year.

Many expected that you would replicate your successes at Gor in Egypt. Do you consider you had a bad performance at Arab contractors?

Dawo: No not at all. Many people don’t understand the dynamics of playing in a foreign league. First and foremost a Zambian midfielder and I were the only foreigners at the team. Most of the other players in the team worked for the firm that owned the club. We were the only two who had come in and the other players, for dislike of foreigners, made sure that we did not excel.

Though I got to play, deliberately I would get no ball as the passes went to other players leaving me frustrated though I managed a goal in that season. I opted to leave at the end of the one year.

So what came up next?

Dawo: I got an offer in Oman – Al Seeb. I believe many people never got to know that. I was based in Muscat where I stayed for eight months. It wasn’t as well paying as Egypt though.

After Al Seeb I was back in Kenya where I rejoined Gor for the remainder of the 1991 season.

You began playing in 1987 and after 1991 you were never seen in the field again. What happened?

Dawo: Yes. I had a short span, you can say so. When I returned there were too many expectations from me. Most of it personal. Those who have been out of the country can understand this.

Officials at the club then never made it easy for me and I was left extremely frustrated. I decided enough is enough and to hell with soccer. And that marked my retirement from the game.

But Gor built me and I am glad I won with them a few other trophies; the Moi Golden Cup in 1988 and the league in 1991.

I also got to play in the 1988 and 1990 Africa Cup of Nations.

And after football what came next?

Dawo: I decided to concentrate on my employment at the Kenya Railways where I had started working in 1985. Even after my stints in Egypt and Oman, I returned to them and got back my job.

After leaving the scene, do you get involved in soccer matters?

Dawo: Actually not. It is only at one point that I joined Gor’s technical bench when Zico (Zedekiah Otieno) was the coach. But I never liked how the club was run and one day after an away trip to Western I decided to quit as the club's Team Manager.

Do you see yourself returning to football to either Coach or contribute in any other way?

Dawo: I don’t think so! I am a man of the past era and football has evolved greatly. I will only come with old ideas which will not make sense to the present day football. But I have a son (Anthony Dawo - 12) who is passionate about the game so I will concentrate on getting him to become a good player for the future.

Who are the defenders that you dreaded the most in your playing days.?

Dawo: Young Chimodzi of Malawi and John Arieno Papa of AFC Leopards. They gave me hell!

Tell me, who do you consider as the greatest Coach you ever played under? 

Dawo: Jack Johnson. He is the one who molded me to what I became. It is under him we lifted the Mandela Cup and all other trophies in 1987.

Dawo, what is your present occupation?

I am now retired after leaving Railways in 2008.

Can you give a comment on present day football in Kenya?

Dawo: First very many things have changed. Back then money was not a reason to play football. We played out of passion. But now there is lots of money in the game, it’s become commercial.

Secondly, organization is a lot more professional. Just look at the Kenyan Premier League. It has lots of cash injection and great organization. Soon we will see crowds back in the stadium just like it used to be back then.

Dawo's parting shot;

Unfortunately the National team seems to have been left behind. I believe they can do much better in terms of organization and the games they play.

Vote for Futaa on Bake Awards

Vote for Futaa on Bake

Football Calender

Did you know?

That you can follow all Kenyan Premier League games live on futaa.com? On the front page all games activated as live will appear and a link will take you to the live page.

Scores and scorers and awarded cards will appear on the fly. From the same page live games from other leagues can also be followed!