The global Covid-19 lockdown has impacted diehard sports supporters who find themselves without their weekly fix of action and in Kenya, one football fanatic has found a way to make gain while remaining true to his favourite team.
Jared Otieno, commonly known as Jaro Soja, is a renowned super fan of record Kenyan league winners, Gor Mahia FC and having been robbed his favourite sport for the past three months, the self-proclaimed commander of the Green Army is engaged in producing and selling the in-demand face masks bearing his club’s logo.
In an interview with CGTN Africa’s weekend show, Sports Scene, Jaro as he is famously known admitted missing out on Gor’s charge to their record extending 19th league crown on the pitch was a difficult blow to take but this has not dampened his enthusiasm or support of the team that famously won the 1987 CAF Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup) to remain the only Kenyan outfit to win continental silverware.
“My life is Gor Mahia; everything for me revolves around football. I always think about my club, I always look forward to match days, I always attend Gor Mahia training, so you can imagine how I’ve been affected, being deprived of all these things makes me feel like I’m in prison,” Jaro told Sports Scene from his home and workshop in the sprawling low-income settlement of Kariobangi, located in the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.”
Following the COVID-19 shutdown that saw all sporting activity suspended by the country’s government in March, his undying passion for the team and desire to keep himself occupied gave birth to the idea of producing face masks, a vital component in the containment efforts against the coronavirus.
“For me, anything I wear has to have Gor Mahia colours, and of course when I designed my mask, I consulted my friends who are doctors. So when I started wearing this mask, many Gor fans loved it, and started asking whether I could make more,” Jared revealed, adding the commodity was flying off the shelf as he cranks up production from his small workshop where he has engaged about five workers.”
Following the Ministry of Health’s stern warning on sub-standard face mask distribution, Jaro assured his clients, most who are fellow supporters of the team that has won seven of the last eight Kenyan Premier League titles that his product meets all medical requirements.
“It’s not only about looking good, we are trying to avoid getting sick. All the masks we make here have three layers, as per what doctors have advised,” the ‘K’Ogalo Defence Forces Commander-in-Chief’ emphasised.
The man who is always decked out in Gor’s green and white regalia is further using this venture to benefit the club and its players who have been deprived income after competition was suspended.
“As Gor’s number one fan, I good to lead by example; I have decided that Gor should benefit from this too. So for every mask I sell, 10 per cent of the money will go to the player’s kitty,” Jaro, whose home and chosen means of transport, a motorbike, resemble a shrine to the most popular team in the land also known as K’Ogalo (house of Ogalo) told its throngs of supporters.
By producing the branded face masks, Jaro hopes to once again lead his team to rise above local rivals in the fight to contain COVID-19.
For now, celebrating a 19th league title, which his team was awarded by the Football Kenya Federation, last month when it announced the 2019/20 season had been cancelled can wait since that decision has since been challenged in court.
Report by Mohamed Abubakar, CGTN Sports Reporter