When history will be written about Kenya’s qualification to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, very few people will remember Joash Onyango, the man who made the impossible dream happen.
On September 8th 2018, in a high Octane match against Ghana, Joash made arguably the most important contribution in this qualifying campaign.
In the 65th minute, with Kenya leading 1-0, Onyango hacked Ghana forward Majeed Warris from behind in the D-area when the forward was dashing for goal, ready to pull the trigger.
Joash was given his matching orders meaning Kenya had to play the rest of the match with 10 men but this was not an issue as the team held on to win the crucial match.
“Joash was willing to die for the team and nobody knows what would have happened if he had not taken the action he did. Add to the fact that we were ten men makes it an even sweeter win.” said star forward Michael Olunga.
It was that win, aided by Onyango’s red card which set the platform for the AFCON 2019 qualification. That is Onyango for you! The man for the dirty job.
Kenya later drew with Ethiopia away, before beating them here in Nairobi to finish 2nd in Group F with 7 points and qualify for the continental showpiece for the first time since 2004.
At 25 years, Joash is not even the best defender at Gor Mahia. Captain Haron Shakava takes that hands down. Gor also have Charles Momanyi and Joachim Oluoch as dependable players who can play in midfield.
But the fact that it is only Joash who plays in the national team, show how he is highly rated by Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne.
On Sunday, Migne trusted Onyango to start at the heart of defence to face Ghana. And even though Kenya lost that match 1-0, Joash was the best player on the field.
Tasked with stopping tricky Newcastle forward Christian Atsu, Joash excelled with an A in that match.
Some fans even described him as the Berlin Wall of Kenyan football. I think, even Joash did not expect the impact that he has made on Kenyan football.
Joash joined Gor Mahia in 2017 after impressing at Kakamega based Western Stima. He was an integral member of the Gor Mahia side that won back to back KPL titles in 2017 and 2018 under coach Dylan Kerr.
Interestingly, his best displays have come when partnered with the man he was signed to replace; Musa Mohammed.
As coach Migne embarks on drafting his squad for the continental showpiece, we hope Joash Onyango, the man who started playing his football at Shamberere High School in Kakamega, will be the first on the list.