Surely, eating chunks of hot white ugali at one of Nairobi’s most celebrated indigenous restaurants must be an extraordinary experience for any European tourist. As you can probably imagine, the sight of that semi-solid food neatly shaped like a dome with steam bellowing from the beautiful cracks on its surface wouldn’t be something a ‘mzungu’ will dig in to instinctively. Unless, of course, they are forced or strongly motivated.
A little hilarious, isn’t it? Yes. Especially for us Kenyans who are used to even more different meals …like the recipe that involves boiling maize, beans, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peas, coriander (dania,for those who don’t relate) and chillies all in one pot. You boil for two hours minimum and add salt later. That’s a story for another day.
Anyway, back to our dear tourist. We are at Mama Oliech restaurant and we want to make him feel at home because he’s probably under pressure to do what the Kenyans do. As the saying goes, when you go to Rome, you do what the Romans do. Nairobi is no different. You do what the Nairobians do.
His meal of ugali (the steaming white dome with beautiful cracks), colorful stew plus a side plate of fresh sukuma wiki has been served to him. Never mind that he didn’t order this. It’s out treat.
He’s already washed his hands with warm lemon water since the hosts didn’t want to risk with pink handwash that produces foam forever and ever. The one that leaves your hands with a characteristic smell.
No, not that one.
The tourist is now probably thinking to himself, “This is nothing like they’d described it in the encyclopaedia. Even Wikipedia didn’t have a photo of Kenyan food being like this.”
He then reasons that he would rather start with that colorful stew …but wait, the stew has a creature in it. He notices it. It’s not moving. It’s got its own steam just like the white dome with beautiful cracks. Aaaiyayaya …it’s a fish. Kumbe they don’t come in fillets. Not that he has never seen fish, no. Far from it.
His hours of watching documentaries on BBC have shown him fish. However, a whole fish cooked with an eyeball staring at you is something he wouldn’t have expected.
By now, his new found friends from the Sportpesa Premier League champions Gor Mahia are busy digging in. He looks at them and takes a mental tangent, recalling his legendary days at Everton Football Club where he became a first-team regular in 2004–05 playing on the right wing of a 4–1–4–1 formation. Was he going to attack the fish with his right hand and be part of the Kenyan team? Perhaps yes. After all, he finished that season with seven goals including two in a match against Aston Villa.
He then recalls the 2005–06 season where his place in Everton’s first team was challenged by the new signing Simon Davies. That season, however, he was able to establish himself as a first-team regular by 2006–07, a season in which he made 37 appearances and scored three goals.
Suddenly, the fish didn’t look as much of the challenge that it had previously seemed to be. He’s a legend. He’s seen much more in life, remember?
Based on that, Mr. Leon Osman digs in to the Ugali and Fish with his bare hands. Surprisingly, 15 minutes later, he has finished strong. He’s now laughing with the rest of the Gor Mahia players that he had come to visit courtesy of SportPesa. He’s now in a position to switch jerseys after the Ugali vs Samaki match at Mama Oliech’s restaurant.
Afterall, he’s a legend. It’s a pleasure to have him here. Karibu Kenya Mr. Leon Osman.
Who is Leon Osman?
Everton Football Club legend Leon Osman has spent most of his career at Everton, making 433 appearances and scoring 57 goals and he’s also played for the England National team. His visit to Kenya is as deliberate as it should be. It’s a fact that we want to continue improving the standards of soccer in our country and one of the best way to do it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Why was he in Kenya?
Leon Osman landed in Kenya for a three-day visit in a trip aimed at establishing a foothold between the nine-time English champions Everton Football club and local football fans.
The retired midfielder who enjoyed a successful 16-year career with the Toffees before hanging up his boots in June 2016 jetted in for his second trip to East Africa after his ground-breaking tour to Tanzania in June.
Osman is the second Everton star after Nigerian international Daniel Amokachi, who played for the Toffees from 1994- 1996, to visit Kenya. He was welcomed as a football icon owing to the massive popularity the English Premier League (EPL) has gained in the country since the turn of the century.
Osman, who spent most of his career at Everton, will add his name to the illustrious list in an action-packed itinerary that celebrates the shirt sponsorship between the club and bookmakers SportPesa.
The former Blues midfielder, who earned two senior caps for England visited the Ziwani Community Football grounds in Nairobi where he met organisers of the celebrated annual estate tournament, Koth Biro and interacted with the players. He showcased his skills giving the young players, most of whom aspire to play in the Premier League, a first-hand look at what it takes to make it to the league.
He also visited the Kariobangi Community Grounds and played street football with two community sides.
Leon also visited the World Hope Centre, home of former SportPesa Premier League side, Nairobi City Stars FC, also based in Kawangware where spent time with more estate teams and grassroots football mobilisers.
The lunch date with three coaches and three playing stars of Sportpesa league winners, Gor Mahia FC happened at Mama Oliech restaurant and gave the visiting Osman a chance to revel in local cuisine before retiring for rest ahead of his departure on Friday morning.