Jamal Mohammed: The last playmaker Kenya ever had

Former Harambee Stars player Jamal Mohammed [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Playmakers are great dribblers, and they come in drips.

Many countries will have only one such player in a generation. In Kenya, we can say Wilberforce Mulamba was our playmaker in the 1980s. As Mulamba faded, we got several dribblers but none rose to the highest level.

In the early 1990s, no playmaker rose to the top until John Mo’ Muiruri came to Utalii FC via Shabana. After John Mo’, we got Jamal “Malo Malo” Mohammed.

Jamal Mohammed was born in Majengo slums near Gikomba. He played the neighbourhood football until he joined Uprising FC which enabled him to travel to Norway through the MYSA initiative. After Uprising, he joined Sakayonsa FC which was based in the estates around Majengo and Eastleigh.

From an early age, his ball-handling skills were exceptional. He played with Denis Oliech and Jaffer Gichuki at Sakayonsa.

He was born on November 24, 1984, and is said to have inherited his skills from his mother.

Malo attended Milimani Secondary School from where he was signed by Mathare United in 1998 while still a student. He found the likes of Francis Kimanzi and Jack Oguda still playing at Mathare United.  

He played with the likes of Simeon Mulama, John Qureshi and Titus Odede. Jamal was the dribbler who could turn a game on its head and give you results by creating spaces and sending defense-splitting passes.

He was a joy to watch.

Jamal was at the valley until 2006 before crossing over to Liberty Professionals FC in Ghana, at the invitation of the owner Alhaj Sly Tetteh, who later passed away in 2011.

He stayed in Ghana Premier League briefly before he crossed over to Europe where he joined Enkopings FC in Sweden in 2007. Those who knew him knew that that would only be a stepping stone to bigger leagues in Europe. It did not happen.

In 2008 a move came to join Valarenga in Norway but things did not work out. The opportunity to play in Norway slipped when Valarenga sacked their coach and the move collapsed just hours before he could sign.

He waited for a few weeks to see if the new coach would pick up from where the scouts left but he signed a striker instead. Malo moved to Kazma FC in Kuwait between 2009 and 2011 where he won the Emir Cup.

He crossed back to Europe where he played for Targu Mures FCM in Romania for one season until 2012. He then came back home and went to the valley to play for Mathare United. It was while at Mathare that his indiscipline got to the public domain and the club terminated his one-year contract midway. He did not play football for about a year before he got a reprieve with a move back to the Gulf.

Jamal moved to Oman in 2012 with the help of Adel Amrouche. He was signed and within a few matches, Al Nasr FC gave him a new contract with improved terms. They were impressed with his services and delivery and was named “Player of the Season” for his superb show.

The following season he moved to Dhofar FC, which was the biggest club in Oman where he spent a season. He then went back to Al Nasr FC for two seasons. He did not play serious football after leaving Al Nasr in 2015.

Jamal got his first Harambee Stars call-up in 2008 via Francis Kimanzi for 2010 World Cup qualifiers. He made his debut in Windhoek against Namibia. He scored his first goal in the return leg in Nairobi on September 6, 2008, despite the match falling in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan.

His goal was enough to give Kenya a 1-0 win over Namibia. 

Jamal also featured at the 32nd edition of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup staged in Uganda in December 2008. Kenya reached the finals where it was beaten by the hosts by one goal against none.

His last appearance before he faded away was in the 2015 AFCON qualifiers.

Malo was class, skill and flair rolled up into talent that made football look easy. He is Kenya’s version of Nigerian legend Jay Jay Okocha, who would create narrow spaces if he could not find one to send a pass through.

The old playmakers who could dribble past several players to attract defenders and send a pass to a striker are no more. They are a rare breed, but the modern football game does not require such creativity.

Football coaches are obsessed with formations where players remain fixed. In this scenario, the midfielder with a sublime pass rules the game which has hindered the rise of the few playmakers to the top.

Malo now runs a restaurant called Malo Malo in Nairobi around where he grew up. 


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