Sports personalities who died in 2016
A number of renowned sports personalities died in 2016. They departed having left a notable impression among the various sporting disciplines in which they served. These include;
1. James Siang’a – He died at a Bungoma hospital in September, after losing a long battle with diabetes. He was 67. In his hey day, Siang’a was both an exceptional player and coach. He played for Luo Union and Gor Mahia in the 70s and stood out as a goalkeeper.
Siang’a thereafter went on to coach – with success – a number of top teams including Uganda’s Express FC, Tanzania’s Simba SC, Kenya’s Gor Mahia, plus the Kenya and Tanzania national football team. He is remembered for leading Simba to the group stage of the CAF Africa Champions League in 2013, after knocking out Zamalek.
2. Muhammad Ali – He was regarded as the most significant and celebrated sports figure of the 20th century. Ali was also a controversial and polarizing figure outside the boxing ring. In total he won 56 of the professional fights he featured in (37 of those via knockouts) and lost only four times. He was the overall heavyweight champion during two different spells. He died in June, aged 74, while undergoing treatment for respiratory illness.
3. Isaiah Kiplagat – The longest serving sports administrator in Kenya breathed his last in August, aged 72. Kiplagat had been at the helm of Athletics Kenya for two and a half decades, a period leading to his death.
He is remembered as a controversial disciplinarian, who oversaw success after success for the discipline on the international front.
4. Abel Dhaira – The talented Ugandan goalkeeper died in March at the age of 28. He was one of the best in the region, and was at the time of his death plying his professional trade in Iceland. It was reported that he had been battling cancer at the time of his death. He had also played for giant Tanzania club Simba SC earlier on in his career.
5. Chapacoense – This was without doubt the saddest sporting story of 2016. It occurred in November when a plane carrying 77 people, including a top Brazilian football team, crashed on its approach to the city of Medellin in Colombia. Only six people survived that crash according to authorities.
The chartered aircraft, flying from Brazil to Bolivia, was carrying members of the Chapacoense team which was due to play in the final of a continental tournament against Atletico Nacional. The plane also had 21 journalists on board.
6. Stephen Keshi – The former Nigerian football manager and player died in June at the age of 54. Keshi was a widely respected coach in African circles. He won the Africa Cup of Nations as a player and coach, and his club playing career included stints in Belgium, France, the USA and Malaysia. He was battling cancer.
7. Arnold Palmer – The celebrated golfer died in September. He was 87. Palmer was generally referred to as the greatest player in the sport’s history. He competed with great success in the Masters and US Open. He also made a name in tutoring upcoming golfers and through the several gold related businesses he owned.
8. Victor Wayodi and Ogeto Gacheo – These two rugby players passed within a week of each other in Nairobi. They passed on moments after featuring in domestic games, leading to speculation over the exact cause of their death.