“He was a fighter and a fatherly figure.”
Those were the words former Kisumu All Stars coach Nick Aketch used to describe departed tactician Henry Omino.
He played under Omino for five years at Kisumu Posta, later renamed Telkom, and now disbanded.
Omino, 71, died early Friday morning at his Ng’iya home in Siaya County after a long battle with thyroid cancer.
“He died at our home here at around 1.20am this (Friday) morning,” his first wife Christine Nyamonica Omino told Nation Sport.
Omino was a household name in Kenya’s football coaching a number of local clubs and his death will be felt in the local game particularly coaching.
Omino, nicknamed “Mario Zagallo”, had been ailing for a while but many familiar to him had not expected him to depart on Thursday.
Coast Stima coach Paul Ogai, who played under Omino at Telkom said: “I knew Omino was sick, however, I never expected him to leave this early. His death has shocked me.”
“I woke up to this sad news that coach Henry Omino is dead. Rest in peace comrade, super coach,” said football player Simon Munala on his Facebook account.
Until January 5, Omino was actively involved in football, coaching Kisumu All Stars.
The club appointed him as their head coach in August last year because of his wealth of experience in football.
All Stars, debuting in the Kenyan Premier League this season, were looking for a person who could steer them to a good campaign.
However, he did not live to guide the team to a top 10 finish, which he had publicly stated as his target, as he was sacked following a string of poor results.
Omino’s love for football was undisputed.
He rarely missed a football match at Moi Stadium in Kisumu even after All Stars sent him packing.
Omino’s coaching career began in 1975 as a coach-player of Kisumu Posta.
He attained Fifa certification in 1987 after a one year training in Brazil.
In 1989, he was appointed Kisumu Posta assistant coach.
He was promoted to the head coach at Kisumu Posta in 1991 and went on to guide the side to a second-place finish in the Super League, now known as the Kenyan Premier League.
According to former Kenya international and Posta player Joseph Odera, it is after his admirable Super League run with an unfancied team that Omino was nicknamed Mario Zagallo (multiple World Cups winning Brazil coach) because of his tactical style of play.
By virtue of finishing second in the 1991 Super League, Kisumu Posta earned the right to represent Kenya in Confederation of African Football Cup.
Under Omino, Posta beat Simba of Zanzibar 4-0 on aggregate in the preliminary stage, before being knocked out of the competition by Uganda’s Sports Club Villa.
Omino coached Telkom Posta until 2003, before moving to Agro Chemicals where he was in charge until 2010.
At Western Stima, where he also built his name as an astute coach and excellent mentor, Omino entered the history books.
He became the first coach to win the Fidelity Insurance Coach of the Month twice.
He won the award which then came with a Sh50,000 cash prize and a trophy in July and September 2016.
The club promoted him to the position of technical director the same year.
Kisumu All Stars Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Ochieng said as a team, they were grateful for the experience Omino brought to the team as they made their debut in the KPL.
“He was very calm always and loved football even when he has been ailing while coaching the team. We have truly lost a hero in Kenya and ask God to give the family fortitude to bear the loss.”
Aketch, who played for Telkom from 1992 to 1997, said: “He was strategic and a good planner and motivated us whenever the team was not doing well. He was a fatherly figure and could engage off the pitch amicably.
Former Telkom player Maurice Onyango said: “Omino was a good coach. Outside the pitch, he was a gentleman.”
On Twitter, condolences messages poured in.
Kenya international Michael Olunga said: “I wish to extend my heartfelt condolence to the family of the late coach Henry Omino. Thank you for the immense contribution in moulding great talents in Kenyan football fraternity.”
Gor Mahia stated: “We will remember you for the contribution to the growth of football, nurturing of talents and being a worthy competitor.”
Omino is survived by nine children (three boys and six girls) from his two wives.