Sports

Several former Kenya national team players live in abject poverty

Over the last couple of years, Kenyan media has been awash with stories of how the country’s former footballers are leading a life of penury after retirement.

It has been a plethora of sad stories, some that are hard to comprehend for former footballers, who, only a few years ago wowed millions of fans and supporters with their exploits on the football pitch.

Tribulations after their active sporting life that led one of Gor Mahia captain of the early 2000s George Odhiambo relocate to the shores of Lake Victoria to try a hand in fishing business.

Last month, People Daily highlighted the tribulations of former Kenya Pipeline and Tusker striker Mannaseh Imbo, the top scorer in the Kenyan Premier League in 2013, who has nothing to show for his career and depends on hand-outs in Ofafa Maringo neighbourhood to make ends meet.

Imbo lives another former star George ‘Jojo’ Waweru, who leads a desolate life since quitting the beautiful game, thanks to a fracture he sustained while playing for Harambee Stars in the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

There is also the story of Henry Motego, the stocky striker who made scoring seem so easy during his heyday with Shabana, Tusker and Harambee Stars.

After hanging his boots and with no employment chances, Motego worked as a casual labourer at a construction site.

Celebrated Gor striker Peter Dawo, who was famed for executing goals through his magical head, had been coaching Kisumu Municipal team after quitting the game but even then, his status does not depict a man who brought fame to the country as he struggles to put food on the table after a failed move to Arab Contractors in Egypt.

While the trouble bedevilling these former players is real, there are those who have been rendered totally hopeless to the point of partaking cheap liquor in an effort to forget their troubles.

The story of former Gor defender George ‘Solo’ Otieno, a member of the K’Ogalo squad that won the Mandela Cup title in 1987, makes a sad reading.

Otieno, one of Kenya’s best defenders of all times, is usually seen inebriated in a Nairobi slum and seem to have given up on life after a lengthy period of unemployment.

But perhaps the most afflicted of the ilk of Otieno is former international defender Mike Mbaji, who was in the dream Harambee Stars squad of the 1980s then coached by Reinhardt Fabisch

Mbaji is currently ailing to due substance use, making him look older than his actual age and now seem to have resigned himself to fate at his residence in Majengo, Mombasa.

Granted, the majority of these are those who balanced academics and football during their active years with former internationals Joe ‘JJ’ Masiga and William Obwaka apt examples.

Masiga, who featured for AFC Leopards and Harambee Stars, is a private practice as a dentist and a lecturer at University of Nairobi while Obwaka who played for Gor also studied at the same institution and is now a gynaecologist.

Zachaeus Omondi, part of Kenya Breweries (now Tusker) squad that reached the Africa Cup Winners final in 1994, studied medicine and now practices in Ireland.

Another of Omondi’s teammates in the 1994 squad Joseph Kibera succumbed to alcoholism and died in penury.

Curiously, former stars who did not get employment chose to start their own businesses to survive and those in this list include former Gor players Eric Obura and Mike Otieno as well as Reginald Asibwa (ex-AFC Leopards).

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