Everybody happens to have played soccer with or known guys who undoubtedly possessed immense skill and ended up hanging their boots to do something better than playing soccer. All over the country we have the would-have-been the Ronaldinhos and Zidanes of this world if we are any serious about sports as a country.
I am going to put up a best-eleven of guys who could have cut it in any of the major leagues in the world or even represented the country in major tournaments and probably helped to write the country’s name in the plaque of soccer giants.
Gk. Peter Gichuru Kabugu. Think of Manuel Neuer or Ter Stergen. De Gea could have been the best example to give but not until he leaves Manchester United. You had to be extremely lucky to score against this guy.
LB: Wamai Kiama: (Mr. Ugly. Nicknamed himself so)
CD: Martin Maina Murigu (Mundizi)
CD: Charles Maina Kanyutu.
RB: Geofrey Karuoya ‘Chayngwy’
Mundizi and Kanyutu’s partnership was akin to that of Rio Ferdinard and Nemaja Vidic (recognized these two guys here because they don’t play for Manchester any more) in their heyday or better still, Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure. They were rock solid in defense. They were particularly good in playing opponents offside. Whoever managed to beat the offside trap would be left wondering what took the ball away from their feet. In a country that is serious about sports and talent nurturing, these two guys would have gone places. Probably they would have become national heroes renowned world over.
Wang’ombe Karanga (Ng’aru)and John Kinyua Wamae would also partner in central defense at times.
Nobody could get past Wang’ombe. He was built like a battle tank albeit with a lot of agility and speed that defied his size. He played soccer like he was doing comedy. I believe he used a lot of energy in laughter (especially when he beat an opponent to a ball) than he did in actual play.
RAM: Yours truly (Not exceptionally talented but got the job done.)Most of the times, the guy in front of me (Manyuki) was so lethal that it only required me to place the ball in his path and the rest would be history.
CM: John kinyua Wamae.
CM: Waithaka Kanyotu (Sakuku)
LAM: Wanyoike Mukangu.
CAM: Isaac Mwai Warungu.
CF: Amos Gichuki Njeri (Manyuki). This guy was so technically gifted. He terrorized defenses and scored for fun.When put through on goal, rarely did he miss to put it in the back of the net. He was so swift that no defender could make up the ground if Manyuki happened to steal an inch ahead. I can only compare him to Fernando Torres in his zenith.
He even found time and luxury to tease opposing goalkeepers asking them which side of the goal posts they would prefer him to place the ball. ‘Ukwenda mwena uriku?’
Special mention to Isaac Kibe Njeri. Although we never played in the same team with this guy, his prowess in soccer is undeniable. Kibe used to boss the midfield single handedly and his eye for a pass was second to none. He tried to ply his trade with super league teams like Umoja but he didn’t go far. Eventually, the need for a subtle source of income caught up with him and he had to look for better things to do like everybody else before and after him.
This team didn’t have a coach. Everybody was welcome to float an idea and the best one carried the day. The team was under the patronage of Mwangi Wa Wahu. A local KFF accredited referee. He accompanied the team to most games that we participated in.
If you played for Ndimaini FC the same period as the above guys and you didn’t feature in my best 11, it is not that you were not up to snuff. It is only that up to snuff doesn’t cut it against outstanding.
Today, I bet none of these guys has played soccer the last 5-6 years. All this talent went to waste. After secondary school, many left the village to look for jobs, a means to eke a living because football wouldn’t put food on the table. Football would not buy a Safari Boot and a Savco to boot. Under ideal situations, they would be in the prime years of stellar soccer careers. They would have probably amassed enough medals and trophies having helped their teams to win various titles.
Soccer in the village was played solely for entertainment and I believe it still does to date. The only time we earned anything from soccer was back in 2002 when we emerged runners up in the Nderitu Gachagua Cup earning ourselves 10,000 kes for a team with close to 35 players. We used this money to buy a uniform (Jersey and shorts ) and a standard football (a Mikasa FT-5). For the first time we could appear in games in uniform and we would not be forced to play shirtless for uniformity.
The story of this team is replicated all over the country. It is incomprehensible why government after the other has neglected sports as a form of employment creation. Sports can absorb majority of the jobless youths in our country and provide a value chain with a trickle-down or even trickle-up effect on all other sectors of the economy.
Just for illustration, a well remunerated sportsman buys a farm and practices agribusiness thus employing a handful of wananchi to run his farm. These people in turn will get wages and spend the money in the local shopping centre.
People will be required to maintain and run the stadia. Manufacturers and sellers of sport attire/equipment will experience increased business not to mention the revenue from gates collection etcetera etcetera.