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LIFE BY LOUIS: My brief life as a soccer player

Monday February 18 2019

When the other more soccer-savvy boys went to catch their positions, I was left wandering aimlessly at the centre of the pitch. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH

When the other more soccer-savvy boys went to catch their positions, I was left wandering aimlessly at the centre of the pitch. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

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Every Monday morning, the men in our office spend the first half hour analysing the weekend soccer outcomes from various leagues in the world.

I always prefer to keep quiet. My knowledge about matters soccer is this big (I am holding my index finger and thumb almost touching each other, but you can’t see that).

The only thing that warms my heart is to see young soccer players from Kenya going to play in those major leagues outside the country.

I always consider that as yet another chance for young men to drive big cars and eat with forks and knives with a feeder cloth tied on their necks as cute waiters stand at their beck and call helping them to select starter soups.

Such lifestyles have always been a preserve of old men with big hardware shops, and I always like it when the status quo is challenged. 

I however remonstrate at the theatre of the absurd that is the local soccer scene especially when it comes to leadership and management.

To me it is always a wasted opportunity for another young lad to join big clubs in Europe and come back with big cars bearing customised car number plates.

When I went to high school where the lucrative Young Christian Society club visited the nearby girls’ schools at the slightest excuse, we were encouraged to join a sporting activity. 

So this lazy afternoon I wore my new PE kit and green Bata bullet shoes and headed to the soccer pitch. With my thin hairless legs, I looked like a mosquito heavy with child.

The prefect in charge of sports was a lanky Form Six student called Changes. I am yet to encounter any lad with such an awesome pet name. He had legs like a prime mover and kept caressing his bulky biceps like he wanted to exercise them on our tiny jaws.


He was all classic male cool and oozing with machismo. 

We gathered at the centre of the pitch and he asked me in fluent English which position I played.

Eight, I blurted out. I had absolutely no idea whatever that number was and which side of the field the bearer played. I could as well have said 18 or 34.

When the other more soccer-savvy boys went to catch their positions, I was left wandering aimlessly at the centre of the pitch with not the slightest idea where number 8 played. Changes promptly sent me off to go and grow some soccer guts.

I joined tae-kwon-do club where our literature teacher taught us how to kick and punch, and that promptly ended my illustrious soccer career that spanned over five minutes. 

My exclusion from the soccer club was not altogether fair.

It was based on unfounded beliefs and regional profiling. Since our high school is in Central Kenya, we believed that boys who hailed from the Western parts of the country were born holding a soccer ball and blowing a referee whistle. They were therefore allocated the first priority in the soccer club regardless of their proven experience and skill.  

I remember this boy who joined us in Form Two after being expelled from his third school. He hailed from some leafy estate in Nairobi and his name suggested Western ancestry. 

The day after he reported to school, we had a major match with a nasty neighbouring boys school. Since everyone believed that the new boy must know something about soccer, he was immediately listed in the starting line-up as a striker.

I suppose a striker plays number one position, but I could be wrong.

The poor boy could not even kick a ball through an unmanned goalpost from two metres without tripping over himself.

Subsequently, our team was mercilessly thrashed and the new boy permanently banned from playing soccer for the school team.

He was a good dancer though and during his brief stay at our school, he taught us a few killer breakdance moves. However he was soon expelled and he went to join his fifth school in two years.


I continued to be clueless as far as the soccer matters were concerned. I relished the inter school competitions where we got the opportunity to host the nearly schools in view of our superior sporting facilities. Despite our superiority in terms of facilities and standing as a provincial school, we always got ourselves thoroughly thrashed by the local day schools.

We did not always go down without a fight.

First of all, due to our might in number, we always intimidated them in terms of our cheering squad might. We sang and cheered in English, a feat that left our opponents thoroughly mesmerised.

Secondly, we always managed to steal their girls especially from the mixed boys and girls schools. During half time, we invited their girls for familiarisation tours around the school where we proudly showed them dormitories, laboratories, dining hall, badminton courts and our school bus. These were foreign concepts in the day schools that they attended, and we easily won their hearts.

One of these days, I will rekindle my “deceased” interest in soccer and attend a soccer match in one of our local stadia. I still harbour some hope that one day I will know which position number eight plays.