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Martin Imbalambala, 4 Other Kenyan Footballers Whose Lives Changed for Worse After Hanging Boots
Football is arguably one of the most perishable careers as players are constantly dogged with the risk of injury, contract termination, or young and better replacements who continue being churned by academies.
In a country where the sports industry lacks well-laid-out structures for training on financial management, investments, and planning for retirement, most players have found themselves in dark spots after hanging their boots.
TUKO.co.ke takes a look at some of the footballers who were high-flying in their heydays but who are currently struggling financially after exiting the sport.
A few years ago, the name Martin Imbalambala was a mainstay on the lips of not just AFC Leopards (Ingwe) fans, but the local football industry as well.
He was an integral part of the Ingwe squad from 2011 to 2016, which remains one of the most promising seasons for the decorated community club.
His life and career took an unfortunate turn when he lost his eyesight in 2018 in what started as malaria symptoms during a training session in Thika.
Preliminary examinations at a Nairobi hospital revealed he had nerve damage that caused the blindness, and spirited attempts to restore his vision have been unsuccessful for three years.
The former Ingwe captain today spends his days in his native Vihiga county and is almost fully dependent on his wife, whom he describes as his everything.
Joseph Shikokoti built a name around himself as the no-nonsense towering defender who played for top-tier clubs among the AFC Leopards, Tusker FC, and Western Stima, as well as the national team Harambee Stars.
His footballing life started going downwards in mid-2020 when, Kenya Power, the corporate that was sponsoring his Stima club pulled out and crippled the team.
It was a bad coincidence to be terminated at that point in time for Shikokoti as he was still reeling from the pain of losing his mother a month earlier.
This was followed by a nagging knee injury that made it impossible for him to continue playing competitive football.
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Recent reports indicate that the former Yanga player, who stands at 6 feet and 7 inches, now does menial jobs to make ends meet, including working as a security guard and parking attendant in Nairobi's Lavington.
If you bumped into Noah Ayuko at this point in time, it would be extremely difficult to tell that he was once Kenya One; the first-choice goalkeeper for the national team Harambee Stars in the 2000s.
Many football lovers remember him for his unique hairstyle and many theatrics in the field while he was in charge of the goalposts.
The footballer did not retire from active football but found himself sinking into alcoholism, poverty, and life in the slums.
In the recent past, Ayuko has been working on cleaning up and getting back to football as a coach.
There was once a season the name Patrick Oboya was a regular on the first eleven selection for Harambee Stars.
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His speed, excellent legwork, and individual brilliance saw him capped an impressive 33 times, a period within which he scored three goals for the country.
The accolades do not end there, as the young man who left South B and found himself in Europe playing professional football, traversed different clubs among them FK Banik in the Czech Republic, Ruzomberok in Slovakia, and Vietnam's Becamex Binh Duong.
Oboya's star lost its shine when he came back home and struggled to replicate his form despite different stints with local clubs.
The 34-year-old is currently signed to Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Division Two side South B All-Stars on a one-year deal.
Former Tusker FC player and Kenya international Michael Mbaji lives from hand to mouth after leaving football, often standing outside supermarkets to beg for loose change from shoppers.
It is a life he found himself in after a moment of madness that saw him suspended from his club and was never allowed back on the pitch.
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Mbaji reveals that he lost favour with the club when he got into an altercation with late goalkeeper Joseph Kibera over a TV remote, after which he broke the set.
Jobless and with no fallback plan, the player was sucked into the world of drugs, something that cost him his wife and children.
“Just one moment of madness turned things upside down for me, changing my life from the international left back I was to a street conman, a life I have never recovered from to date,” he told Nation.
The above-mentioned cases of grace to grass point to the need for players to invest, save for retirement, or create other ventures during their glory days to serve as fall-back plans when they hang their boots.