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Must we wait until our sports heroes, heroines die to act?

By Elijah Ichwara | August 26th 2019

One month ago, Kenya lost one of the most celebrated footballing legends, Joe Kadenge. His final send-off was witnessed by a multitude of people from Kenya and beyond. During his glorious days, Kadenge was a darling to Kenyans. When he passed on, everybody identified with him and heaped praises on the poor man as usually happens when someone dies.

Kadenge played for the national football team for 14 years. He suffered from a long-term illness without getting proper treatment. The little money he made from a taxi business could not afford him proper healthcare. While Kadenge was ailing, former Harambee Stars player Rashid Shedu was on the brink of getting his leg amputated following an injury he suffered while coaching premier league side Bandari FC. Unfortunately, he had to bear his own medical bills, getting very little help, if any, from those who were expected to stand with him at his hour of need.

Another notable case is Congestina Achieng, the most formidable woman boxer Kenya has ever produced. She won trophies and brought glory to the country, which lasted as long she was in good health. When she was taken ill, few people went to her aid, among them Nairobi County Governor Mike Sonko who enrolled her in a rehab centre.

Plainly speaking, the list of sportsmen who need a Bill passed into law to care for them is long. As the Senate prepares to pass a Bill on care on war veterans, it should also consider sportsmen and women. When players adorn the national colours, it is for the country. This is done with a lot of pride and love for the country and that of sports. This, however, fades as soon as one retires or gets an injury or accident that cannot allow them to play again.

Sportsmen, especially the remaining legends, should be given stipends and be cared for through a sports policy. Looking at the current situation in Kenyan football, it gives me a feeling that even the current Harambee Stars players will be in a similar or worse state when they finally retire from football.

The effects of retirement with injuries and no employment have haunted these former players for too long. Their families are suffocating in poverty and their children cannot get quality education. For this reason, the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage must now come up with a good policy and have Parliament enact it to take care of players retiring from football and other sporting activities.

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