Patrick Namai: 5 key facts about former Harambee Stars defender now selling charcoal in Eldoret


Patrick Namai: 5 key facts about former Harambee Stars defender now selling charcoal in Eldoret

Festus Chuma 11:50 - 15.05.2024

The once a famed Harambee Stars defender, now struggles as a charcoal seller in Eldoret due to systemic neglect.

Football legends often find life after their careers on the pitch a smooth transition into coaching, commentary, or other related fields. 

However, for Patrick Alfred Namai, once a celebrated defender for Harambee Stars, the story has taken a much humbler path.

 Today, Namai is far from the floodlights of the stadium instead, he is a charcoal hawker in Langas, a bustling estate on the fringes of Eldoret town. 

Here are five critical aspects of his journey from a football icon to his current life.

1. From national glory to local vendor

Namai's mornings begin early in the bustling streets of Langas, where he sells charcoal to make ends meet.

 This is a stark contrast to the 1980s and 90s when he was a stalwart defender for Kenya's national football team and played alongside international stars in prestigious tournaments. 

"I played football, good football, but luck was not on my side," Namai said in a past interview with Standard.

His days of guarding the posts against top world strikers like Paulo Maldini are now just memories overshadowed by his daily struggle for survival.

2. Economic hardships post-retirement

The decline of Namai's fortunes began with the collapse of Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) in Eldoret, where he worked after retiring from football. 

The closure of KCC not only left him jobless but also marked the beginning of his financial woes. 

Despite his significant contributions to Kenyan football, the lack of sustainable post-career support and planning has left him in poverty, a situation faced by many retired athletes in the country.

3. Neglected by the system

Namai's story highlights a critical issue in the treatment and support of retired athletes in Kenya. 

He laments the lack of respect and recognition for former players, "It’s not that we don’t have good players. What we are lacking is respect for the players," he states. 

His experience underscores the broader neglect by sports authorities, who often fail to provide former athletes with opportunities within sports organizations.

4. Family and legacy

Living with his wife, Rachael Chepsang, and their six children, Namai's household is filled with names that echo his past glories. 

His children are named after famous footballers he once shared the field with, a nod to a time when he built lasting relationships with football officials and players internationally. 

The children's naming tradition is a bittersweet reminder of his once-promising career.

5. An advocate for change

 Despite his circumstances, Namai remains an advocate for the better treatment of footballers in Kenya. 

He emphasizes that during his time, "football was like a hobby. But we were committed.Today, however, players make a living out of it." 

He calls for a systemic change in how athletes are treated and insists that with the right support Kenya could elevate its football profile significantly.

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