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Injured players dumped and left penniless

It is every ambitious footballer’s dream to sign up for a club and play professionally. Considering the hazards that come with the territory, there is real threat for potential injuries, which a player’s contract should cater for.

But what happens in a case where a player gets injured and the club revokes their contract? That is the harsh reality that jobless, injured players often face, compounded with the fear that this could end their career.

This grim picture paints the Kenyan football scene where a player gives their life to football but is forgotten soon after incurring an injury. Clubs have a bad habit of taking players in, making the most of them and later discarding them when they get injured or grow old.

It happened to Joseph Apindi Ochieng who was dropped by Kenyan Premier League club Kenya Commercial Bank barely 10 months after signing a three-year contract when he suffered a knee injury.

Relegation

The player nicknamed Chakas joined the bankers in January 2011 from Mahakama, which had was relegated during the previous season. He was excited about the move and optimistic that it was the right career path.

“I joined KCB because it was good club that was doing well in the league. I saw it as the right place to grow my skills,” said Ochieng, who got a place in the starting line up because he was dependable defender.

“I played in all matches when I was fit. The coach had confidence in me and I repaid that by doing my best,” he said.

His troubles started in July 2011 when he suffered a knee injury during training. The doctor recommended a scan that revealed damaged tissues.

“The doctor referred me to our physician who said the hospital had exaggerated in its diagnosis and advised me to work on the injury in the gym,” he recalled.

Two months later, there was no improvement and Ochieng was unable to play. In November of the same year, KCB terminated his contract.

“I sought clarity from the chairman about the decision to sack me, yet I had a contract and I required treatment,” said Ochieng.

Vice chairman Ali Agil told him the decision was made by the technical bench and there was nothing he could do.

“I asked him why they had ignored my contract and terminated my services because of the injury and he promised that the club would compensate me,” said the 27-year-old.

According to the contract seen by Nairobi News, the club could only terminate his services if his injury period extended the agreed time that he was to stay at KCB. Since he had a three-year agreement, this meant he still had time.

Ochieng was left stranded with no job; bills to pay and a wife who was expectant. Three years later, life has become difficult but he hopes that the club would pay his medical bills and the salary that it owns him.

KCB maintains that the termination of the contract was justified and absolved themselves of blame.

Ochieng sought help from the Kenya Footballers Welfare Association (Kefwa) that has now taken up the matter and written to KCB.

“This is not right, the club cannot abandon a player when he was injured. He has a family to take care of and bills to pay. How do you just suddenly cut off a person’s source of income? Asked said Kefwa secretary general Peter Lichungu.

 Pay for surgery

The association has written to KCB asking the club to pay for the player’s surgery and also to settle the dues owed to him, failure to which they would seek legal action.

In another case, former Tusker custodian George Opiyo’s two-year contract was revoked last November on the same grounds.

Opiyo sustained a knee injury last January and the brewers paid for his operation. But while he was recuperation and undergoing rehabilitation, Tusker pulled the plug.

Weeks later, he signed for Sofapaka in a two-year deal that assured him of a Sh50,000 salary.

But before the ink on the contract could dry Sofapaka revoked the deal saying the player had an injury whose extent the medical team hadn’t disclosed to them.

The club demanded that Opiyo returns the Sh150,000 sign-on fee they had given him.

Former Kenyan international George Jojo Waweru’s career also ended in similar fashion after a hairline fracture led to his release from Tusker.

During his peak, he partnered with former long-serving Harambee Stars captain Musa Otieno in the defence to help the team qualify for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.

In spite of bringing glory to his club and representing the country, all these has been forgotten and the player is living in misery.

Similarly, Gor Mahia’s Solomon Nasio is in dire need of medical help after breaking his nose last year. The player experiences pain while breathing and requires Sh150,000 for surgery. Gor pledged to help but to date, Nasio says, they have done nothing. It is a relief that fans have stepped in to help raise the money.

Event though the league champions are in a deep financial crisis after their sponsors Brookside Diary pulled out and the Kenya Revenue Authority slapped the Green Army with a Sh118 million demand, this is not the way to treat a player.

Kefwa wants to make it mandatory for all Premiership clubs to have medical insurance schemes for their players.

 Respect contracts

Kenyan Premier League chief executive officer Jack Oguda (left) said: “The contracts signed between players and their respective clubs are binding and both parties are obligated to respect them.”

But sadly that is not the case and players will be hoping that they do not get injured as that could signal the end of their careers.