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TRIBUTE: John Baraza, the man Kenyan football will badly miss

By DAVID KWALIMWA

John Baraza’s decision to hang his boots isn’t quite a surprise. The chap is after all 39 years, an age considered beyond the normal retirement bracket for a professional footballer.

Following his announcement via his official social media page, glowing tributes have been flowing – and befittingly so – from his teammates, colleagues, coaches, fans and journalists.

Here is mine.

“JB”, “Capi” or “Barry” as he was otherwise known to close friends and colleagues, was a rare breed on the football pitch.

Longevity wasn’t the only unique aspect of  his career.

He also somehow managed to keep away from injuries and controversy, even as he consistently outperformed and outscored his colleagues on the pitch.

Despite all the challenges facing Kenyan football, Barry wasn’t the type to be caught complaining or protesting over delayed salaries and allowances.

Scoring goals was his main job description. And he did just that with gusto, twice winning the top scorer’s gong in the Kenyan Premier League.

NUMEROUS ACCOLADES

He also won numerous accolades including the KPL title, the domestic cup, Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup and was among the last crop of Kenyan footballers to feature at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2004.

Born in Western Kenya – the bedrock of Kenya’s football talent  – Baraza’s illustrious career saw him initially turn out for Nzoia Sugar and then Oserian Fastac.

He later enjoyed spells in Europe including a stint with Swedish club IF Sylvia. He also played in Asian for Club PDRM Polis of Malaysia.

Regionally, he enjoyed successful stints with Tanzanian giants Yanga SC and Rayon Sport of Rwanda. Baraza thereafter returned home and briefly played for Chemelil Sugar before settling at Sofapaka where he would eventually end his career.

Even the notorious football hooligans, renowned for hurling abuses at players during local league matches – somehow spared Baraza their insults. Such was the respect the man commanded.

Oh, and just for your information, of the pitch, Baraza is a particularly good dancer.

Once during a mutual friend’s wedding, he surprised those in attendance – including departed comedian Mzee Ojwang – with his refined dancing skills. Simply put, this man was born to entertain. Kenyan football will be poorer without him.