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Grace To Grass: Former Harambee Stars Defender Now Charcoal Seller

Grace To Grass: Former Harambee Stars Defender Now Charcoal Seller

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Football legends and fans in the 1980s and 1990s are familiar with Patrick Namai, a former Harambee Stars defender and midfielder whose prowess on the field earned him recognition and admiration.

He played for the Ministry of Works (MOTCOM) FC, then Rivatex FC before joining Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) FC.

The state-owned KCC collapsed in 1998, and the decorated football firm it sponsored stumbled into misery, killing with it hundreds of talents.

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Today, Namai burns and hawks charcoal in Eldoret to make ends meet. What is left of his rich football history is the pictures in his vintage album.

It is still mid-morning in Lavington, Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County. The air, once chilly, is still awakening with a newfound warmth as if the sun's gentle caress breathed life into every atom. The world seems to come alive with the symphony of bird songs filling the air.

56-year-old Namai receives us with a warm smile and leads us to his workstation, barely five kilometers from the Kapseret bypass. Today was a longer day for him as he was at his workstation by 6 am, keen to finish his job on time and attend a neighbor's Harambee (fund-raising ceremony).

From a close analysis, Namai's weathered face tells a tale of resilience. His eyes, once vibrant now carry a subtle heaviness that speaks volumes about the challenges he is facing.

As he led us to his charcoal-burning workstation amidst the gentle rains of Eldoret, he couldn't help but share the silver lining that the rainy weather brings to his livelihood.

"With the rains, business is good. Charcoal sells like hotcake now," he joked.

It has been more than three decades since the former Harambee Stars defender bid the football scene goodbye, and with it, faded the memories of his heydays.

Most of his customers are unaware that the man selling charcoal to them was once a football star who was glued to the then-only broadcasting station– Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

Namai was born 56 years ago at Pumwani Hospital in Nairobi. His journey in football began in Eldoret, where his family relocated after his father's transfer to Kenya Railways, Eldoret. His early passion for the sport blossomed during his primary school years in Eldoret, setting the stage for a remarkable career.

"I was born in Nairobi, Pumwani Hospital. We used to stay in Makongeni from 1966. My father was working with Kenya Railways. He began working in Nairobi, transferred to Nakuru, then finally to Eldoret where we settled. I started playing football in primary school; Eldoret Union and Kapsoya Primary Schools," he offered.

He drew inspiration from his uncle Elphas Omboko who used to play for the Uganda national team. Namai's mother too was a hard-hitting striker during her school days.

He would later join Kakamega High School for his secondary education. He was the deskmate to former tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.

Namai's breakthrough came during his time at Kakamega High School, where he not only honed his skills but also had the privilege of representing Kenya in the U13 category in Italy, a memory he still holds dear.

He shared a glint of pride about how while playing in San Siro Stadium, the current home of AC Milan and Inter Milan, his skills on the pitch caught the attention of none other than the legendary Paolo Maldini, an Italian former professional footballer who gifted him with a jersey.

"I was still in school when I made my debut. We went to Italy and played against teams like Inter Milan, Napoli, and Uruguay. Against Inter Milan, I played well until Paulo Maldini took off his jersey and gifted me in 1986. I put on that jersey once in a while because every time I put it on, I walk proud. It reminds me back. Those days I was still big and strong. When I look at myself today, in this state, I pity myself," he disclosed.

Source: Sportsmole 

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