As he watched the budding players some as old as five years go through their paces at the edge of the dusty Kisulisuli playground in Nakuru Town East, very few people noticed his presence.
He could easily be mistaken to be one of the residents from the noisy slums killing boredom and having fresh air away from the smell of the illicit brews and drug smoking youths.
He braves the scorching sun and seems not to be in a hurry as he occasionally pulls his handkerchief to wipe sweat and dust from this bald head.
The former Mathare United attacking midfielder Tedium Rogers is here on a different mission.
Preventing the youths from engaging in criminal activities and keeping them away from drugs and illicit brews in the area known as the “operational base” of a criminal gang.
“I want these future stars to know that crime does not pay. My prayer is that one day this area will be a crime-free zone,” said Ted, as he led the players to repeat his clarion call: “Let this area be a free crime zone!”
The inaugural football clinic attracted players from the neighbouring slums of Abong’loya, Kaloleni, Kanyon City, Shauri Yako, Free Area, Kivumbini, Paul Machanga, Kaloleni, Shauri Yako, Flamingo, Ojuka, Kimathi, Lake View and Manyani among others, which are perhaps the most dangerous in the cosmopolitan town.
The densely populated slums are no longer the safe slums that were preferred residential areas for low-income earners in Nakuru in the 1970s, 1980s and up to the late 1990s.
They have a reputation for violent crime. Criminal gangs run the show, and the daily accounts from the slums are chilling.
Ted was not alone as he was accompanied by former Tusker utility player David Seda and former Shabana, and defunct Kisumu Posta and Eldoret KCC player Peter “Kasskass” Kamau.
And when more than 100 under-14 budding football stars converged on the edge of the dusty playgrounds for the final briefing, they did not know who would be giving them tips to sharpen their football and life skills.
When he started his inspirational talk that he punctuated with the sheng language that resonated well with the budding players, it was as if the players were watching a movie dubbed “my life from football to prison.”
Their attention was pitch high and it is as if they were in an examination room doing their final exams. They could not even feel the heat that fried their soft heads.
The nearly more than one-hour conversation left the budding footballers wanting more.
They engaged Ted in a lively question and answer session and when they left, they went shoulder high with great confidence, hope, understanding and knowledge that crime does not pay and that football and education go hand in hand.
It was an unforgettable experience that saw the towering Ted score classic life goal after goal into young players’ hearts as he urged them to use the life tips to become the next crop of football stars in the region and beyond.
“I want you to be disciplined, listen to your coaches who are like your second parents on earth. Avoid crime, bad influence and study hard in school and one day you will board a plane and become famous like international players such David “Calabar” Owino, John ” Mo” Muiruri who is in Denmark and others who are playing professional football in Europe and other parts of the world,” offered Ted.
Ted opened his remarks by asking the attentive players whether they were born in 2000.
And the answer was a deafening No!
“I was arrested in 2000 for robbery while I was 24 years. I almost died from mob justice. I want to share my experience in life as a former footballer and warn you that crime does not pay. What I have undergone in life is something I would not like anyone of you to go through. I have been to hell and back,” said Ted.
Ted, who is the founder member of Mathare United, was sentenced to death and remained behind bars for nearly two decades until he was released in August 2019.
He continued: “I started playing football at your age and I collided with mom most of the time. My life was all about football. I started as an under 12, but because of indiscipline, I joined the wrong company who led me to crime and my life has never been the same again. I lost everything. I spent my youthful years that I could play football behind bars. I’m now 43 years old and a grandfather as my boy who was seven years when I was sentenced to death is now 27 years and has a child. I can’t play competitive football.”
“If was disciplined I would have thought twice before indulging myself in criminal activities. At least you’re lucky I’m here to tell you about crime. Kamiti maximum prisons ni Jela ni noma sana. Sitaki mmoja wenu aingie huko. (Kamiti Maximum Prison is not a good place. I would not want anyone of you to go there.) This life has choices and choices have consequences. If you choose good things you will get them and if you choose bad things you will equally get them.”
Ted told the young players to avoid peer pressure, saying, “Ukishikwa huko jela hakuna masaa, buda ama bro. Kutoboa jela ni 50-50 (In jail there is no mother, father or brother. You carry your own cross. Your survival hangs in the balance. I thank God for surviving the harsh conditions for 19 years.”
At one time he turned to be like a Sunday school preacher saying “maybe it was God’s plans and purpose for me to go through the baptismal of fire and come out alive to tell my story to you so that you can reform and change forever. If I had died in prison perhaps you would not have heard from me. This is my book of life. Read it and pick valuable lessons.”
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During the Q& A, Benard Mogere a class Four Pupil at Muslim Primary School asked Ted who influenced him to join a criminal gang.
“I was driven into criminal activities by bad friends and that is why I plead with you to keep off such friends,” said Ted.
Irene, a class seven pupil at St Mary’s Primary School, asked Ted which class he was in when he got involved in criminal activities.
“I had completed my secondary school and I was playing competitive football and when I was injured I was out of play and that is when I fell into this trap that I dearly regret.”
Eugene from Paul Machanga slums asked Ted what lessons he picked while in jail.
“I learnt that freedom is precious. This sweet freedom that most of you take for granted should be jealously guarded.
Kasskass said that the inaugural football clinic was an eye-opener and he will plan to hold more clinics to enlighten the boys on the dangers of drugs and crime.
“The young players hail from areas that are not safe for them and face a lot of bad influence and as former football stars, the only way we can give back to the society is giving them tips to become better football players and citizens, by encouraging them to pursue their education vigorously,” said Kasskass.