Saturday 2 November 2013 will forever be in the minds of those associated with Sher Karuturi. Once a formidable force in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) scene, their association with the Kenyan top flight football was to come to an abrupt end.
After flirting with relegation for the better part of the season, their relegation fears were confirmed by Mathare United who emerged 2-0 winners on the day; the goals coming courtesy of a Dennis Nzomo first half penalty with Edwin Ombasa adding the other.
For any footballer, relegation from a top flight league is always a blow and a reminder of how poor you were through the season-another move to start all over again, for Sher Karaturi’s keeper Noah Ayuko, it was the end of his world.
I can accredit my football stardom to Karuturi; they gave me everything I needed for my prosperity. Getting relegated after our struggle for the better part of that season (2013) was the end of me. Starting a new life outside the Karuturi circle was always going to be tough and I haven’t picked up from then,” Ayuko says.
Born on 10 March 1977, Ayuko was a household name in the early millennium drawing admiration in and outside the country. To anyone in any field, being paid for doing something you love is something of a satisfaction by all means. To footballers, to be paid to play a sport you love while receiving admiration is a pretty good deal.
Professional footballers, more so of the yester years were not often feted for their intelligence but that’s not the main reason why others fail to make it after hanging their boots in Noah Ayuko’s case, the gloves.
“It’s something that gives you some satisfaction when you are paid to do something that you love most but football has changed and in the current state, footballers are more recognized and paid well unlike during our days. It is true that most of us at Karuturi were being paid by our sponsors Sher Agencies where we were employers but all went wrong when the company collapsed and there was no one to cater for our needs and that affected not only me but a lot of players at Karuturi then,” Ayuko opines.
Ayuko started his serious club football with Oserian then under the tutelage of Twahir Muhiddin (now a technical director at Bandari FC) in 2000 and lifted the 2001 KPL title and coming as runners up in the same year at the CECAFA Club Championship after losing to Tusker FC in an all Kenyan affair; the competition having been held in Kenya. He was to join Chemelil for a season before settling in Naivasha with Karuturi for eight years; a period he feels marked him for stardom.
“I owe Twahir Muhiddin a lot in my career. He is the one who introduced me to the game and incorporated me in a team that had winners and I am happy that many of my team mates then are now some established coaches in the country. Kimanzi gave me my debut in the national team but Muhiddin recalled me again when he was at the helm so I owe a lot to him. He is one guy who believed in my abilities.
“I left Chemelil after a season for Karuturi because apart from playing, they were going to offer me a job and that enticed me. Sadly the company went down when I had a little left in the bag to carry on as a player and that disarrayed a lot of my plans,” Ayuko continues.
Ayuko was to call it a day after a season with Kakamega Homeboyz in 2015 after which he was handed a role at Vihiga United in 2016 as their goalkeeper trainer but all was not going his way as he says internal wrangles and personal reasons made him quit his job.
“As a player you now that one day you will have to leave the scene for the fresh blood and after watching many of my team mates venture into coaching, I decided that after the Homeboyz adventure I was going to follow suit.
“Coaching at Vihiga was a good adventure as it was meant to be my first blueprint in the coaching world but I am a guy who hates disruptions and as the season progressed, I felt my presence was ruffling feathers at the club and I had to leave to give them the peace they needed,” Ayuko notes.
After being out of the limelight for some time, news started circulating that the ex-national team keeper was not living a life that befitted a legend after what he did for Kenyan Football with his images in social media by depicting a face of someone who had lost hope in life. While Ayuko who currently coach young kids in Kakamega, doesn’t deny he has struggled to make ends meet, he affirms that he know that one day he will be back to make a contribution to the Kenyan soccer.
“The guy who was spreading the photos on social media did what he what he had to do; with my state I can’t control what people do with my images. The truth is it’s been tough on my side to make ends meet because of the demands of life. Currently I do odd jobs in the streets of Kakamega to earn a living and this is not a life I had envisaged when I started playing football.
“Every evening after work, the kids from the neighborhood join me in an evening kick about and they see me as a mentor. Despite what people think, being seen as someone who can inspire a young generation still gives me hope that one day I will be back and add value to the Kenyan soccer and will jump at any opportunity to realize this,” Ayuko says.
What of his preferred keeper currently in the country and his advice to the upcoming footballers.
“There is no better keeper than Boniface Oluoch (in the books of Gor Mahia) currently in the country. What Oluoch doesn’t like is pressure, he likes doing things his own way and if given room to do so, he performs. There are good upcoming keepers in the National Super League (NSL) too and I hope they can keep the momentum going.
“My advice to footballers is never tire to give your best. There will always be competition and that should spur you on. I wasn’t a constant feature between the posts by fluke, it’s the hard work in trainings that keeps you there,” Ayuko concludes.
Many who have been with Ayuko believes there are a lot of circumstances majorly alcohol that has contributed to his current state with ex Harambee Stars striker Boniface Ambani, who was raised in Naivasha and a close ally to the keeper saying there were plans to take Ayuko to a rehabilitation center before getting him back to his feet.
Ambani who acknowledges the response from the fans urged the federation and football stakeholders to bring ex footballers close to the game lest they disappear into the oblivion.
“Ayuko’s main problem has been alcohol addiction but we are working round the clock to have him back to his feet. I have to thank the football fans of this country who have shown course and contributed in a way or the other and our first step is to ensure that he be taken to a rehabilitation center before working again to have him back into the game.
“To prevent such cases in the future, I believe the federation and football stakeholders in this country should work on a formulae to have such legends closer to the game for they still has a lot to offer to the country,” Ambani notes.