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By VINCENT OPIYO
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For no apparent reason, the player became rude, inconceivable and arrogant…and out of the pitch he did not stop with his insults to the senior coach and his assistants.

He learned the most vulgar expressions in Bulgarian and began to address them to his teammates without exception.”

“He began to curse everything related to life in our country and did not try to conceal his dislike for the Bulgarian state at all,” read a statement dated April 19, 2018 and signed by PFC Slavia Sofia 1913 president Ventsislav Stefanov.

These were among the allegations levelled against, and that characterised the last days of talented Kenyan international left back Abud Omar’s time in Bulgaria.

His final days in that country were full of drama of such epic proportions after he was fired by his then club, top flight side PFC Slavia Sofia.

News of the 26-year-old flooded social media across the globe. Such was the interest in the story at the time that it made it onto renowned global media houses BBC, CNN and AFP.

The player, aware that he now had to find himself another club, proceeded to shop around for a club and two months later, he would join Belgian top flight side Cercle Brugge.

“They (the Bulgarian club) asked me twice to extend my contract so that they could sell me to a team in Croatia or Switzerland but at the time they owed me three months of unpaid salary.”

“Since there was something better in the offing from my agent, I refused to extend my contract and that’s when the accusations and threats started,” narrates Abud, who turned 26 on September 9.

He adds: “I sought a hideout for two months at my friend’s place, an hour away from the city of Sofia while waiting for my Belgian Visa. When it was ready, I went to the club office to request for my money.

“They gave me cash but I rushed to the bank to confirm if it was fake or not before leaving the country. Thankfully they haven’t followed me to Belgium, I believe I am now safe.”

On the accusation of using vulgar language he says, “they took advantage of my not understanding their language to accuse me with all sorts of allegations.”

“If I didn’t like Bulgaria, why then would I have been playing there for the last two years?

“They just wanted to extend my stay at all costs and unfortunately these are some of the perils foreigners encounter across the borders.”

The club statement spread like wild fire in Kenya with various publications and portals documenting his ordeal.

Known for his vocal nature, Abud, who made 59 appearances in his two year stint with the eight-time Bulgarian cup holders, was quick to take on those who were criticising him online asking them to always back their own Kenyans instead of running on social media to castigate them.

The first born in a family of two, Abud started his football journey at Sparki Youth before moving to Mombasa United Charity Academy (MUCA) and joined second tier side Admiral in 2010 after clearing his O-level at Mombasa-based Khamis secondary school.

Two years later, he joined Bandari but within 18 months, had piqued the interest of 11-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions Tusker who roped him in during the 2013 June transfer window.

It’s while at Tusker that he earned his first cap for the national team Harambee Stars then under the tutelage of Algerian turned Belgian Adel Amrouche.

He was part of the 2013 Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Senior Challenge Cup winning squad.

“The memories at Tusker are still freshly etched in my mind. It’s through them I got my first call up to the national team,” shares the defender, who featured 73 times for Tusker, scoring three goals and winning the KPL Super Cup in 2013 and two back-to-back KPL Top Eight cups in 2013 and 2014.

After two years with the Ruaraka based side, he parted ways with the club albeit unceremoniously.

“I had a deal outside the country but Tusker were not willing to release me so I had to find my way out. This was incorrectly interpreted as the club having dropped me. I travelled to Slovenia but unfortunately I arrived late at the club and had to shift to Greece signing with Panegialios FC in the second tier, of course after trials,” he says.

“One thing Kenyans must know is that we have talented players back here but the reality outside the borders is different. Trials are compulsory. We are more famous for athletics than we are for football and this becomes a huge stumbling block on one’s first attempt in Europe.

“Several times I’ve been asked if I was a fitness coach or a player because they don’t believe Kenya can produce a footballer but I am sure this will change by better performances of our national team and if the local league can make strides to be more competitive to give players a cutting edge overseas,” argues Abud who joined the Bulgarian side Slavia Sofia after a six month stint in Greece.

He remarks that his best moment with Slavia Sofia was an assist for a goal in a 1-0 home win against Polish side Zaglebia Labin during the 2016/17 Uefa Europa League first qualifying round first leg tie before being eliminated in the reverse tie on a 3-1 aggregate score.

For the two appearances in Europe’s second tier club competition, Abud put a marker to his career, joining the list of Kenyan players to have featured in the Uefa Europa league after former Kenyan internationals Mike Okoth, Robert Mambo and McDonald Mariga as well as current Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama, Mathare United defender James Situma, midfielder Anthony Dafaa, Ayub Timbe and Finland based Amos Ekhalie.

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To him, signing a one year renewable contract with Cercle Brugge, a club owned by French giants AS Monaco, on June 15 was a new chapter in his career that he is ready to roll up his sleeves for, defy the odds and take his career to another height.

Abud made his debut in the Belgian Pro League in a barren draw against Sint-Truiden on July 28. The left-footed player admits that the Belgian league is more demanding than the Greek and Bulgarian ones. Off the pitch, life is too expensive with a tax of 50 percent hence calling for caution on how to spend the salary – running up to thousands of dollars – he makes monthly.

“It’s so physical with a lot of skilful players but it’s a good scouting platform for higher leagues, this is just but another stepping stone for me to join higher leagues in the next few years.”

“Unlike in Bulgaria where I looked relaxed outstanding in almost every game, a different brand of football is required in the Belgian league but I am happy with the few games I have played that have made me work extra hard and improve my performances,” adds Abud who put up an impressive performance as Kenya edged out four-time continental champions Ghana 1-0 in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group “F” qualifier at Kasarani Stadium on September 8, a day before he celebrated his 26 birthday in style.

Abud Omar congratulates teammates Erick Ouma and Dennis Odhiambo after Kenya scored against Malawi in a friendly match at Kasarani on September 11, 2018. PHOTO | VINCENT OPIYO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Abud Omar congratulates teammates Erick Ouma and Dennis Odhiambo after Kenya scored against Malawi in a friendly match at Kasarani on September 11, 2018. PHOTO | VINCENT OPIYO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cercle Brugge is also home to another Kenyan international midfielder Johanna “Tosh” Omollo who has helped Abud settle at the 119-year old club that host their matches at a 29, 945-capacity Jan Breydel Stadium.

His move to Belgium was aided by Fifa licensed intermediary in Belgian Martin Henrotay, brother to famous Christophe Henrotay who manages Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois, Fiorentina winger Kevin Mirallas among other high profile stars.

“The player agent plays a huge role in European transfers, a top notch agent plays 60 percent role while a little known agent makes 10 percent role in finding deals, the rest falls on the player’s hard work on the pitch,” revealed Abud.

Henrotay, who flew to Bulgaria to watch him earlier in the year, predicts a good future for the left back.

“The visibility of the Belgian championship is very good and Belgium as a country is bordered by German and France but also not far from England so there are many scouts from these countries watching each Belgian first league games.

“Being here, he is in a good position to join a better club and or league soon,” Henrotay told Nation Sport on phone from his base in Brussels, Belgium.

Veteran coach Twahir Muhiddin, who has previously trained the player, challenged him to capitalise on the Belgian opportunity to rise up the ranks.

“He needs to be physically strong because with his talent and the kind of hard work he puts in training, he can achieve greater things. His dream has come true and he should now ensure he doesn’t sleep on the chance. Many Kenyans have excelled outside the country, the likes of Mike Okoth and Musa Otieno. With hard work and determination for sure Abud is headed there, he is on the right path,” said the former Harambee Stars coach Muhiddin.

Cercle Brugge's Kenyan left-back Abud Omar in action against Beerschot in a Belgian Cup game on September 27, 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY |

Cercle Brugge’s Kenyan left-back Abud Omar in action against Beerschot in a Belgian Cup game on September 27, 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY |

Having amassed 31 international caps for Kenya, Abud hopes he can go one better with the national team and earn a qualification to next year’s Afcon.

“I think it’s our time to break that 15-year hiatus but we need to collect six points against Ethiopia and win the home match against Sierra Leone.

“This can be achieved if the government will fully support the federation who’ve tried their level best this far.

“The fans, too, need to motivate us by turning up in numbers to support whoever makes the match day squad instead of criticising team selection because we are all Kenyans with the national team our pride.

“I believe this will be my best year after signing in a better league (Belgium), beating Ghana at home and if we qualify for Afcon, it will be one of the highlights of my career,” concluded Abud whose other interests include listening to Bongo, Nigerian and Lingala music.

His favourite meals are a combination of ugali and beef stew and chapati and beans.

His parting shot to upcoming players?

“Patience, hard work and prayer. Above all, believe in yourself, don’t play to impress fans but to meet your set objectives. I was tagged as a player with indiscipline issues during my time in Kenya but I never rested on my laurels. I kept working hard on the pitch.

“I am a player who neither drinks alcohol nor parties; always trying my best to maintain professionalism has helped me avoid many obstacles along the way.”



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