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Abud Omar: How I overcame negativity to establish myself overseas

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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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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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