What you need to know:
- After he was sacked from Tusker FC, the talented defender joined Volcano United, then under Coach Gerry Saurer, after which he quit competitive football.
- Mbaji says it is unfortunate that his addiction to drugs made his wife and children disown him.
“Just one moment of madness turned things upside down for me, changing my life from the international left back I was to a street conman, a life I have never recovered from to date.”
That was former Tusker and Kenya international Michael Mbaji’s revelation when I met him in front of the A1 supermarket, along Digo Road in Mombasa where he positions himself begging for any loose change from those visiting the supermarket.
According to him, his altercation with goalkeeper Joseph Kibera over a TV remote that caused him all the troubles after he was immediately suspended from Kenya Breweries FC (now Tusker FC), never to be recalled.
“I was in the TV room watching my favourite TV series program when my colleague Kibera came and grabbed a remote control device from me, insisting he wanted to watch another channel which I objected to,” Mbaji said, adding that after a brief scuffle with the late ‘keeper over the remote, he (Mbaji) decided to break the TV set altogether.
Supporting himself on crutches and hanging on the right leg because the left leg has an open wound which he has been treating for the past 13 years, the soft spoken Mbaji says he chose to break the television set because Kibera was heavily built and could not use his small frame to wrestle him over a remote, a battle he says he knew he was going to lose, anyway.
According to him, that moment and the suspension that followed made him lose interest in playing football again, opting to link up with his old friends with whom they peddled and consumed heroine after his brief stint at professional outfit Volcano United.
“You know my mother Catherine Foleni very well because I know you were very good friends and coached netball together."
“She was those tough stone-age primary school teachers who could not allow me to operate from our Mwembe Kuku home so I decided to join my friends and advised that we rent ourselves a small room to operate from in Kisauni,” he said in reference to his mother, who was secretary Coast Netball Association and doubled up as netball coach at Coast Girls High School at the time yours truly was coaching netball and basketball at Mombasa High School in 1990 as a high school teacher.
The ex-Harambee Stars right back says he started conning people in the streets of Mombasa with his friends, mostly at the KFA Mwembe Tayari stage where they also engaged in pick-pocketing after heroine addiction, a practice he has found very difficult to drop.
In 2018, Mbaji appealed to the Ministry of Sports for help him recover from the ailment which he said he has had to live with for long, blaming it all on a bad lifestyle.
Mbaji, who went to Kikowani Primary School in Mombasa before joining Tudor Secondary School, says he started his football career at Buxton Strikers FC before joining Feisal from where he got the chance to play for Tusker.
After he was sacked from Tusker FC, the talented defender joined Volcano United, then under Coach Gerry Saurer, after which he quit competitive football.
Mbaji says it is unfortunate that his addiction to drugs made his wife and children disown him.
“I did not just have time for my family because I spent most of the time at the drug dens and in the streets trying to see who I can con because that was my new life,” he says with regret written allover his face.
“My wife married another man with whom they relocated to Dubai with,” Mbaji said, adding that things got worse for him when his mother passed on.
Mbaji says he picked up his in injury when he was hit by a truck while completely intoxicated and had passed out after taking heroine which he says has ruined his life completely.
The ex-Kenyan intenrational, who is under the government’s Methadone Programme, says he is ready to quit drugs if he can get Good Samaritans to take him into a rehabilitation centre.
“I am very ready to change and personally really appreciate the Methadone Programme but the problem is that they don’t isolate us.
“They still allow us to go back to our drug dens where we freely associate with the drug peddlers and therefore continue with our old habits,” he says.
He is not happy that the government’s Methadone programme has been “invaded by drug barons.”
Renowned Mombasa coach Tito Hassan, who was Mbaji’s classmate at Kikowani Primary School, says he was shocked to learn of Mbaji's predicament.
“We were very good friends in school, played football together among other games. I just cannot recall when he got into drugs,” Tito said.
Kaya Tiwi Secondary School Principal Robert Aran, who was taught by Mbaji’s mother at Ziwani Primary School, says Mbaji was “brilliant while in primary school” and was even the mother’s favourite son.
“I’m sympathetic to his current situation,” Aran says.