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Why Mariga, Oliech owe it to this man

Of the national footballing treasures Nairobi’s Makongeni Estate has produced, Samson Abuya is arguably one of the greatest.

After a coaching and management career spanning 21 years, Abuya has risen to become the king of high school football.

The man from Makongeni, popularly known as Okongo, has four titles with three different schools to his name in the last 11 years. He is now looking to conquer East Africa next year with national schools champions Upper Hill.

“The national contest is not a problem for us as the only team that poses a challenge is Ofafa Jericho. Our focus is the East Africa Schools Games where we fell to St Mary’s Kitende in the final this year,” Abuya said.

Abuya first tasted success with Kamukunji High School during the ‘Golden Boys’ era when he guided the team to two consecutive national titles in 2002 and 2003.

At the time, the team consisted of national team Harambee Stars players such as France-based AJ Ajaccio forward Dennis Oliech and Inter Milan midfielder Macdonald Mariga.

Trained smart

“We only trained once a day at 6am unlike other schools which had two sessions. We worked harder during that one session. This paid off because we got the results we wanted,” Abuya said.

In 2006, shortly after Peter Orero was appointed principal of Lang’ata High School, Abuya was hired as the coach. After just three years on the job, he delivered the national trophy.

In 2010, Orero was transferred to Upper Hill and convinced Abuya to join him. The team emerged the surprise package of the tournament when they reached the final but lost to St Anthony’s Kitale.

Abuya also moulded other stars such as Mariga’s younger brother Victor Wanyama, Jamal Mohammed and Patrick Oboya at Kamukunji.

The coach’s most outstanding products from Lang’ta High are Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars pair of Kevin Omondi and Musa Mohammed. At Upper Hill Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars striker Edwin Lavatsa also passed through his hands.

“There are over 30 players who have featured in the Kenyan Premier League and Harambee Stars that I have coached,” Abuya said.

Abuya’s secret

Abuya’s secret – give players the freedom to express themselves on and off the pitch, but guide them to follow the right path.

“I give my players time to show what they have to offer for confidence, then I build on that, and it has worked all these years. Most coaches stop players from doing certain things in their social life, which is wrong. Instead, they should ask them to moderate their lifestyles,” he said.

For Abuya, Tusker midfielder Frederick ‘Uche’ Onyango is the most disciplined footballer in Kenya.

“He doesn’t drink alcohol nor indulge in any drugs. He carries himself well on and off the pitch. He is a shining example of what an athlete should be,” Abuja added.

He said AFC Leopards coach James Nandwa’s free hand management style had an immediate impact as the team won the domestic cup, the GOtv Shield after being charge for only two months following the sacking of Beligian Luc Eymael.

Working partnership

Abuya’s partnership with Orero is perhaps one of the most beautiful ones in Kenyan football at the moment, as they have achieved a lot as a team.

“At Kamukunji Orero would grant half scholarships to the best players in the team, and this motivated the players, and ensured support from their parents and guardians,” the tactician said.

Abuya has chosen to stick to schools despite interest from several clubs in the Kenyan Premier League.

“I simply hate politics. In 2002 I was appointed AFC Leopards coach but I resigned three months into the job owing to the frustrations from some office bearers who wanted me to fail. All I want to do was my job,” he said.

His decision has paid off, as he is one of the game’s legends at high school level, and has produced some of the country’s greatest football players.

Abuya is not sitting on his laurels just because Upper Hill are national kings. He wants to cast his net wide and conquer the East Africa region.