Nairobi, Kenya – Suleiman Wanjau Bilali, considered one of Kenya’s best boxers with worldwide wins behind him, has been out and in of rehabilitation centres 3 times due to his alcohol dependancy and melancholy since he was sacked from his job in 2012.
He’s unkempt and appears unable to coordinate his thoughts whereas talking in sheng (Swahili-English slang) whereas chewing miraa – a stimulant also called khat. It takes lots of probing and persistence to know what he’s saying.
Bilali seems to be pale and skinny in his previous black T-shirt and outsized khakis. You possibly can scent the alcohol on his breath. His palms tremble as he sits down.
His state of affairs is broadly documented. Many Kenyans have been protesting on social media and native media shops since 2012, calling on the federal government and sports activities our bodies to assist the previous boxing star who Kenya was as soon as happy with.
Regardless of this outcry, the federal government has by no means give you a plan to assist Bilali.
After intense public strain final 12 months, former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko paid for his therapy at a rehabilitation centre utilizing his personal funds.
“Sonko took me to a rehabilitation centre,” Bilali informed Al Jazeera.
“After I left the centre late final 12 months after spending three months there, I went again to alcohol and miraa. I’ve no home and I wrestle for meals. Mates assist me with meals and a spot to sleep. A few of my good mates give me little money which I exploit to purchase alcohol and miraa.” Bilali generally visits the Muthurwa Neighborhood Centre on the fringes of the Nairobi enterprise district.
Along with the medals and representing Kenya on the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, Bilai has additionally obtained the Head of State Commendation.
However two accidents – in 1998 and 2004 – began his fall.
“Within the first accident, I used to be knocked down by a rushing automotive whereas coaching alongside the street and I had a fractured leg. Within the second, I acquired head accidents and a fractured shoulder.
“I misplaced my job in 2012 and my life has been filled with distress since. I used to be depressed and my life took a completely totally different flip. I misplaced all my investments and my spouse left me. Because of the illness, making ends meet is my greatest problem.”
Bilali says many boxing stars are battling psychological well being points and whereas he’s keen to teach children within the sport, with out assist he’s unable to return out of melancholy and combat off the urge for alcohol.
Stephen Muchoki, 65, is one other former nationwide boxing star. He now lives alone in a small compound in Nairobi’s Dandora property.
His life is a wrestle regardless of him elevating Kenya’s boxing flag excessive in worldwide arenas.
“I retired from beginner boxing in 1978 after successful the world title on the World Novice Boxing Championships in Yugoslavia. The identical 12 months, I gained gold on the Commonwealth Video games in Canada,” Muchoki informed Al Jazeera.
For 5 years, Muchoki was knowledgeable boxer in Denmark however returned to Kenya in 1983.
“My coronary heart was in Kenya. I wished to serve Kenya and characterize my nation. Sadly, my life has by no means been the identical. There have been no correct buildings to facilitate and handle former boxers like myself. I used to be by myself. The little I had invested completed and I used to be again to zero.
“Nobody bothered to even give me some pension after I had introduced fame to Kenya.”
Muchoki now volunteers as a coach on the Kariokor Boxing Membership in Nairobi.
“Smoking makes me really feel good. It’s not simple as a former star to reside in poverty. I’ve no pension or something that brings cash for me, this kills me slowly.”
David Munyasia is one other bantamweight boxer (54kg) who lives on the hope that, sooner or later, his legacy shall be remembered and appreciated.
Munyasia began his profession within the early Nineteen Nineties when he participated in junior championships. He later represented the Kenya Defence Forces and the nation at worldwide occasions.
Now, Munyasia has no work and is hooked on chewing khat.
“I really feel depressed as a result of I’ve no job regardless of being a boxing legend in Kenya,” mentioned Munyasia.
Kenya’s tradition and sports activities ministry didn’t reply to Al Jazeera’s request for remark.
Dancun Kuria, a communications director on the Boxing Federation of Kenya, agrees that there are a lot of former boxing stars dwelling in deplorable circumstances.
“Now we have been accused of neglecting former boxers,” Kuria informed Al Jazeera. “A few of them did nicely at beginner degree however issues modified once they went skilled. We can not intervene within the case of pros as a result of it’s not inside our mandate.
“In skilled boxing, gamers take care of a boxing fee the place brokers and promoters prepare for video games.”
Kuria mentioned he’s conscious of the state of affairs Bilali, Muchoki and Munyasia are in.
“Our palms are tied. We don’t have sufficient sponsors and a few of these instances are troublesome to deal with with out monetary assist.”
Kuria additionally mentioned a few of the boxers put themselves within the state of affairs they’re in.
“Many of those boxers didn’t have a plan for his or her post-boxing lives. They acquired carried away by fame and after boxing, their lives modified and lots of are actually depressed and affected by different social issues.
“We’re encouraging new boxers to take training critically by our present coaching periods in order that they’ve an additional ability. We additionally deliver on board trainers on monetary administration, therapists, and psychologists.”
Given the therapy a few of the former boxers have obtained, Charles Mukula, a coach at Dallas Boxing Membership, is nervous about the way forward for a sport he believes can take Kenya far.
“I’m a volunteer coach. I’ve youngsters as younger as 5 coming right here to be educated,” Mukula informed Al Jazeera.
“I don’t have correct boxing gear for coaching. It pains me once I see the zeal for boxing from youth but nobody cares.”