NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 4 – At the corner of his house in Nairobi’s South B estate, ailing Harambee Stars legend Joe Kadenge has hang a well framed photo of Kenya’s four Presidents, perched besides others of his hey days as a footballer.
At 82 years, Kadenge, who was discharged from hospital on Monday, prides himself as having been alive to meet retired Presidents Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki but he is yet to meet current Head of State, Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I have been with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, I met Mwai Kibaki and also Daniel arap Moi. The only one I have not sat down with is the current President, the young man (Uhuru Kenyatta). His father was a great friend of mine and we met several times,” the famous retired Harambee Stars striker said with a lot of nostalgia.
Having battled with diabetes and high blood pressure since 2006, the former AFC Leopards forward, famed for the phrase ‘Kadenge na mpira’ says before God calls time on his life, he would love to meet President Kenyatta.
“I feel like my body does not love me anymore. Any minute God might decide to take me, but I pray for him to add me a few more years. But before God calls me, I would like to meet him (Kenyatta) just to know him and him to know me. I would like him to continue leading this country in a good way,” Kadenge urged with a frail voice.
He believes he gave the country his best service from when he started playing in the 1950’s and he picks out his best match as one pitting the Uganda Cranes at the Nyayo Stadium in 1958.
“That was the best match because previously, Uganda was beating us every now and then. In 1958, they came to Nyayo Stadium and it was a big match because very many leaders had come to attend. We won 2-0 and I scored both goals,” Kadenge narrated.
The legend has been in and out of hospital for the last two years but despite his condition, he still has his trademark smile and a huge sense of humor.
“These sons of mine have been playing football, but none has done better than me. Ask them,” he said, pointing to his son Oscar who has been taking care of him.
Oscar, a former AFC Leopards player in turn chided his father saying he is more travelled. “I have played in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda so I can say I have beaten him to that.”
But Kadenge senior would not let him win; “You have played in all those countries, but what name do they remember? Oscar or Kadenge?” he asked his son while breaking in laughter.
He has some advice for upcoming footballers, especially basing on his own career where he consistently turned up for the national team for close to 15 years.
“Discipline is very important. Go to training the right time, listen to the coaches and dedicate yourself to your career. To live this long requires a lot of discipline,” Kadenge offered.
A fundraiser spearheaded by former Football Kenya Federation Vice President Sammy Shollei is set for Friday with the money collected set to be used to continue giving Kadenge medical care. Shollei is also pursuing an insurance cover for the ailing legend.
“We know that diabetes and blood pressure are diseases that require very keen management and they can be quite costly. Previously, the family has struggled to settle the bills and we want to remove that burden from them. We have had very good response so far,” Shollei said.
Kadenge was also visited by COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli who is one of his biggest fans and promised to support his healthcare.
“I have known this man for a very long time because I am a football fan myself. He is a strong man because even as you look at him right now, he looks very okay,” Atwoli said.