NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 6 – Sign-on fees are an integral part of players’ movement from one club to another during the transfer window. No player leaves Club A for Club B without a figure being involved and it is an important aspect for both the player and the involved clubs.
But, have you ever heard of a fan earning transfer fees and a solid contract? Well, this is the story of staunch Sofapaka supporter Ramah Ibrahim.
In 2011, the lanky Ramah, synonymous with his ever-loud vuvuzela and swinging dreadlocks stunned the football world when he ditched his childhood club Mathare United, swapping the green and yellow of the Slum Boys for the blue and white of Batoto ba Mungu.
And that was not just it. He earned both a sign-on fee and a 10-year contract, set to expire in 2021.
And in an exclusive interview with Capital Sport, Ramah, who also works as a tout in the Eastleigh 9/6 route discloses that when the aroma of Prezda Elly Kalekwa’s purse hit his nostrils, he had to follow in its direction.
“When I was in Mathare, I used to play with the Sofapaka Wazee team and Kalekwa was impressed with what I was doing as a fan. At that time, I was living in the red because I hadn’t paid my rent for more than six months,” the father of four says.
-Everything fell into place after Sofapaka move
He adds; “When I made the decision to move to Sofapaka, everything fell in place. My rent arrears were instantly sorted by Kalekwa who also added me some more as pocket money to keep me going. We agreed on a 10-year contract and I want to believe I am the only fan in Kenya to ever receive signing fee.”
His decision to leave Mathare, Ramah explains, was down to an unnamed official who allegedly frustrated his efforts and he never felt appreciated by them.
“He did not appreciate our input as fans and would even deny us merchandise yet we are always there for the team, travelling with them across the country,” Ramah states.
With zero regrets of swapping jerseys for good, Ramah now calls Sofapaka family and gleefully screams ‘Sofapaka for life’.
“I cannot support any other team. Not even Gor or AFC Leopards. Even when I get free merchandise of any of the two clubs, like when AFC captain Robinson Kamura gave me one, I would rather give it out to my friends of relatives.”
He also discloses that there was a time Wazito wanted to recruit him to their ranks, but his love for the club and loyalty to owner Kalekwa were too strong to allow any wind to blow his flag to another direction.
“I will stick with Kalekwa until that time he will say enough is enough,” he says.
Even when his contract officially ends next year, Ramah says he will still dance to the beat of the Sofapaka drums.
-Trains with the team to keep fit-
And for him as well, he always trains with the team whenever they have their sessions at the Eastleigh High School and being a former player whose career was cut short by injury, keeping fit is part of the job as well.
“Blowing a vuvuzela also requires energy. To do it for 90 minutes, you need some reasonable energy,” the full-of-life Ramah says.
As a fan, the raw emotions of the game hit harder than players, in most cases. And it is no different with Ramah. He has also had his fair share of lows as a football fan and one that stands out sharp in his list of memories is when they were almost relegated from the KPL in 2016.
“That was a very tough moment for all of us. We were always being taunted by rival fans especially Mathare. But when we managed to survive, it was a great relief and we even had a party where the legendary Mbilia Bel performed and I was fortunate to meet her,”
Among his other favorite moments as a Sofapaka fan include the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Shield triumph in 2014.
As a fan, one thing that has stood out and become an impediment to more like him to attend matches is hooliganism but he believes the vice will be dealt with soon.
“In this day and age, hooliganism should be a thing of the past. I have been a victim of hooliganism while at Mathare United when I walked into the stadium late during a Gor Mahia game. I was blowing my vuvuzela loudly and clearly it didn’t please them. I was roughed up and it was Andrew Oyombe who came to my rescue,” he explains.
“My advice to fans is that they need to style up and look at themselves as Kenyans and not people from whichever residential areas they come from,” adds Ramah.
Meanwhile, on the national team front, Rama says he is an avid supporter of the Harambee Stars, but is only pained that fans don’t travel for away matches and he hopes the government can facilitate a few every time the team is flying out.
-Ramah at a glance
For Ramah, football was second nature and was an active player with Kenya Bus and Pumwani Sportiff.
His hope of making it pro were however cut short when he picked up a nasty knee injury as he played for the Eastleigh 9/6 team at the Koth Biro tournament in Ziwani.
He was born and brought up in Eastleigh and his period at Undugu St. Teresa enabled him to meet football icons from then, including Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi who was the Mathare United skipper then.
Happily married, the father of three has aptly named all his sons around football icons. He has Mariga Junior, Kalekwa Junior also nicknamed Messi and Abdul Razak as well as one adopted boy.
“I named my boys after football personalities as I have always wanted them to realize their potential in the sport,” says Ramah.
Ramah has huge admiration for Sofapaka coach John Baraza especially with his open style management where he takes advise from everyone but makes his own final decisions. But, his favorite is Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee.
“He is a very flamboyant person and loves the trendy things in life. The way he dresses up, his eloquence and he brags after victory is always admirable. The guy is just awesome. Coach Kimanzi is second on my list. He is a mtaa guy and well versed with all technological advancements and knows how to relate with people,” Rama says before adding on that Baraza, Zedekiah Otieno and Robert ‘The Lion’ Matano complete his top five.