NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 26 – “I know coaches and goalkeepers are really pleased that I am finally retiring. I won’t torment them any more with free kicks. They are in celebration mode now. They used to see me standing behind a ball and they start shaking. I used to torment them a lot,” immediate former Nairobi City Stars defender Noah Abich says.
Abich announced his retirement from active football after almost two decades in the top flight and the defender known for his trademark set piece prowess says he leaves the active scene with his head high and now looks forward to churning out the next generation of dead ball specialists.
He has hang up his boots and will now be incorporated into the City Stars technical bench as one of the assistant coaches.
“I felt that it was time for me to pave way for the young generation. It is not okay for me to continue playing while I know very well there are way better young players behind me. It is time for me to vacate the scene and now use my experience to help the young players,” Abich, notes.
Abich joined City Stars midway through the 2018-2019 campaign when they were struggling with relegation in the National Super League. He however helped them avoid the chop and remain in the top tier.
Last season, he played an equally integral role in helping them earn promotion back to the Kenyan Premier League.
“When I came in there, I found them almost bottom of the table and they had almost given up. I told them never to lose hope and we fought together as a team. I scored many goals and assisted more and eventually we survived,” Abich recalls.
The defender who as been one of the top scorers in every team he has played in. He boasts of three Premier League titles; one with Sony Sugar in 2006 and two with Tusker FC in 2011 and 2012.
He started his career at Nzoia Sugar straight from Thur Gem High School in 2002 before joining Chemelil Sugar. After just a season, he was drafted in by Sony Sugar in 2006 where the team ended up winning their only league title.
He then moved to Tusker FC in 2008 alongside several other players including Posta Rangers skipper Jockins Atudo where he went on to wait four years before winning the titles back to back in 2011 and 2012.
He then left Tusker and joined Nakuru All Stars before playing further for AFC Leopards, Kakamega Homeboyz, Mathare United, Mount Kenya United (formerly Nakumatt FC), Sofapaka, Bandari and finally City Stars.
“I am really proud of my career. I have done my best and the best thing is that being a defender I was always first or second in the top scorers’ list. I am happy that I leave with my head held high,” says Abich who has also been named second best defender in the 2016 season when he helped Sofapaka dramatically avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Among the biggest moments of his career apart from winning the league title twice, Abich picks out helping Sofapaka escape relegation as another of his highs.
“The team had very few points when we were signed in the second leg. Everyone was afraid they would be relegated but I always told people, no way Sofapaka would go down. I scored so many goals including on the final day of the season against Thika when we won 5-1 and I scored two beautiful freekicks,” Abich recalls.
Among his best goals were two identical set pieces he scored against Gor Mahia and Tusker FC while he was at Mathare United. In both instances, Jerim Onyango (Gor) and Duncan Ochieng (Tusker) were left stunned and rooted to the ground.
His lowest moment in the career spanning 20 years was in 2007 when at Sony, they failed to defend the league title. “We were needed just to beat Coast Stars to win the league. We went to Mombasa at the hight of good form, but we were thrashed 4-0. It was devastating for us.”
Meanwhile, he says his dead ball speciality is inborn talent, but also down to good training.
“Yes, I have the talent. But I also work a lot in training. The bad thing with players these days is that they watch too much play-station and want to implement without training. For me, as much as I had the talent, I had to train a lot,” he explains.
And now, he wants to pass on that same knowledge to young players. Apart from Nairobi City Stars, he also has an Under-10 and Under-12 Academy in Zimmerman where he trains upcoming stars.
“When you start training from an early age, you become a very good player. There are some things like ball handling, technique, ball control and more which need to be part of you from a young age. That is what I want to do with these young boys,” he says.
The experienced defender also adds; “I want to learn every bit of thing from coach Sanjin as his assistant and improve. He saw my discipline and dedication and that’s why he decided to have me in his technical bench. I want to keep growing and hopefully soon become one of the best coaches.”