Fredrick Odhiambo, better known as Abedi, was born in the city of Kisumu in Kenya. He grew up in the slums of Manyatta, and like many people from that area, life was not easy. Football to them was everything, it was not only something to keep them busy and out of trouble, but it was also a chance at a better life — a way out of the slums.
Abedi fell in love with football at the age of ten, where he quickly began to establish himself as a leader playing as a centre back.
“Growing up in the slums, if I didn’t play football, I would have never gone to school. I grew up in a family of seven kids, and my father could not afford to take us all to school. When I was supposed to join form one, two of my brothers were already in high school. As my father organised his finances, I had to sit out the first term.
One day, my father decided to take me to Kisumu with him, and I found myself playing in a tournament at the famous Sports Grounds. The coaches there quickly saw my abilities, and on that same weekend, they decided to pay my school fees at Kisumu Day High School. That evening I went back home with the school’s uniform and an admission letter.
My parents thought I had gone mad because it was a prestigious school. I asked my dad to go and see the principal. He was reluctant at first because he knew he couldn’t afford the fees.
My two brothers were already schooling in the institution. At the school, my dad was informed that the fees had been paid for four years. Football educated me.”
When Abedi was in form two, he was signed by Kisumu Telkom, then featuring in the Kenya Premier League (KPL). He went home to tell his father who dismissed him, asking, “You and that small body will you be able to play in the KPL?”
However, his father would later go and watch his son, wearing the number two jersey for Kisumu Telkom facing Tusker in an official KPL game. Previously, every time Abedi left the house for a game or training, his father would always ask him where he was going. Like most Kenyan parents, he saw it as a waste of time and didn’t want his son playing football. However, seeing his son play in the top league changed his mind. He was now free to pursue his dream.
In 2006 Abedi got a phone call from his childhood friend and current Kakamega Homeboyz attacker Allan Wanga. Allan and another player were leaving Tuskers FC. He wanted Abedi to try out with the club.
Despite impressing in the trials, the team was travelling for CECAFA and Abedi did not have a passport so he was dropped. That was it with the brewers, as the club is famously known. He would later join Nairobi Stima in the second-tier league. The move was the beginning of an up and down career, and Abedi would start to learn of how disposable a football player in Kenya was.
After six months, he joined Posta Rangers where he spent a season and then moved to Mahakama then Red Berets. The para-military outfit was disbanded, and Abedi moved to Strathmore University FC where he spent a considerable chunk of his competitive playing career. He later moved back to Mahakama.
He spent two seasons there, then went back to Stima and finally to Equity Bank football club. Here he found some stability until his life changed forever. Abedi remembers that fateful Wednesday night on his way home, he was involved in a road accident that left him with severe injuries on his right arm.
He had to be admitted for two days and having lost his valuables, including his mobile phone, he had no way to communicate his whereabouts. Upon being discharged, his first action was to reach out to his coach. His coach was not impressed and had strong words for his dependable centre-back.
They didn’t want to know what had happened to him for the past 48hrs until he showed up to the match on Saturday still bandaged up, with fresh stitches. They had assumed Abedi had planned to be away from training to avoid playing in the weekend’s game.
After examining his injuries the following week, the club decided to terminate his contract realising he would be out injured for a considerable amount of time. Abedi was devastated. He would later have to enlist the help of Football Kenya Federation to receive his release letter to enable him to join another club after he healed.
As he recovered, Abedi decided to join his local club Buruburu Sports. After playing for a few months, he realised that he could no longer compete at that level and young talents were coming up. He decided to join the technical bench as a coach and mentor the young ones. He felt comfortable in this role and decided to enrol in various football coaching courses to gain the requisite skills and qualifications.
‘Football has frustrated a lot of people in Kenya, and many ex-pros end up telling young kids that football will not help them.’
However, even after what he went through Abedi remains positive and is determined to make a mark in football. He started his academy, K-South Football Academy, and started coaching the youth at Kariobangi South in his free time with the resources he had.
He knows he has a platform and a chance to better himself while teaching young boys and girls to make better decisions both on and off the pitch.
In March 2019, Abedi attended a workshop, Project Management Skills for Life, organised by The Football Foundation for Africa in collaboration with Project Management Insitute, Kenya and Switzerland chapters in the run-up to Obama Cup 2019. From the seminar, he felt he had acquired enough knowledge to realise one of his goals – organise a football tournament for his community.
Abedi set out to organise the tournament which he named Unity Cup. Among the objectives of the competition was to revive grassroots football in the area and create a platform where youths could be engaged positively. Further, he planned to improve community cohesion and enhance social inclusion.
To realise his endeavour, Abedi reached out to Brian Wesaala (FFA founder), a former teammate at Strathmore University FC for support. They teamed up and brought the ‘Unity Cup’ to life.
On the last day of the tournament, Abedi could not hold back his tears as he watched people from Kariobangi South turn up in droves to watch their boys play football.
It reminded him of growing up in the slums of Manyatta as a young boy playing football.
“We need to do better with these young ones coming up. We need to change how we talk to them. We need to tell them that they can become something if they put in the work and stay disciplined. You don’t have to be a player, there are a lot of opportunities in sports which are employing people in different fields and departments, but it starts with each one of us, using the platforms we have and starting in your community.’
What does football mean to Fredrick ‘Abedi’ Odhiambo? Everything. Football educated him. It allowed him to become a professional footballer and today it has allowed him to give back to his community and mentor the next generation. Abedi main ambition is to develop the K-South Football Academy and grow Unity Cup, which will be one of the events under The Football Foundation for Africa umbrella.