•Asieche mobilised resources and partnered with KCB midfielder Samuel Mwangi to establish a barber shop at Umoja I Estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands area.
•Asieche readily admits that Sofapaka are usually under intense pressure and find the going tough when they come up against Gor, AFC, Bandari, Mathare, KCB and Sharks.
When Covid-19 broke out in Kenya earlier in the year, local footballers were literally caught with their pants down.
The pandemic bolted out from the blue and disoriented a host of players, sending them tumbling to the ground where they eventually slumped with a thunderous fall.
The media was awash with write ups of football stars who suffered the financial implications of the pandemic, with incidents of broken marriages and eviction of players from their homes and hotel rooms due to accrued rent dominating the headlines.
Every cloud has a silver lining though. There are some heroes who rose up from the ashes of a country devastated by the pandemic; players who grabbed the sour and bitter lemons that life presented to them and gladly converted them into juice. Elly Asieche can readily and proudly classify himself in this category.
At the height of the disease, Asieche who currently plies trade for Sofapaka FC in Kenya’s top tier, mobilised resources and partnered with KCB midfielder Samuel Mwangi to establish a barber shop at Umoja I Estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands area.
The business took off in style as high profile personalities including Embakasi West MP George Theuri and Umoja I MCA Mark Mugambi Macharia took to the facility to have their hair done.
Despite the enormous responsibility that the enterprise has placed on his shoulders, Asieche still continues to pursue a career in football, a sport he has always been so much passionate about. So busy is he—running errands between the two demanding tasks— that it took us quite a while before we could pin him down for an interview.
We caught up with the seasoned midfielder at his business premises in Umoja exactly a day before he joined the national team’s residential camp at Nyayo Stadium to prepare for Kenya’s first leg encounter with Comoros in the 2021 African Cup of Nations Qualifiers.
Asieche was born on August 17, 1991 at Pumwani Maternity Hospital. He is the second born and the only boy among the four siblings.
Raised in Njiru, Asieche attended Kayole I Primary School before proceeding to Ofafa Jericho for his high school education.
His interest in football blossomed largely due to his father’s influence. During his heydays as a player, Elijah Sekah turned out for Hakati Sportiff in the country’s First Division and each time they had a match or a training session, he would ask his son to accompany him.
“I developed interest in football at a very tender age. I would frequently accompany my father who was a footballer to their practice sessions and matches,” said Asieche.
After sometime, he decided to follow gradually in his father’s footsteps and immersed himself in the game as a budding player. In 2004, he joined Espanyol FC, a development side in Dandora Estate, which has been known to produce quality players over the years, some of whom have even donned the national team colours.
Among the notable players who have emerged from Espanyol include the current Harambee Stars custodian, Arnold Origi, John Oyemba (who recently inked a deal with AFC Leopards after decamping from Kariobangi Sharks), midfielder Johannah Omollo and Gor Mahia’s centre back Andrew Juma (who previously turned out for Mathare United).
It was during his early years in Espanyol that Asieche learned his initial steps in football under the keen eyes of veteran youth coach Ernest Mukabana Essau.
His exceptional performance while featuring for the side in a locally-organised U-13 league earned him an instant trip to Norway in 2004 after he made it to the select-team that comprised players drawn from clubs participating in the league. “I actively participated in the league and in 2004, I was selected to travel to Norway for a tournament,” said Asieche.
In Norway, the lads made a good impression of themselves and only stumbled out of the competition at the quarterfinals stage after crashing to neighbours, Tanzania. Michael Amenga, the current Football Kenya Federation technical director happened to be their coach then.
There is nothing much to show for Asieche’s years in primary school as a footballer. Asieche actually made a breakthrough in school competitions and opportunity to showcase his exploits in football at this level when he joined Ofafa Jericho in 2006. But even there he had to wait for a while to be fielded in competitive matches.
It was not until in 2008—three years after his admission— that he got his first real opportunity to represent Ofafa Jericho in the inter-school ball games.
“I was in Form Three and playing as an offensive midfielder when we faced off with Kamukunji and lost to them in the finals of Nairobi Province secondary schools ball games. The following year in 2009, we were bundled out by Lang’ata in the semifinals of the competition.”
Asieche fondly remembers their games teacher, Mr. Makumi whose efforts he says contributed not only to his success as a player but also to his spiritual growth. Known by the moniker ‘Maten’, a direct translation of his name in sheng’, Makumi doubled up as their language and religious studies teacher.
“Makumi would preach to us every other day before we began practising and immediately after our training sessions,” said Asieche.
During his years in Ofafa Jericho, Asieche also played at home where he turned out for his neighbourhood team known as Njiru Youth Sports Association (NYSA) which featured in the lower tier. The side also frequently participated in various tournaments organised in their locality.
In 2010, Asieche made a bold move and travelled to Thika where he underwent trials with Bidco United. He impressed coach Tony Lwanga who immediately drafted him to the squad. “I was with Bidco for a whole season before I eventually left for greener pastures” says Asieche.
Thirsty for a chance to join the big stage, Asieche folded his belongings and hit the road all the way to Nairobi where he tried out for Sofapaka. There too, he impressed coach Ezekiel Akwana who instantly absorbed him and included him in his immediate plans.
His journey with Sofapaka can be described as relatively successful, having been with them when they twice bagged the Kenya Power Charity Cup and the GOtv Shield Cup.
On November 15, 2014, Sofapaka pipped Posta Rangers 2-1 to clinch the GOtv Shield at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium. The win earned them a ticket to represent the country in the CAF Confederations Cup. They also pocketed Sh1.5m (US$16,685).
Asieche’s recent maiden call-up to the national team was a defining moment in his career, capping off his ten years in top-flight football.
He says he was elated when the newly appointed Harambee Stars head coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee included him in the 40-man provisional squad for the Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers double header against the Comoros Islands. “I’m extremely happy with the opportunity and I thank Mulee for including me in his future plans,” said Asieche.
He, however, reiterates that the national team cannot achieve much if left entirely on their own but need maximum and unconditional support along the way.
“We shall always need the fans around us for continued support as we fight for a slot in the 2021 African Cup of Nations that will be held Cameroon,” says Asieche.
Asieche recently added another feather in his cap when he was appointed Sofapaka skipper after George Maelo hang up his boots to concentrate on his job at the National Police Service.
With such a huge responsibility, Asieche is now setting his sights on the top flight title and has promised to deliver the silverware come the new season.
“We shall work together as a team to deliver the title to our chairman Elly Kalekwa this year because it’s been long since the team won the KPL in 2009,” says Asieche. He is, therefore, appealing to Sofapaka fans to continue drumming up more support relentlessly.
“Let them continue urging us on because we have a pleasant surprise in store for them in the new season.”
He has had his great moments on the pitch too. His most memorable match was when Sofapaka beat Mathare 1-0 in a closely contested KPL match held last year at Kasarani Stadium.
Asieche readily admits that Sofapaka are usually under intense pressure and find the going tough when they come up against Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Bandari, Mathare United, KCB and Kariobangi Sharks.
Asieche further says that during his formative years, he drew a lot of inspiration from former Kenyan international players Osborne Monday and the Mulama siblings Simon and Titus.
Asieche adores his parents Elijah Sekah and Teresia Wambui whom he quips have always been there for him throughout his playing career. “My parents gave me all the support I needed throughout my journey; they are still pushing me to greater heights up to now,” says Asieche.
Date of Birth: August 17, 1991
Place of Birth: Pumwani
1997-2005: Kayole I Primary School
2006-2009: Ofafa Jericho High School
2010-2011: Bidco United
2011 to-date: Sofapaka FC
National team call up: