•Even as he flourished on the pitch, he says his desire to work hard in class has played a massive role in keeping him in the game albeit at the management level throughout the years despite hanging his boots in 1994.
•In the past year's there has always been a thin line between football and crime in the informal settlements and Thiru admits his allegiance to the game and books shielded him from venturing into vices.
Little-known United States International University, Africa (USIU-A) lecturer David Thiru was last week handed a heavy task of managing the affairs of the Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKF-PL).
The Azu Ogola-headed committee was appointed last week to replace the defunct Kenyan Premier League whose five-year term ended this year.
Thiru will be tasked with managing the league's operations. Unbeknown to many, the FKF-PL manager is no stranger to football having played football as a teenager and later delved into football management.
A self-confessed football fan, the former African Fifa for Health Program boss hopes to raise the standards of Kenyan premier league and make it as lucrative and competitive as the North African and South Africa's top tiers.
"With the experience I have, both in the management of football and in education, I think am well prepared to serve. I am not here to earn a salary but I am taking up this job to expand opportunities for the youth and for the country to benefit. I also have a passion to improve on the Kenyan football product out," Thiru said.
His predecessors, the Kenya Premier League, were often accused of inept leadership and management that chased away potential sponsors. In their last term in office, KPL did not provide prize money or a trophy to eventual league winners, Gor Mahia.
Nonetheless, Thiru feels that the progress made by Kenyan football thus far is enough to build upon to enhance its continental and worldwide profile.
"The standards of Kenyan football are on the rise as opposed to the previous years. Before we did not have players playing abroad and took years to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations," says Thiru.
"I am looking at building a league which can compete with the likes of South Africa and North African countries. A competition where players wish to come and ply their trade-in. We have the structures and sponsors to achieve that and with support, it will be a matter of time before we make it."
Part of his vision of professionalising the league is to improve the welfare of players and coaches and allow them to shine in the limelight.
"I dream of Kenyan football being focused on players and coaches instead of the bosses. That may not be the case at the moment but it's not too late to turn things around. I have a good feeling that the timing is good and we have the resources to inject change. I will deem myself successful if the stories will linger around the pitch and not who sits in the offices," Thiru says.
Thiru, 48, owes his meteoric rise as a scholar to his football roots in Mathare, which afforded him opportunities in life.
His love for the game began as a pupil at Mathare Primary School and blossomed at Ruaraka Secondary School, where he was a member of the school team.
In 1990, an 18-year old Thiru skippered an All Stars team to the Norway Cup in 1990, which included, among others, former Harambee Stars goalkeeper Mathew Ottamax, 2006 league-winning coach and current Kisumu All Stars tactician Salim Babu and former Thika United coach Gabriel Kingi.
Throughout, Thiru had a passion for studies fuelled by the need to avoid the pitfalls of crime in which so many of his peers in Mathare had fallen.
"I have lost count of the number of childhood friends I lost to crime and drugs. Football contributed hugely in my education as I paid my college fees from the allowances I earned from playing for Bayer East Africa,” he says.
The Kenyatta University alumnus also played for Standard Chartered FC during which time he was under the tutelage of former KCB and Bandari coach Rishadi Shedu.
The money he earned from playing football was channelled towards paying for his school fees while taking up his National Diploma in Business Administration at the Kabete Technical Training Institute between 1991 and 1992.
"Shedu was my coach between 1990 and 1992 at Standard Chartered FC where we participated in the Nairobi Provincial League while I worked under Robert Matano at Bayer East Africa in 1993-1994. The two I believe have shaped me to the person I am today, " he states.
Thiru’s decision to do a Diploma Course while active earned him a job at Yara East Africa late in 1994, where he began as a trainee assistant accountant.
He later rose to the rank of Warehouse and Logistics Manager where he worked until 1999 before joining the Mathare Youth Sports Association(MYSA) the same year.
Thiru is currently taking up his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) studies at the Pan Africa Christian University.
Return to football
It is his ability to juggle between football and education that subsequently accorded him the chance to return to football in a management capacity after he hang up his boots in 1994.
In 2009, 10 years after joining MYSA, he was appointed director of sports before assuming the role of the Chief Executive Officer between 2012 to 2016.
Thiru takes pride in the success the association achieved in churning out players from the slums in the yesteryears and he is looking forward to transferring the same success into the league.
"At the end of the day, we need a properly managed league which kids wish to play in and emulate the role models therein. That's the link I see between grassroots organisations and the league. I also want to inspire the youths to use their talents and show them that they can advance their education and better their lives," he says.
Thiru is also keen to encourage as many players as possible to pursue education so that they are not left exposed when their playing careers hit headwinds.
Thiru's words of reassurances whet the appetite of many Kenyan football stakeholders, who have long hungered for glory days when the local league will be at par with their North African and South African counterparts.
He will no doubt be a person of interest as the league progresses, to see if his vision amounts to reality.