Nairobi, Kenya – Sulaiman Wanzhou Bilali, who won a medal at one of Kenya’s best international boxing events due to his drunken addiction and frustration since he was fired in 2012, went to his rehabilitation center and came out.
The cat is frustrated, desperate and cannot adjust his mind well when talking. He speaks to Sheng (Swahili-English slang) while chewing Mira – a stimulant, also known as khat. It takes a lot of investigation and patience to be able to understand what he is saying.
Dressed in an old, black T-shirt and oversized khaki, the cat looks pale and slim. You can smell alcohol on his breath. His hands trembled as he sat down.
Bilali’s condition is widely documented. Many Kenyans have been protesting on social media and local media since 2012, calling on governments and sports organizations to help the former boxing star, whom Kenya was once proud of.
Despite the hype, the government never came up with a plan to help Bilali.
Mike Sonko, the former governor of Nairobi, is the last person to use his own funds to pay for his treatment at a rehabilitation center after intense public pressure last year.
“Sonko took me to a rehabilitation center and arranged for my treatment,” Bilali told Al Jazeera.
“When I left the center late last year after spending three months there, I went back to Mad and Meera. I have no home and I am fighting for food. Friends help me with food and a place to sleep. Some of my best friends give me a small amount of cash which I use to buy wine and wine. “
In addition to winning medals at the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, Kenya has been praised by state chiefs.
But two accidents – 1998 and 2004 – triggered his downfall.
“During the first accident, while training on the road, I fell from a speeding car and broke my leg. In the second, I got a head injury and a thorn in the shoulder.
“I lost my job in 2012 and my life has been miserable ever since. I became depressed and my life took a completely different turn. I lost all my investments and my wife left me. Due to illness, finishing is the biggest challenge for me. “
Bilali occasionally visits the Muthurwa Community Center on the outskirts of the Nairobi Business District. Can’t.
Stephen Muchoki, 655, is another former national boxing star. He now lives alone in a small compound on the Dandora Estate in Nairobi.
Despite raising the Kenyan boxing flag internationally, his life is now full of struggles.
“I retired from amateur boxing after winning the world title at the 1978 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Yugoslavia. I won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Canada the same year, “Muchoki told Al Jazeera.
Muchoki competed in professional boxing in Denmark for five years, but returned to Kenya in 1983.
“My heart was in Kenya. I wanted to serve Kenya and represent my country. Sadly, my life is not what it used to be. There was no suitable structure for the convenience and care of a former boxer like me. I was myself the amount I had invested was gone and I was back to zero again.
“After bringing fame to Kenya, no one even bothered to give me some pension.”
Muchoki is now a volunteer at the Kairokar Boxing Club in Nairobi. He said that after retirement he is going to live in poverty without income.
“Smoking makes me feel good. The former star is not easy to survive in poverty. I don’t have a pension or anything that brings money to me, it kills me slowly.
David Muniasia is another bantamweight boxer (54kg) who just hangs out in the hope that one day his legacy will be remembered and admired.
Muniasia began his career in the early 1990’s with the Junior Championships. He then represented the Kenyan Defense Forces and the country at international events.
Now, Muniasia has no job and is addicted to chewing gum.
“Despite being a boxing legend in Kenya, I am disappointed that I don’t have a job,” Muniasia said.
Kenya’s Ministry of Culture and Sports did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera.
Dankun Kuria, communications director of the Kenyan Boxing Federation, agrees that there are many former boxing stars who are now living in miserable conditions.
“We have been accused of negligence by former boxers,” Kuria told Al Jazeera. “Some of them have done well at the amateur level but things change when they become professionals. We cannot intervene in the case of professionals because it is not in our order.
“In professional boxing, players work with a boxing commission where agents and promoters arrange the games.”
Kuria said he is aware of the situation in which Bilali, Muchoki and Muniashia are.
“Our hands are tied. We don’t have enough sponsors and in some cases it is difficult to manage without financial support. “
Kuria added that some of the affected boxers have to blame themselves for the situation they are in.
“Many of these boxers had no plans for a post-box life. They become equipped with fame and after boxing, their lives change and many are now suffering from depression and other social problems.
“We are encouraging new boxers to take education seriously through our current training sessions so that they have extra skills. We bring in boat instructors on financial management, therapists and psychologists.
Seeing the treatment that some former boxers have received, Dallas Boxing Club coach Charles Mukula is worried about the future of the sport, believing it could take Kenya farther.
“I am a volunteer coach. I have kids under the age of five here for my training, ”Mukula told Al Jazeera.
“I don’t have the right boxing gear for training. I still suffer when I see the excitement of boxing from my youth but no one pays attention. I sometimes get the old boxing gear from a former boxer trained through this club. “