How our sportsmen and women are spending money from their sweat
World beating athletes turn Eldoret town into business hub as footballers, volleyballers make a mark in Nairobi.
High-earning professional sportsmen and women have always been subject of extravagant lifestyle.
However for most of Kenya’s sports personalities their story is the opposite as they know that they have to secure their future.
And even as the sporting world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, a section of Kenya’s world beating athletes and sportsmen/women are enjoying life on the fast lane; thanks to their huge investments.
From football, to athletics, rugby and volleyball, the players have prepared well for retirement.
Footballers, led by Wanyama brothers, Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama (Montreal Impact, Canada) and McDonald Mariga as well as Japan-based (Kashiwa Reysol) striker Michael Olunga are some of the few footballers who have used their high earnings to live their dreams.
While at Southampton, Wanyama reportedly bought a house valued Sh20m in Kileleshwa in 2014 before he forked out millions of shillings to fly his family to England for a month long holiday in 2016.
He went on to ship in a car valued at Sh30m for his family four years ago. He then flew some members of his family to Spain to watch last season’s Champions League final between his former club Tottenham Hotspurs and eventual winners Liverpool.
He has also set up Victor Wanyama Foundation. Wanyama and his elder brother Mariga are also said to have bought a number of plots as well as a house for their parents.
Olunga, who joined Kashiwa from Chinese side Guizhou Zhicheng for a reported Sh300 million with a monthly salary of Sh15 million in 2018, reportedly purchased an apartment along Mombasa Road in 2017.
The former IF Djurgarden man has bought a number of luxury cars and also owns a shoe shop in Nairobi.
Former Kenyan international Dennis Oliech’s family also owns plots, flats and runs the famous Mama Oliech Restaurant at Chaka Place, Hurlingham.
Kakamega Homeboyz striker Allan Wanga is without doubt one of the few local footballers living in opulence. Wanga is perfectly juggling his business empire alongside his Sports Director role at Kakamega County.
Wanga owns a house, a fleet of rental cars, Nella Fitness Centre (gymnasium) as well as an entertainment joint in Rongai.
Though the former AFC Leopards and Tusker striker is slowly securing his future, he admits that it has not been easy to run the businesses.
“These investments come with a lot of challenges but I’m grateful I’ve invested. It is not easy to run them because most of the time I’m not around and my staff take advantage of such situations,” Wanga told Standard Sports.
Wanga’s sentiments have been echoed by AFC Leopards coach Anthony Kimani, who started his Modos Car Accessories in Ngara five years ago. The former Harambee Stars defender is also a part-time TV pundit.
“I was looking for transition from my playing career and I wanted to invest in something that can not only keep me busy but also cater for my needs. After a lot of research and consultations, I settled on the Car Accessories business. I had a mentor and that made my work a little bit easier,” said Kimani.
Former Kenyan international Boniface Ambani, who is a trained accountant, is the proprietor of Bochend Sports Company; a company that deals in sports merchandise. His company kits several football teams including Western Stima, Posta Rangers, Bidco United, Chemelil Sugar, Shabana and Gusii United.
He also supplies the playing kits to Prisons Kenya volleyball teams.
Seychelles-based volleyballer Jane Wacu has invested in the matatu industry and owns a few plots, while her Malkia Strikers coach Paul Bitok owns the Paul Bitok Academy in Eldoret.
“Investment is always the best for our future because we cannot be in sports forever. Yes, it’s a bit challenging to run businesses while you are still active but we are doing them to safeguard our retirement age,” said Bitok.
Rugby players have not been left out either. While a few Kenya Seven stars led by Andrew Amonde, Collins Injera, Biko Adema have received a number of endorsements Kenya Harlequin captain Patrice Agunda is enjoying his virtual sports merchandising business. Impala’s Victor Oduor runs a hotel in Ngong.
And as footballers and other sportsmen/women are investing in Nairobi, world beating athletes have literally made Eldoret town a picturesque of world major cities.
From New York to Johannesburg; Rotterdam to Rieti and Chicago to Mexico then Berlin Centre to El Pariso in Spain –all welcome you to Eldoret.
The town, which is billed as the City of Champions, now glows with the marathon dollars thanks to athletics talent glut.
A majority of the modern buildings bear the names of big cities and famous races around the world where their owners clinched victory.
You will see Mexico Centre, Rotterdam Centre and El Pariso Restaurant on the Iten Road. Then GrandPri Hospital, Johannesburg Plaza, Rieti House and Chicago centre in downtown.
Noah Ngeny, the 2000 Olympic 1500m champion, said athletes must take athletics as a full time job to get full earnings.
“It’s sad that most athletes take it as a by the way. It’s a big enterprise. Once you earn, invest immediately. But money should not lure one into things they can’t manage.
“We do sport to fly our flag high. Let’s not mix athletics with other business. Some do farming, practice in other jobs but athletics should be our priority to succeed,” said Ngeny.
“As a soldier, I have learnt a lot in the Kenya Defence Forces. Most of my seniors who are younger than me are highly educated. I pick a lot of lessons from them especially in terms of investment.”
Eldoret has experienced rapid change since its inception as railway station Number 64 in colonial times. There is Berlin Centre, a sprawling housing unit in Kimumu, on the sidelines of Eldoret.
The town boasts of multi-million shilling modern buildings that have drastically changed its skyline, making it a vibrant commercial hub linked by road and rail to the rest of East and Central Africa.
In the town’s central business district, there are at least 20 commercial buildings owned by the athletes, who either come from the area or who migrated to the region.
They include the Komora Centre, owned by three time world 3,000m steeplechase champion Moses Kiptanui, and the GrandPri Building which hosts Cancer Texas Centre, which belongs to two-time Boston Marathon winner Moses Tanui.
Kiptanui, who also owns the Komora Estate in London, United Kingdom and Utamaduni House along Kenyatta Street in Eldoret, was the first man to run the steeplechase in under eight minutes, while Tanui was the first to run a half marathon in less than an hour.
Komora Centre was named after Komora village in Marakwet which is known for producing the world’s best steeplechase runners.
“As an active athlete, you must understand that athletics is a short term career. You should make enough savings and look at life retirement. Factor in injuries in between and that will make you start investing from the onset,” said Kiptanui.
“While you invest, look at the bigger picture of the business; its viability on whether it can trickle down to many generations.”
Kiptanui also owns Tulin Supermarkets, a chain of supermarkets spread across the North Rift region.
Tanui was among the first to win IAAF Grand Prix races and thus derived his building’s name, GrandPri.
Paul Tergat, former Olympic 10,000m silver medalist and National Olympic Committee of Kenya President, owns Sportsline Hotel in Kabarnet.
Laban Rotich, a former 1,500m runner, won the prestigious IAAF World Cup 1,500m final in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1998.
And since the World Cup stood out as the biggest win in his athletics career, he named the building Johannesburg Plaza, which is at the junction of Oloo and Nandi streets.
Evans Cheruiyot, the 2008 Chicago Marathon winner, dedicated his Rotterdam Centre to his half marathon victory in Rotterdam in 2007.
The runners are also involved in building houses for rent on the outskirts of Eldoret. Military Games sensation Sammy Kipketer owns a four-storey building next to Iten bus terminus while Ibrahim Hussein, the first African to win the New York marathon, owns a building at the heart of the town.
The 1999 Amsterdam Marathon winner Fred Kiprop owns Kirem Arcade that houses K-Rep Bank.
Three-time London Marathon winner Martin Lel also has a building in town while James Kipsang Kwambai, the second best marathoner in the world, has bought a plot near Moi Street which he is planning to develop.
Daniel Kipng’etich Komen, the current 3,000m and two-mile world record holder who is still the only man alive to run two miles under eight minutes, has invested in a private school, Potters Academy.
There are five sports grounds and nine schools as well as a number of filling stations owned by the athletes.
The legendary Kipchoge Keino who runs the International Olympic Committee of Kenya has funded Kipkeino High School located next to the IOC/IAAF High Performance Training Centre. He also owns Kip Keino Sports House.
With these, Eldoret and its surrounding areas are seeing a property boom — and it is Kenya’s sportsmen and women who are setting the pace.
Vivian Cheruiyot, the Olympic 5,000m champion, has investments in Eldoret and Nairobi that include an apartment block in Eldoret and homes in Nairobi and Eldoret’s high end Elgon View Estate. She also owns Oslo Petrol Station situated along Nairobi Road. She named it Oslo in remembrance of her wins in 3,000m and 5,000m at the Oslo Diamond League meets.
“We must invest early. But the challenge with most of our athletes indulge in lavish lifestyles and alcoholism at the expense of investing,” she said in a past interview.