Noah ‘Baba’ Abich might have announced his retirement this week, but when the history of Kenyan football is written, the dead-ball specialist will definitely have a chapter.
Abich, 37, called time on a distinguished career spanning almost two decades to take on a coaching role at the club he last played for, Nairobi City Stars.
Seventeen years ago, with the same aspirations and dreams of any upcoming footballer, the defender made his Kenyan Premier League debut with Nzoia Sugar which he joined from Thur Gem High School.
He appears to have achieved a lot that many local footballers only dream of. And it is because of his exceptional work ethic that he has managed to stay in the game for long.
Those who watched Abich or played against him consider him one of the top dead ball specialists Kenya has ever produced.
He was an unstoppable force feared by opposing goalkeepers and loved by teammates.
From winning titles and several individual awards to surviving relegation, Abich left quite a footprint at almost all the clubs he played for.
Though he didn’t flourish with the national team Harambee Stars, the fact remains that it will take ages before Kenya gets another dead ball specialist of Abich’s calibre.
Abich was that type of player every coach wanted to have in his squad thanks to his superb defending, exemplary set-piece delivery and leadership qualities.
He scored and served up plenty of chances for his teammates whether it was from set-pieces or open play.
His mastery in set-pieces saw him finish as top scorer at Mathare United (nine goals) and City Stars (eight goals) during the 2014 and 2018/19 seasons respectively.
And Abich, who holds a ‘D’ coaching licence, now wants to be a successful coach as he transitions into the new role of deputising his Bosnian Sanjin Alagic.
“I wish to make it official that I have retired from football as a player. You can now refer to me as a coach as that is my new job,” Abich said.
“It’s been a long journey that has had highs and lows. I am at a point where I want to give back by nurturing the next crop of players.
“I thank City Stars for allowing me to finish my playing days and ultimately for giving me the opportunity on the technical bench to start my coaching journey.”
Reflecting on his best moments on the pitch, he said: “My best moment was when my goals from free kicks helped both Sofapaka and Mathare United avoid relegation.
“Though free-kick technique is a God-given talent, I worked hard and perfected it in practice. I actually started taking free kicks while in high school.
“Having gone through the hands of many experienced and qualified coaches, I’m striving to be better than them. I was able to stay long in the game because of discipline, hard work and dedication. But this is now a chance to impart my skills on others.”
Abich was part of the Sony Sugar squad that clinched the 2006 KPL title, shortly after featuring for rivals Chemelil Sugar for a season before moving to eleven-time champions Tusker in 2009 where he won the 2011 title.
He then had short stints at Nakuru AllStars (2012), AFC Leopards (2013), Kakamega Homeboyz (2013) before joining Mathare United for two and half seasons in 2014.
He was the club’s top scorer with nine goals before switching to 2009 champions Sofapaka the following season where his crucial goals helped them survive the drop.
After saving Sofapaka from relegation, the former Kenyan international went on to feature for Bandari (2017), Mt Kenya United (2018) before turning to his current club Nairobi City Stars.
As a captain, he scored eight goals to rescue them from National Super League (NSL) relegation.