No Kenyan who claims to follow local football will forget the day Kenya defeated then African powerhouse Algeria 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier in Nairobi in June 1996.
And none other than ex-Harambee Stars and Kenya Breweries’ Vincent Kwarula, acknowledges that that was the apex of his eight-year international career in football.
The match was attended by about 30,000 tense fans at Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani.
They need not have worried as Kwarula opened the scoring before Henry Motego and Musa Otieno got on the mark for a famous Stars win.
The US-based Kwarula terms the match as a defining moment of his playing days that started on the football grounds of Kawangware before being nurtured at Dagoretti Youth FC in the 1980s.
He attended trials at AFC Leopards but did not make the cut. After a short stint with Shamco FC he joined Kenya Breweries after a successful trials.
However, instead of reaching further heights at work and at play, two years later Kenya Breweries restructured and he was laid off.
The overlapping defender then had what he describes as a life defining opportunity – a chance to attend Lindsey Wilson College, Columbia in Kentucky, USA on a football scholarship alongside his Harambee Stars teammates Eric Cantona Ochieng and Tom Odhiambo.
For the boy who was born in Kangemi life in America was tough, battling a new culture, freezing weather and lack of money. Many Kenyan footballers over the years have travelled abroad to study only to fail to complete their schooling but Kwarula grabbed his opportunity with both hands and excelled beyond his wildest dreams.
Kwarula, who attended high school at Kikuyu Township, earned degrees of Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master of Arts in Computer Science and Business Administration at Lindsey Wilson.
His love for football was never far behind and he took coaching courses earning a USA Soccer Federation B-Licence.
Once done with college, Kwarula had to work to pay his bills and his proficiency in computers saw him work for a mortgage firm for a couple of years before he was once again laid off.
He then joined JP Morgan Chase and worked at the Wall Street blue chip firm for three years before walking away from an opportunity of a glittering career on Wall Street to return to his first love, sports and his life goal, education.
Kwarula went back to school and earned a Master’s degree in Education. He now works as a teacher, a football coach for youngsters aged between four and 20 years and as a sporting director for a football academy in New York.
After spending 20 years in America, Kwarula feels he is living his dream and indeed America is the land of dreams for all those willing to work hard and dream big. He accepts that many
Kenyans have no idea what he has been up to since 1997 but he is proud of his philanthropy.
Under the banner of “Kwarula Society for Kenyan Education” Kwarula has so far sponsored 600 children with 300 currently under his wings.
With education close to his heart, the society has built classes, paid school teachers and is now working to furnish libraries with books in his western Kenya home.
Having scaled great heights in continental club football as well as having had glimpses of success with the national football team in the late 80s and 90s Kwarula has a single message to Football Kenya Federation:
“There is no other option than to invest in the youth and be patient as success takes time”.