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Imbalambala: Ex-AFC Leopards and Harambee Stars ace learning to live without eyesight

6:13 pm AEDT 21/1/22
The 33-year-old explains his pain when he woke up to find he had gone blind in 2018 which ended his football career

Former Kenya international and AFC Leopards midfielder Martin Imbalambala has revealed how he realised he had gone blind, which abruptly ended his football career.

In an interview with GOAL, the 34-year-old Imbalambala explained what transpired when he woke up to find that he had lost his eyesight in 2018.

‘It started with fever and headache’

“I felt a headache and fever after my training session in Thika with Bidco United and when I went home, it got worse,” Imbalambala told GOAL on Friday.

“I decided to visit the nearest hospital where they diagonised me with malaria, gave me malaria drugs and painkillers, and then headed home.

“I took the drugs and the headache disappeared, when I woke up the following day, I asked my wife to put on the lights as I had to take shower and head to training, because we used to train at 7 am, so I had to wake up early.

“My wife then told me, the lights were on, I then asked her to give me my phone to see what time it was, however, I could not see anything, I asked her, why have you put off my phone, she replied to me the phone was on, that is when I realized my eyesight had gone.”

On Thursday, Imbalambala, who played for the Harambee Stars under the reigns of coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee and James Nandwa, was inducted into the Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB) so as to undergo rehabilitation for the next six months.

He will undergo rigorous training to help him become self-reliant in life and during the period, KSB will help him to accept his condition through counselling and socio-therapy.

Will be introduced to computer classes

“He will be trained how to walk with a white cane to help him navigate his environment freely,” KSB CEO Samson Waweru told GOAL.

“After he has settled, the player will be introduced to computer classes using screen reading software called Job Access With Speech (Jaws) to help him with typing, browsing, presentations and sending emails.”

Imbalambala will also be taught Braille to learn how to read, write and communicate using devices like the Dot Watches.

“He will be taught how he can be guided by a sighted person,” Waweru continued. “He will be trained how to use a specialised smartphone for the blind. We will teach him how to do his daily chores independently without involving his wife.

“Finally, we will introduce him to adapted sports for the visually impaired people.”

The father of three, who also had stints with other FKF Premier League clubs including Nakumatt FC and Vihiga United, has further challenged the government through the Ministry of Sports to support athletes both in their high and low moments in life.

“I want to thank friends who have walked with me through this journey, more so to my wife Jackline [Jalango] who has been the breadwinner through her salon business,” added Imbalambala.

Several corporates have come to the player’s aid in the rehabilitation journey, among them the National Council for Persons with Disability (NCPD), who pledged to buy him a specialised laptop equipped with software for the blind.

Safaricom PLC donated a white cane, a specialised smartphone, and a Dot Braille Watch to the player while Optic company Essillor will equip Imbambala and his wife with comfortable spectacles and other eye-wear.