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Francis Chinjili now fishing profits

By Christopher Owuor
Monday, June 8th, 2020
Former AFC Leopards striker Francis Chinjili samples the varieties of fish he rares at his pond in Vihiga. Photo/PD/BARRY SILAH
In summary
    • Played for nine clubs in Kenya, Tanzania, Sweden and Ethiopia between 2000 and 2013.
    • Scored nine goals featuring for Mahakama FC, Sofapaka, AFC Leopards, Western Stima and Kakamega Homeboyz between 2008 and 2013.
    • Admits to having retired early and was unsuccessfully persuaded to rescind his decision.
    • Apart from James Sianga and Chris Makokha, he credits former Harambee Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee for always encouraging him.
    • Managed nine caps for the nation team Harambee Stars.
    • Nicknamed Yekini because of his strength and physique which was similar to that of the late former Nigerian legend Rashid Yekini.
    • Managed now defunct FKF Division One sides Vihiga Allstars and West Kenya Sugar FC between 2014 and 2016 and now coaches Green Commandos.
    • Started fish farming in 2017 and now does big deliveries of up to 50kg per day with plans to open a restaurant in the near future.

After 13 years of  active football career, 39-year-old Francis Chinjili hanged his boots in 2013.

However, he had to think of what to do after retirement. Not that he left football altogether, he would later go into coaching but this was not enough to put food on the table.

Chinjili played as striker for Kenyan Premier League (KPL) giants AFC Leopards and Sofapaka as well as Ethiopian heavyweights St George’s among other local and foreign clubs.

That would not count much in retirement as Chinjili came to learn and that is how he ended up as a fishmonger back at his Bunyore backyard in Vihiga County. 

It is a journey that has had its ups and downs but Chinjili took to the business literally like fish to water.

He credits his long-time friend David Omuruli for giving him the idea even as the former striker insisted on becoming a full-time coach to upcoming footballers in western Kenya.

“It was like a kick in the backside for me to open my eyes and my mind,” Chinjili remembers of that encounter in 2017 during an interview with this over the wekend. 

The former striker after scoring for Ingwe against Gor Mahia. Photo/PD/FILE

“It was not rocket science. It was such a sweet deal that probably only a fool could turn down.

It might be labour intensive but I have learnt over the few years that it is very valuable and maybe then this is a good retirement path onwards,” adds the ex-Kenyan international fondly known as Yekini after drawing similarities with the fallen Nigerian icon Rashid Yekini due to  his size and power. 

But being new in the business, Chinjili had to deal with numerous challenges before he broke even.

“I tried to set up a shop in Mbale, Vihiga but it did not get the market I hoped for.

When I then turned to social media and set up a page on Facebook, things changed. I used my name to inform potential customers and also did deliveries,” he says. 

“I am now happily getting big orders from clients as far as Europe and America who tell me to supply their older kin at home and this is exciting.

On a good week before the coronavirus struck, I could make Sh15,000 on average and this has made me employ youth from the area to help in the business,” adds the current coach of Division One side Green Commandos.

The Kakamega High School alumni, who was discovered and moulded by fallen coaches Chris Makokha and James Sianga, has now invested in a freezer for proper storage and plans to open a fish restaurant in the near future.

“I have mighty plans and if all goes well, then maybe we could have a restaurant because the gap and demand is alive for fresh fish that we offer.

We have six ponds at the farm, which is fed with fresh water from the river and all we do is to feed the fish and during harvesting ensure all compliance is met because the product is sensitive.

On a good day, we sell up to 50kg to hotels and individuals,” Chinjili tells People Sport.

Chinjili’s football career took him to Sweden and Ethiopia after starting out at the defunct Mumias Sugar in 2000.

The father of three, who has  a KNVB 2 and FKF Level C coaching certificates, now also offers coaching lessons to schools and local teams.

“My relationship with football at the moment is slightly caged due to Covid-19 but it remains my duty to teach football to the upcoming talent. For now, fish is served,” he says jokingly.

His advice to players who are about to retire and are not sure of the future is to find a purpose in life and do what gives them comfort and joy. 

“It is not the end of the world, all one needs is to get a proper footing and make some money while having fun.

But most importantly, do research then all will work out,” concludes Chinjili.