Former footballer picks up pieces after 19 years in prison

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 07:50 |
Tedium Rodgers (left) at Kamiti Prison Photo/PD/Courtesy

It was not until the moment the judge’s gavel struck down that it dawned on Tedium “Teddy” Rodgers that he had messed up —and catastrophically so. 

Among the star players of the young Mathare United Football Club, Tedium had been found guilty of robbery with violence and handed the maximum penalty, death. 

Just like that, the then 23-year-old found himself staring at the end of his life, when it was just beginning. It was a crushing reality.  

Fast forward 19 years later to Friday August 16, 2019. The day will forever remain a significant landmark on his life’s highway because it marks his release from prison, a miracle he had nearly given up on when he settled down to wait for the hangman at Kamiti Maximum Prison.

To Tedium, freedom would taste even better with a sumptuous homemade meal of fish and ugali. His mother did not disappoint. 

As he shared the meal with his siblings, son and close friends, the remorseful 42-year-old regretted spending most of his youthful days behind bars and only hopes society will accept that he is a changed man and has paid for his sins.

Reduced sentence

“I have seen God’s hand in many ways. My life is testament. There was a time I used to sneak and peak at the gallows in the prison because I felt my time was close; little did I know God was working in his own special way,” he recalls.

His death sentence was in 2009 reduced to life in prison by retired President Mwai Kibaki. He was then pardoned. 

Last weekend, his former teammates organised a football tournament to officially welcome him back to society, a gesture that really touched his heart.

While he was in prison a lot has changed, from development such the Thika Road to the language of communication among the youth commonly referred to as sheng. He also converted to Islam in prison. 

“I have to adapt to the new changes around me, those are things we have to live with, even sheng has evolved, but that is nothing compared to freedom,” he says.

 Being home where he can make his own decisions, where he feels safe, is something Tedium equates to a second chance in life, despite the fact that he lives in a single room with his elderly mother in the informal settlement of Kariobangi South.

As part of making peace with himself, Teddy has had to visit the graveyards of three of his family members– his father, and two sisters– whose deaths he feels may have been caused by his long incarceration.

“I know I am still hung-up on prison life and it will take me time to adjust to being free again. Sometime I wake up at night with nightmares. It is scary, but I will forever be grateful for what God has done for me,” says the former Mathare United mid fielder.

 His family is walking with him in the new journey he has embarked on.

Role to play

“My family and friends have been supportive to me since I got out. Through such amazing people, I know I will be back on my feet soon,” said the father of one, whose first civic duty since his release was being enumerated during the just-concluded 2019 census exercise.

His son, Paul, is now a grown man with his own family and despite not being there for him, Teddy still feels he has a lot to play in the his life. 

“It’s never too late to play the father figure role, I want to be there for my grand children and guide them as they grow and in the right way, not to make the mistakes I made during my time. When God allows I also want to settle down with a woman who will not judge me and have more children,” he adds.

He is a product of Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), where he played with footballers such as the current Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi.

Despite having acquired Grade One and Two coaching certificates while in prison, Teddy is well aware it will not be a walk in the park to secure a job.

“I will not walk anywhere and secure employment, not everyone is sympathetic with my situation, some will ask for a Certificate of Good Conduct, one I will never get. I just hope the society will accept the new person I am,” he adds.

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