Ryan Byrne/INPHO Jaze Kabia lifts the First Division trophy last year.
# Family Fortunes
'He said I could stay with his family for a little bit. I've just kind of stayed ever since'
Jaze Kabia tells The42 why Shelbourne is like a second family and how his mother helps him deal with the psychological battles for a footballer.

HE WAS ONLY meant to stay for a few weeks.

Almost a year later and Jaze Kabia is now an honorary member of the Power Mulhern family at their home in Clonee, Co, Meath.

When the teenager decided to leave Cobh Ramblers – and his family in Cork – to join Shelbourne last July, one of the academy directors, Stephen Mulhern, offered to put Kabia up so he could find his feet.

“He was kind of like, come and stay with my family for a bit,” Kabia tells The42. “And I’ve just kind of stayed,” he laughs.

“I struck up a bond with the whole family and they let me stay again for this season.”

Kabia, an attacker operating primarily from the right, was instrumental in Shels securing promotion to the Premier Division as champions and, once fixtures resume following the league’s suspension due to the spread of Covid-19, the 19-year-old will be aiming to build on his goal against St Patrick’s Athletic earlier this month.

From the moment I arrived at the club I have felt so welcome, it really feels as if I have spent years here,” he explains.

That is as much down to what is happening off the pitch as it is on it.

Kabia has become close friends with Mulhern’s eldest son, Dylan, as well as the youngest, Sam. “They both play football, too,” he adds.

Donna, Stephen’s better half, is also an instrumental influence. “I think it would have been difficult for me to come up here and have to live on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the chance to sign for Shels was too good to turn down, it was the next step I needed to make in my career, but their family is so similar to mine that it has helped so much.

“They are the kindest, most helpful people, they do so much for me and their mindset is great and it means there are no worries for me off the field, I am able to focus completely on football.”

jaze-kabia-and-ian-bermingam Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO Kabia in action against St Pat's. Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO / INPHO

It is the game which has been so central to his life from his first days kicking a ball around on the green near his home in Douglas. It was there that he became best friends with Adam Idah, now a Norwich City player and on the cusp of a senior international career with the Republic of Ireland.

My dream is to be able to play alongside him one day, definitely,” Kabia enthuses. “But my dream now is to help Shelbourne be successful and make the people at the club happy because they have done so much for me. I want to become the best player I can.”

Kabia, along with Idah and Chiedozie Ogbene – formerly of Cork City and Brentford but now at Rotherham United – spent their days playing World Cup on the roads and the green.

“I was almost Neymar,” he admits. “He is so good technically and has so much skill. It’s a shame, he’s kind of not the same now.”

Kabia’a two cousins, Hazel and Lauren Walsh, were both in the thick of the action and now play for Cork City’s academy. “It was always about football for us, we loved it, we played every day, whenever we got the chance to play we always did.”

So much for his generation preferring to stay on their PlayStations.

Kabia’s father, Jason, was an idol to many on Leeside during his days as a Cork City player. Originally from England, he settled here and had other spells around the League of Ireland in Galway, Waterford, Kilkenny and Cobh.

“When I was younger did would bring me out on a pitch, we would practice to get my touch right. At 12, 13, 14, those three years were key and that is when he kind of like drove me on to make me the player I am now. It was one to one sessions that really helped.

jason-kabia-1051998 Patrick Bolger / INPHO Kabia's father, Jason, in action for Cork City back in 1998. Patrick Bolger / INPHO / INPHO

“I know I won’t always be perfect so I won’t go beating myself up but I do want to make the most of every bit of talent that I do have. I want to be as good as I can be and work hard at it.”

His father helped mould his technical ability but it’s his mother, Noelle, who continues to work with her son on a different side of the game.

“Without her help dealing with the psychological part, I think it would be much more difficult. My mum knows what it is like for a footballer, she saw the highs and lows my Dad went through and understands the game.

She has kept me focused on the psychological side of the game and also being educated. She knows the challenges a footballer has to deal with. I had some injuries during pre-season and she really helped with messages of support, staying positive. My mum has helped to keep me hungry.”

Kabia’s younger brother, Jaden, will often travel to watch games but has no interest in playing the game. It is a tight knit family and they know the football education he is getting at Shels will stand him in good stead.

“There is so much quality for every position and that competitiveness in the team brings out more in your game, it has to make you a better player. The manager is pushing us every day, the standard of the training since the first day of pre-season has been so high.

“He [manager Ian Morris] always challenges you, he doesn’t let you take it easy and I was blown away by the levels of training.

“He will tell us he wants a certain amount of goals or a certain amount of really good deliveries into the box during training. You have to mee these targets and when you do it makes you feel good about yourself.

“You’re tested every day and always have to be at your best. That’s what I want.”

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