In a country where sports had been overlooked with no considerable support from the responsible agencies, we are seeing a lot of change. Now, young slum dwelling youth with ambition and aspirations can get a chance to go play their sports abroad. They can get paid well and improve the quality of their lives. It is a dream of a lot of young Kenyan sportsmen.
This is evident from the recently played football match that pitted Sportpesa Allstars against Hull City in the UK. An event that forever changed the history of Kenyan football and footballers.
Among them was Sony Sugar football club’s rising teen star Joshua Otieno who jetted back into the country this last week Thursday to a rousing welcome by his team mates and family at his home in Awendo. This was deliberately organized by his club.
The 16-year old member of the Sportpesa AllStars squad that played a select side from UK’s Hull City FC in a historic match last Monday, was accompanied by his guardian, coach Patrick Naggi. Otieno had been left behind as the rest of the squad jetted into the country last Wednesday, for a week-long training session in the English Premier League club’s football academy.
Though he barely touched the ball having been introduced into the match at the dying seconds of the game, the form three student at Kakamega High School said he was nevertheless happy for the opportunity to tour the UK and to train at the well-equipped Hull Academy.
“I am happy for the opportunity, the coach had his reasons not to field me but in football these things happen. I am just happy for this entire experience and not bitter at all,” he said from his parents’ humble home at Sony Sugar Estate.
His father Peter Onyango said he was proud of his son, echoing Otieno’s sentiments about his participation in the widely watched match.
“I was not bitter that my son did not play. I was too happy that he got the chance to travel to the UK because of his football skills,” said the 58-year old Cane Transport Supervisor at Sony Sugar.
Otieno drove into Sony Sugar’s Green Stadium in Awendo amid cheers from his peers who play in the club’s development teams – the under 12, 15 and 17 – as well as his family including his youngest brother Isaiah Otieno who plays for Sony’s under 12 team.
His youth coach Dennis Otondi who nurtured him from age nine said he was not surprised that the youngster had caught the attention of the Hull City coaches given his humility, discipline and skill which he said were key for any footballer’s success.
“We are not surprised that he was introduced into the game late. We understand that he joined the team late and had not acclimatized to the UK weather. We are thankful for the chance he got because it was a good exposure for him,” said Otondi.
Otieno’s trip to the UK was delayed due to visa hitches that forced Naggi last weekend to fly back to Nairobi, from London, to pick him since he was the only listed guardian on his visa. Otondi asked county governments to invest in football academies in their regions to tap budding talent adding that Kenya was teeming with great footballers who only need good training facilities and exposure to excel further.
Sportpesa has been supporting local sports and nurturing talent, for example through the Sportpesa Premier League, the City Stadium upgrade worth 100M shillings and now the Sportpesa Allstars.
Check out Joshua Otieno’s profile video below.