On Wednesday 30th December 2015, 15-time Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia entered into a deal with a relatively unknown youngster Erick Ouma Otieno. Many a fans questioned why the club went for such an inexperienced player but six months down the line the former Green Commandoes player has answered the question with his performance.
The 20year-old defender was not bothered by the doubting Thomas and instead continued working hard in training as the preseason got underway. He broke into the then Head Coach Frank Nuttall’s travelling squad for a friendly match against St. George FC but was an unused substitute. Six days later, he came on to provide the pass that Enoch Agwanda headed home to aid the club beat Sudanese giants Al Hilal to the Red Sea Festival and Tourism title in Port Sudan Stadium.
Still, the fans on the local scene were not convinced until he came on to show flushes of brilliance in the DStv Super Cup final against Bandari FC on Saturday 6th February – his competitive debut for K’Ogalo. Ouma came on for Jacob Keli on the 69th minute and had two shots on target, his performance catching the eyes of Scotsman who preferred him on the flanks.
Ouma, nicknamed Marcelo, confesses that indeed the Brazilian fullback is his role model.
“Marcelo has admirable techniques, good handling of the ball and helps the team in transition while attacking. I am always working to play exactly like he does or even better. At my free time, I do watch his skills and try to emulate them in training, all this can’t work out without dedication, determination and the right attitude,” the Kakamega High School alumni notes.
Born and bred in Kibera, Ouma’s football journey started while in primary school at Ayany Primary and featured in the Future Stars Academy’s U10, U15 and U17 categories. He later joined Kakamega High School in 2012 and played for the school team in the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) ball games winning the 2014 national football title, one that earned them a ticket to the East Africa Secondary Schools Sports Association (EASSSA) games.
“It wasn’t easy in Dar es Salaam as we had thought. We had a good team that did well at national level but found a much more competitive environment Tanzania. Inexperience cost but we picked some vital lessons as a team and also as individuals. We picked the positives and transformed them to the third tier league back home,” remarks Ouma who was a key player in Green Commandoes’ promotion to the FKF National Division One in 2016 making 62 appearances, scoring 20 goals and provided 36 assists.
Ouma earned his first start for Gor Mahia in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) in a two-all draw against City Stars on Saturday 12th March and has now become a regular, taking over the left-back position from Abuba Sibomana. Despite the pressure that comes with donning the K’Ogalo jersey, he has braced himself to handle it appropriately.
“It hasn’t been but I always knew I had what it takes to play for the team. I am pleased with how I have performed so far but I will get better.”
The 5ft 6 inch player sees Gor as a launching pad to greater heights in his career, opining he wants to see himself play in the biggest European leagues in the near future.
“I know Gor is only a start for me, a good one for that matter. At a stage like this when you are playing for a such a big team, you need to have mental strength and I believe that is what has helped me perform well in my six months stay at the club,” states Ouma who boasts of two appearances in Africa’s elite competition - the CAF Champions League.
National team debut
Marcelo earned his first junior cap for the national team during the 2017 Africa U20 Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier away to Sudan and months later, recorded his first senior team cap in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Group E qualifier against Congo Brazzaville.
“I believe I was born to play and whenever I do is by the power of God whether is for my club or the national team. I want to use my talent to ensure my family lives a better life.”
The youngster also intends to enroll in university soon for further education.
Education and football are my only hope. I’m looking forward to playing in professional leagues like Belgium, England or Spain,” he concludes.
For Benjamin Kiprutto, the founder of Future Stars Academy that produced the youngster, his success story is inspiring more youngsters back in the slums of Nairobi.
“Seeing the likes of Marcelo progressing now, it makes me proud and not only him, some others who are playing in the premier league for instance Daniel Otieno and Samuel Wailer (City Stars),” the former Ligi Ndogo defender utters.
“It proves that we have the talent in the grassroots that if nurtured well can proceed to succeed at the highest level,” he concluded.
Despite Gor Mahia trying so hard to convince the youngster to sign a long-term contract, he only signed for another six months and word on the streets is that he’ll be heading to Europe at the end of the season to try out with several clubs.
Name: ERICK OUMA OTIENO
POSITION: LEFT BACK
DOB: 27TH SEPTEMBER 1996
CURRENT CLUB: GOR MAHIA
PREVIOUS CLUBS: Green Commandoes, Future Stars Academy