🇰🇪 Eric Ouma: From the dungeons of the slums of Kibra to the conquest of Mohammed Salah

You have to go back to August 2013, when the Western Stima U19 team won the Kenyan Premier League U19 champions in Ruaraka to find some of the best talent the country has ever produced.

The Hesbon Nyabinge were a formidable team, with most of their players having represented the Kenyan U20 team in tournaments with the young team Tusker, led by Anthony Mwangi, with current Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga. While Stima won 4-0 on the day, it is the less publicized players like Eric Ouma who have since made steady progress in the country’s football.

Born in September 1996, Ouma spent most of his youth in the slums of Kibra-Kenya; one of the largest informal settlements in Africa. While he started acting at a young age, it was in Kakamega High School that most people noticed his talent.

“Kakamega did a lot for me to be honest. A lot of coaches I know spotted me when he represented the school, but I started football before I came here,” Ouma told Futaa.

But unknown to many, Ouma’s path could have taken a different direction as he had received a letter of appeal at Dagoretti High School. While the school has also been a football powerhouse in the country, Ouma says it was the current Nairobi City Stars coach who advised him to move to Kakamega which had trials with the successful players winning the scholarships.

“I had to join Dago (Lycée Dagoretti) but Muyoti convinced me to move to Kakamega. Muyoti told me about the ordeals and when he put everything in place, it was my father who gave me the money for the transport to Kakamega. I did my best and they absorbed me. I don’t know how my path would have been if I had joined Dagoretti, but I think it was the right decision to move to Kakamega, ”he adds.

Kakamega had produced some of the biggest names in the country and as an aspiring footballer this was an opportunity he was never going to let go. He tells how he faced some of the best talent in the country and was convinced he was among the best when he was selected.

“At Kakamega we thought we were the best because it was something that was instilled in us. You were going to train with some of the best young talent in the country and that improves you as a player. It was a good base. for my football and I am forever indebted. “

While they made inroads into school games, it was Kenya’s high school ball games in 2015 that put Ouma’s teammates in the national spotlight. Faced with an equally good Kisumu day in a crowded Bukhungu stadium, they had to become Champions.

Most of Ouma’s teammates joined the Kenyan Premier League teams after graduating in 2015. As left-back joined Kenyan giants Gor Mahia, defender Joseph Okumu and midfielder Apollo Otieno entered. directly into the Chemelil Sugar start-up team.

In Gor, he was to be Rwandan Abouba Sibomana’s understudy, but once he had his chance under Brazilian Marcelo Zi Maria, he didn’t look back.

“Getting into the Gor Mahia team was never going to be easy. I remember people telling me that moving to Gor was a bad decision because I wasn’t sure of my place, but it was the challenge that I wanted, I wanted to be faced with the best and I was happy with how it all turned out.

“It was my first season in the top flight and it was difficult because I was no longer a young boy but a player who carried the hopes of a suitable fan base. A slight mistake and you will be served for the dinner, ”he adds.

Ouma was due to leave Gor in 2016 for Georgian club Kolkheti Poti, another decision which has been questioned by so many, with then national team coach Stanley Okumbi saying he is not going to call the players. who were in “competitive non-league”, it was a challenge Ouma took to heart.

The stints with KS Kastrioti came later, a stint he said was not the best as he suffered an injury. .

“It was even more difficult when I moved to Tirana and was dispatched to Kastrioti. I had to question myself and ask questions. It was a difficult time but I was convinced every day. that I would get there, ”says Ouma.

A breakthrough came in 2018 when he moved to Sweden’s lower IF Vasalunds, a move he says opens doors for him.

“I knew straight away when I arrived in Stockholm for the first time that this was the opportunity I was waiting for. There are a lot of teams in Stockholm and I got the idea that many Scouts regularly visit the lower teams to spot talent for dispatch. at the top and took it seriously.

“I worked like I have never worked before and when my move to AIK came in 2020 I was most happy to be there. It was hard work that paid off and I couldn’t hide my joy. Vasalund gave me the environment to thrive and I’m glad I did, they were happy with my outing with them as well. “

The Ouma national team was something he dreamed of since entering Kakamega High School. He says the urge to wear the Kenyan colors is something that has driven them since they had the national team coaches in their school.

“I have to thank Nyabinge (Hesbon) for being where I am. He played a huge role when I was called up for the first time in the U20 team (Kenya). He was part of the coaching staff and I want to believe that I didn’t disappoint him when I was called upon to defend my nation’s colors. He really set the stage for my rise to the senior national team, “he said.

Of all the opponents he’s faced with the Harambee Stars, Ouma says Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez is the guy who gave him nightmares, followed by Liverpool winger Mohammed Salah, but he says he doesn’t. has never been intimidated by any.

“I know a lot of people have talked about my duel with Salah in the playoffs because he didn’t do much, but then again maybe he just wasn’t up to the pace of the team. watch with Liverpool and how he tears his opponents apart and you have no choice but to be impressed. I’m glad I played well against him recently but thanks to the whole team for doing their job well too.

“Among the players that troubled me, Mahrez is up there. It was at the Africa Cup of Nations and everyone saw what he did in the tournament. He’s a good player and he had suitable players around him to compliment his efforts. The Senegal team also had good opponents. We lost the games but I had learned many lessons which helped me in my football. “

Ouma ends by stating that the best is yet to come from him as he aims to help AIK qualify for Europe and see the Stars be a regular team in international tournaments.

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About Johanna Gooding

Johanna Gooding

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