Call it the Airport. Or just Machakos. The Machakos Bus Station is known to many more so to those who are travelling upcountry.
Having spent my entire primary school education in Kibra-Nairobi, just as any other candidate who had passed their examinations, the time to join secondary school arrived. I had been handed a call to some school around Dagoretti (still in Nairobi) and everything was set towards joining the school. Not until I heard of a trial session at Kakamega High School.
My dad had insisted in school but just as most Kenyan parents residing in the sums, school fees was going to be a problem so when the opportunity of attending a trial came, there was no way he was going to go against it. Those who passed had the luxury of gaining full scholarship from form 1 to Form 4 and I was determined to grab the chance.
Kakamega had produced some of the big names in the country and as an aspiring footballer, it was an opportunity that I was going to let go. The trial session was proposed to me by coach Nicholas Muyoti (now at Kakamega Homeboyz) but just as any other stranger going to a new town, I didn’t know what awaited me. His instructions were clear over the phone: “Kakamega are in need of players and they are conducting trials. I believe you got what it takes and please make your way to the school.”
When I broke the news to my father, he didn’t resist though the normal questions rose. “Are you sure they are providing scholarships.”…..”What are the requirements”….”Do you think you’ll be studying now that they are taking in footballers”…things like that. Just those normal questions a concerned parent would ask. After back and forth confirmation with Muyoti and my junior team coaches, he gave in. The problem is he didn’t have enough money for everything I needed. But after buying a metallic box, all he could do was to hand me KES 1500 for my transport and my upkeep there if I was not to make the cut.
Making my way to the Machakos bus terminus was no brainer. The problem came with those tasked with filling those buses. Every one of them wanted a piece of me. Being shoved left and right. I was finally convinced by a certain young man and can’t even remember the bus I took. I just wanted to make it to Kakamega so bad. My mind was not on anything apart from making it in the trials.
Eric Ouma in the colours of Gor Mahia (Image: Capital Sports)
I wondered through the journey on what would happen if I failed to make the cut. If I was ever going to get to school if I was to arrive back. And who would hand me more money to make the trip back to the city if things didn’t go as planned. I was preoccupied in my thought that I barely remembered passing town until we had a stopover in Nakuru. The next stopover was in Kisumu then we arrived in Kakamega in the evening where I was picked by someone sent by the school.
“I still have more to give in the game despite the setbacks I have had in the past.”
The trials went well but it wasn’t that rosy. Kakamega gets the best players across the country under the recommendation of some of the best coaches in the country and their networks so for one to get a chance, they had to be extraordinary good. It’s in the trial session that I was experiencing football in a different way than what I was used with at Kibra.
They say the squad that was picked that year was one of the best the school had produced. I think ¾ of the team currently have clubs and took football as a career.
It’s the team that deflated Kisumu Day High School to win the National School Games football title at a fully packed Bukhungu Stadium. Most of us walked straight to Kenyan Premier League teams after finishing school. I was to join Gor Mahia with defender Joseph Okumu and midfielder Apollo Otieno walking straight into the Chemelil Sugar starting 11 after we finished school in 2015 so were the others.
Ouma in action at the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) against Man City’s Riyad Mahrez
It was not a matter of talent but I think the lot was dedicated. Every one of us knew what football meant to us and our future and I think we gave everything each and every time we represented the school. Circumstances at home pushed us harder since most of us had the same story to tell.
People know Marcelo as the player who features for national team and the AIK Fotball Club but this isn’t how they knew me in my earlier days. It’s been a story of resilience and patience.
Kakamega gave me hope in making it in football but that doesn’t mean I did badly in school. In fact, I did pass. It was a requirement from my parents and siblings and I had to make them proud. It’s something they say will be helpful when I finally leave football but that won’t happen now.
I still have more to give in the game despite the setbacks I have had in the past. We are both made to shine and football is my place. When Im back in action this October, I hope I’ll be leaving nothing to chance, just as I did in my days at Kakamega.