• Very little was known of the speedy winger until his former employers Zoo Kericho earned promotion to the Kenyan Premier League in 2017
Contrary to the expectations, picking football ahead of athletics never troubled on-form Gor Mahia forward Nicholas Kipkirui in his tender age.
Born and bred in the athletics-rich Kericho County, Kipkirui settled for football unlike what many aspiring sportsmen from the region would have picked, a choice he says he does not regret making as its paying dividends in line with his expectations.
Very little was known of the speedy winger until his former employers Zoo Kericho earned promotion to the Kenyan Premier League in 2017, where he hit 10 goals and six assists in his maiden season in the top flight.
Kipkirui partnered with the then league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Michael Madoya to guide the new outfit in retaining their top flight status and went ahead to bang 13 goals last season, attracting the attention of league champions Gor, who beat other interested clubs to his signature.
In his two years at Zoo Kericho, the youngster proved consistent and lethal in front of goal and it was no surprise he was named the 2017 Sports Journalist Association of Kenya (SJAK) Kenyan Premier League Young Player of the Year and further received his first national team call up, albeit with the U-23, Emerging Stars. Kipkirui was named in the team which played two friendly matches against Uzbekistan in March.
His football star began to shine while at Kaptoboiti Primary School, where he was named the football team captain while in class eight and would be named the skipper at Kipchimchim Boys High School while in Form Four.
His heroics in primary school saw Sosiot Matrix FC rope in his services to their squad before Zoo spotted his rare talent and integrated him into the team while in Form Two. Kipkirui says he realised his talent when he was young and thanks Zoo Kericho for offering him the platform to showcase his talent both in the National Super League and the top flight which landed him in the national team and a club of Gor’s calibre.
“I have no regrets in the choice I made when I was young. Back at home, athletics is adored more than football but I realised my talent when I was young and I was never tempted to switch to athletics. No one persuaded me to reconsider my choice and even if there were, I was adamant that through hard work and dedication, I would excel in football,” said Kipkirui. “It was not easy as there were challenges and balancing between sports and academics was also tough. I grew up playing football and was lucky to sign for Zoo Kericho while at High School—a move which opened a bigger platform to express myself.”
Since joining Gor at the start of the current season, Kipkirui has endeared himself to the ‘Green Army’ in his inaugural season and has established himself as a starter. The striker has netted nine league goals and was a reliable goal-poacher in the Caf Confederations Cup matches.
With the imminent departure of Rwandese talisman Jacques Tuyisenge, K’Ogalo fans are rooting for Kipkirui to fully assume the goal-scoring roles. Kip lifted the lid on the offers he had received but has opted to remain loyal to Gor.
“It was a dream come true for me to join Gor Mahia, whom I have served wholeheartedly. The fans were receptive and I am glad to have won my first major title as a player,” he added. “Football is a full-time career and I hope maybe in a season’s time or two, I will be able to fully go professional. In the meantime, I have received offers from other clubs but I am not in a hurry to leave Gor.”
His stellar performance with Gor saw him recalled to the national team by head coach Sebastian Migne for the Africa Nations Championships. Kipkirui was named in the team alongside team-mates, Joash Onyango, Charles Momanyi, Samuel Onyango, Francis Kahata, Kenneth Muguna and Philemon Otieno.