•When Wazito President Ricardo Badoer cracked the whip a fortnight ago, the axe fell on 12 players who were sent packing in a move aimed at strengthening the side ahead of the new season.
•Born on August 23, 2002, Bixente has grown up without a sibling having been the only child of his mother, Lidya Shekule Shikhaya, who passed away when he was 13.
At only 18 years, Wazito FC’s Bixente Otieno is the youngest goalkeeper in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) where he first featured in 2019.
When Wazito President Ricardo Badoer cracked the whip a fortnight ago, the axe fell on 12 players who were sent packing in a move aimed at strengthening the side ahead of the new season.
Among the casualties were two veteran shot stoppers, Kevin Omondi and Steve Njunge. The only custodian spared the wrath was Bixente, interestingly the youngest in the goal-keeping department.
Bixente had recently consolidated his slot as first choice keeper, displacing both Omondi and Njunge as Wazito unleashed their best ammunition on opponents to save themselves from the jaws of relegation.
Born on August 23, 2002, Bixente has grown up without a sibling having been the only child of his mother, Lidya Shekule Shikhaya, who passed away when he was 13.
He took a keen interest in the game of football at the tender age of six years when most children his age still soiled their clothes playing kalongolongo (an imitative Kenyan game that is popular with children where they act out the activities of adulthood.)
Bixente kicked off his journey in football at Makongeni Sports Association Academy (MASA) and attributes his success during this period to the encouragement he constantly received from his departed mother whom he says gave him a lot of support.
“She used to buy me essential kit for training and matches.”
Her sudden death was a major setback for him especially at a time he needed her to guide him through the most important period of his life as a teenager. “My mother left me as an only child. I was only 13 years when she departed.”
His uncle Apollo Owino Aduwa immediately assumed responsibility and took him in at his house in Makongeni.
Meanwhile, he was attending school at Kaloleni Primary in Nairobi’s Eastlands area where many brilliant soccer careers have been moulded. He proved to be a big asset for his school team, standing tall in goal as they contained close opposition to scale the higher echelons of school tournaments. “We reached the regional quarter finals of the Orange Soccer Tournament in 2013.”
He sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams in 2015 and proceeded to join Makongeni Secondary School, where he was drafted into the school team while he was still in Form Two.
He wasn’t there for long though before Kamukunji Secondary School principal, Mr. Maina, came looking for him after he was impressed with what he saw him do on the pitch during the Nairobi County Inter-school games where he became an instant gem.
“It was during the semifinals of the competition and we were up against Upper Hill while Kamukunji faced off with Nairobi Milimani in the other match.”
He accepted the offer to join Kamukunji at the completion of his second year at Makongeni. The situation at his new school was, however, not good at all given that Kamukunji was still serving a ban after being caught up in an illegality during the inter-school games.
That notwithstanding, he still had a chance to showcase his talent in the FKF regional league where the principal had registered them to maintain form and fitness as they patiently waited for the ban to lapse.
They also got to participate in three open tournaments at Lenana, Starehe and Alliance clinching the first two and securing a second position at Alliance.
Bixente says all the while he received a lot of encouragement from his school principal Mr. Maina, who is understood to have rode to his position on the back of a successful career as a games teacher in different schools.
Bixente’s football career away from school was equally progressive. After learning his football at MASA, he joined the Kariobangi Sharks U-20 side while still in Form Two at Makongeni. He was at K-sharks for the rest of his schooling years until he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams upon which he penned his first major deal with Wazito.
“When I was still playing for Sharks, Wazito used to invite me to join them in their training sessions. It was at a time Stanley Okumbi and Mohamed Hamisi were still the coaches.”
After warming the bench for quite some time since arriving at the money bags, Bixente was handed his first assignment in February this year by head coach Stewart Hall who was brought in to replace Melis Medo after the side suffered huge consecutive league defeats. Medo had taken over after the entire technical bench led by Okumbi were shown the door.
It was a baptism of fire for Bixente, coming up against a red-hot Kakamega Homeboyz side who approached the match with a no nonsense attitude, as they sought to dislodge Gor Mahia from the summit of the Kenyan Premier League log in a determined hunt for their first KPL title.
“I was handed my first KPL task by Wazito at Bukhungu where we faced off with hosts Kakamega Homeboyz in the second leg of 2019/2020 season. It ended in a one all draw.”
As Bixente reminisces over the match, he’s also quick to point out that it has been his best game ever. “It was my first Premier League match and it was against a side that played their hearts out looking for every single point to clinch the season.”
Asked to identify the toughest team he has encountered at the length of his KPL career, he quickly mentions Ulinzi Stars. The soldiers, he admits, overworked them when they last met at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos in a closely contested KPL match that ended in a barren draw. “They were strong in the air and attacked from the flanks while delivering risky crosses into the box that we had a difficult time trying to contain.”
While at it, Bixente assertively says there is no KPL team that gives him a sleepless night on the eve of a match. He pinpoints former Wazito and AFC Leopards striker Elvis Rupia as the best attacker he has come to know in the country at the moment. Although he has never faced him in a match, Bixente says that Rupia inspired him a lot with his level of performance when they were still teammates at Wazito.
Bixente’s impressive displays in matches caught the eyes of junior national team coaches Stanley Okumbi (U-20) and Michael Amenga (U-17). He managed to secure slots in the junior sides of the national team including the U-17 in 2018 and both the U-18 and U-20 in 2019.
His best international assignment, he says, was during the Cecafa U-17 tournament in Tanzania where they lost 3-2 to Uganda Cranes. “We gave it our best shot as a team but things just didn’t work out for us. Still, we drew a lot of experience from the match.”
He thinks the match against the East Africa neighbours also turned out to be his toughest international assignment. He was a reserve keeper for the Kenya U-20 side, deputising Kariobangi Sharks custodian Brian Bwire during the 2019 Cecafa Championship in Uganda.
Bixente says he spends most of his free time watching goal-keeping videos but also loves watching movies and going to swim as well.
He has his future dreams focused on the Spanish La Liga, where he savours featuring for Atletico Madrid. Locally, he admires Gor Mahia’s first choice stopper Boniface Oluoch whom he says inspires him a lot with his beautiful game.
His international role model is Jan Oblak, a Slovenian international footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Atlético Madrid in the Spanish Laliga. Like Bixente, Oblak signed for Portuguese club Benfica at the age of 17.
Bixente thanks his father Hezron Otieno for supporting him in his roller-coaster journey and promises him a good future to reciprocate his efforts in raising him to become the person he has turned out to be. “My father has played a big part in my life. I wish to assure him that better days are coming to make him happy.”
He also thanks his uncle, Apollo, and cousin Clinton Aduwa who have been great pillars in his career. “I thank them for guiding me. It’s through their selfless support that I’ve made it this far.”
Bixente also has a word of advice for bidding footballers who have their sight on top flight soccer: “Let them put God first. They should also maintain a high level of discipline and work on improving on their weak points. They should trust in the process. God’s time is the best.”
Name: Bixente Otieno
Current club: Wazito FC
D. o. B: 23/08/2002
2007-2015: Kaloleni Primary School
2016-2017: Makongeni Secondary School
2018-2019: Kamukunji Secondary
2008-2017: Makongeni Sports Association Academy (MASA)
2017-2019: Kariobangi Sharks U-20
2018: Kenya U-17 (Cecafa U-17 in Tanzania)
2019: Kenya U-20 (Cecafa U-20 in Uganda)
2019 to-date : Wazito FC