WHY OPUTI OPTED FOR S0CCER

How thorough beating turned Oputi into top keeper

Geoffrey Oputi wanted nothing else other than handball

In Summary

•Oputi started playing football at the age of 13 when he was in class seven at Mumboha Primary School.

•Meanwhile, Vihiga had fought their way to the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and coach Manoah expressed interest in his services yet again.

Geoffrey Oputi in past action
Geoffrey Oputi in past action
Image: COURTESY

When the games teacher politely asked him to play football for the school team, he declined.

The more the teacher insisted to have him on the team, the more evasive he became. After engaging him in an endless game of hide and seek, his teacher ultimately got annoyed and decided to teach him a big lesson. His conduct procured him severe floggings to an extent that the mere thought of the cane eventually made him to start playing football out of fear.

Geoffrey Oputi wanted nothing else other than handball. His teacher believed he had the potential to become a football star but Oputi would hear none of it. Had he followed his childhood passion, he could now be plying his trade as a goalkeeper in one of the handball leagues.

 

Oddly enough, he has made it to the apex of a different ball game altogether, one which he was forced to join after receiving a thorough beating from a cane-wielding no-nonsense games master who wanted him to stand tall at the goalpost, yes, but on a football pitch.

Several years down the line, Oputi’s body has stopped aching from the flashes of pain he momentarily endured in the hands of the teacher whom he now understands only meant well for him. Oputi currently prides himself on being a Kenyan Premier League player, the country’s top tier football competition.

Born on March 18, 1991 in Vihiga County, Oputi started playing football at the age of 13 when he was in class seven at Mumboha Primary School.

“I started playing for the school team when I was in class seven. Initially, I was the handball team’s goalkeeper. I enjoyed the game and devoted all my time and energy to it.”

They had a strong handball team which bulldozed its way all the way to the nationals. The same could not be said of their football outfit which wasn’t a force to reckon with from all perspectives, only struggling and faltering in the early stages of the provincial games.

Oputi, however, suffered a major setback after picking up an ankle dislocation during one of the football matches. The injury kept him out of competitive games for a whole month.

His football journey began on a peculiar note, when his teacher had no option but to cane him thoroughly first before he could agree to play. All the initial amicable efforts to persuade him fell on deaf ears.


Homeboyz keeper Geoffrey Oputi
Homeboyz keeper Geoffrey Oputi
 

“There is this teacher, Mr. Mike Etimila, who introduced me, albeit begrudgingly, into football. I initially didn’t like the sport at all because my heart  and mind was all in handball. Etimila persuaded me on numerous occasions to drop handball for football but I wouldn’t just listen until one day he became really mad at me and caned me thoroughly. That’s when I started playing football.”

After a while, his interest in the game blossomed and he became actively involved both in school and at home where he featured for a local team called Luanda United. It was a team that was formed by players from his village in Itumbu, Vihiga. It was quite a well organised side considering the fact that they won a big tournament organised by the local Constituency Development Fund (CDF) office at a time he was still in class seven.

Oputi sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in 2006  and joined Butere Boys High School where he spent his first two years before transferring to Ingotse Boys on a football scholarship. Oputi says that he didn’t meet the cut off points to join Butere but was nevertheless offered an opportunity to study there on the strength of his talent in games.

His thirst for football could not be quenched as he continued to grop for more opportunities to showcase his talent. He was a Form One student at Butere when he joined Bee All Stars in Luanda. It was while at Bee that he seriously began to hone his skills under the watchful eye of the late Kenyan international striker Davies Armando Oyiela who passed away in 2012.

“During my time at Bee, the coaches helped me to discover my real potential as a footballer. The late coach Davies Oyiela took my hand and guided me well enough. He worked closely with veteran goalkeeper Charles Mandu and together they made me believe in myself.”

He was in Form Two at Butere when he landed a place in the starting line up of the school team after the first choice goalkeeper left in 2008.

Oputi made a good impression of himself in the team which fought tooth and nail during the provincial school games, fending off stiff opposition all the way to the quarterfinals only to suffer defeat in the hands of the highly rated and equally fretted Kakamega High School whom they lost to 2-1.

“I was part of the team that fought up-to the quarterfinals of the provincial school games competition where we got eliminated by the Green Commandos.”

He later transferred to Ingotse High after the school approached him for his goalkeeping services. To entice him, they offered to waive his school fees.

Oputi did his part for Bee until 2010 when he left to explore the deeper end of the pool. A chance to join AFC Leopards came beckoning and he played along. That was after he had completed his studies in high school.

Propelled by pleas from both father and teacher, he traveled all the way to Nairobi to try out with the Kenyan Premier League side. He had been tipped off by his high school teacher Mr. Mulwale that the club was recruiting players. Even then, his father had to intervene and convince him to attend the trials given that he was still hesitant.

“Mulwale asked me to go and give it a shot. I’d declined but later got to travel after my father convinced me to do so.”

Oputi says he owes quite a lot to his father, Simon Kutwa Oputi, who gave him the kind of prodding he needed as a child and influenced his decision to move forward in life. Had it not been for his father, Oputi believes he wouldn’t have secured himself a slot at Leopards. He encouraged him to travel and even gave him Sh2,000 for the journey. He received Sh1,000 from his mother, Jane.

Oputi says he almost gave up during the trials, considering how tough the process was, the competition being just too close to call. He eventually made it to the squad though after the coaches found him to be a potential asset to the team.

“We were taken through the trials by coach Robert Bollen. The current Tusker coach Robert Matano was the technical director then and Haggai Azande was the goalkeeper trainer.”

Much to his relief, he was absorbed to deputise Kenyan international Patrick Matasi who presently plies his trade for St. George SA in the Ethiopian Premier League. Matasi had already signed up by then.

When Oputi delivered the good news to his parents, they were extremely happy and joined him in rejoicing his success. He saw the need to find a way of appreciating them for the support they had given him prior to his achievement.  “To show my appreciation, I gifted them my entire first salary which was Sh20,000.”

Things, however, didn’t work out well for him at Leopards and he was eventually dropped six months after penning a deal with the club. “We were dropped because the team wasn’t registering good results. I was among the 12 players who were immediately sent packing. Oputi didn’t allow the incident to dim his hopes.

No sooner had he been shown the door at Leopards than he joined Rush Football Club which was participating in the Kakamega county league. All the while, he was unsettled and itching for a return to the big stage. In 2012, he folded his luggage and hit the road running all the way to Nakuru All Stars where he stayed for a whole season before leaving immediately his contract expired.

It was in 2013, when he received a call from veteran coach Edward Manoa who invited him to be part of the pioneering squad at the newly established Vihiga United. He responded enthusiastically.

“Manoa called me and asked me to join him at Vihiga United which he had just formed right from the scratch. We began our journey from the lowest league (Division Two) and took the team all the way to the National Super League (NSL) in 2016. Despite playing for the first time in the NSL, we managed a fourth-place finish behind a more experienced Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB).”

Oputi’s performance was exceptional and the bankers’ coach Leonard Saleh was hot on his heels.

“That’s when KCB contacted me for a possible move. I joined them in 2017 and was there for a season,” says Oputi.

Meanwhile, Vihiga had fought their way to the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and coach Manoah expressed interest in his services yet again. The sweetness of the aroma of Kenya’s top tier and the thought of featuring on the big stage was too tempting for him to ignore. He immediately decided to jump ship and linked up with his former side.

However, KCB were unwilling to let go and took a long time to release him. By the time they made up their mind it was too late. The transfer window had already been closed and Vihiga United were done with recruiting. This, he says, left him displaced for a while.

“By the time KCB unleashed me, Vihiga were through with signing players. I had no option and was left without a team for six months but thanks to coach Hezborn Nyabinge, I signed up for Palos in Kisumu. I stayed there for the six months and eventually joined Vihiga.”

Oputi says he had an impressive run with Vihiga in the KPL, sitting out only seven matches in all the two seasons.

So good was his performance that Kakamega Homeboyz couldn’t hide their interest in him anymore.

It was in the 2019 mid-season that Homeboyz  contacted him for a possible move but his contract in Vihiga was still running. Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement and he eventually traveled to Kakamega to ink a deal with Homeboyz.

“When I joined Homeboyz, Nicholas Muyoti was the head coach assisted by Peter Okidi with Abel Omuhaya as the goalkeeper trainer.”

His  most memorable match? Oputi picks two.  “We faced off with Gor Mahia in Mumias while I was still turning out for Vihiga United in 2017. We were in the relegation zone and battling for survival, so it was a must win for us. I gave out my best and we beat Gor 2-0.”

“The other one was when we faced Western Stima at Bukhungu. Even though it was my first KPL match, I kept a clean sheet with an impressive performance that I’m proud of the day up-to today.”

He has experienced his worst days in football just as well. “My worst match was against Mount Kenya. Vihiga were leading 2-1 and the game was almost over when I gifted Mount Kenya their second goal with a silly mistake.”

“The ball came rolling towards our goal and I asked our central defender Moffat Liuva to leave it all for me. I slipped and fell while reaching out for the ball. It passed me right into the net.”

Is there any team that sends him trembling on the eve of a match? Oputi lets out a thunderous laughter before giving his honest answer:

“Hahaha! To be honest, the thought of meeting Mathare United makes me unsettled to some extent.”

Why the Slum Boys? “Mathare are quite tactical and very fast to an extent that handling them becomes tricky. One has to be on high alert all the time. They don’t allow you any breathing space.”

Asked to name the striker that makes him unsettled during a match, he mentions former Gor Mahia striker Meddie Kagere who currently plays for Tanzanian giants Simba Sports Club and the Rwandese national team. He’s also scared of Allan Wanga who is now his teammate at Homeboyz.

“Thank God I’m now in the same side as Allan Wanga because he was a big threat while featuring for an opposing team during matches.”

Oputi thanks his parents for being there for him throughout his football journey.

“I share my fears and concerns with them quite often. They talk me out of them and encourage me to forge ahead.”

He picks former Kenyan international goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng as his role model. Internationally, he is greatly inspired by veteran 42-year-old Italian custodian  Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon who currently plays for Juventus. Buffon is recognised by many as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and, by some, as the greatest ever.

He spends his free time watching movies and listening to music. What advice does he have to youngsters aspiring to play in top flight league like him?

“Always put God first before anything else. You need to exercise patience, maintain hard work and discipline. Remember to remain positive always even when things seem to be tough because that’s the only way to succeed.”

Although he is yet to earn a call up to the national team, he remains hopeful that he’ll soon wearing the national colours.  Oputi says he admires the South African league so much and always looks forward to featuring in it someday.

 

 

BIOGRAPHY

 

Name: Geofrey David Oputi

Date of Birth: March 18, 1991

Place of Birth: Vihiga, Kenya

Nationality: Kenyan

Position: Goalkeeper

1999-2006: Mumboha Primary School (Vihiga)

2007-2008: Butere Boys High School

2009-2010: Ingotse High School

2005-2006: Luanda United

2007-2010: Bee All Stars (Vihiga)

2010: AFC Leopards (for six months)

2010-2011: Rush FC (Kakamega County League)

2012-2013: Nakuru All Stars

2013-2016: Vihiga United

2017-2018: Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) FC

2018: Palos FC (Kisumu for six months)

2018-2019: Vihiga United

2019 to-date: Kakamega Homeboyz

Premier League appearances: 40

Premier League Minutes: 3373