EYES FOR TALENT

Orero: Everything he touches turns into gold

However, little is said of the people who as well burn the midnight oil to ensure the success of their proteges and in return, the various national teams.

In Summary

• For over three decades, anything Orero touches turns out golden. His Midas touch has ensured that, in every school he serves, the team he patrons turns out to be the team of choice.

• Orero’s journey into secondary school sports began at Kamukunji Secondary in 1990. He has since tutored at Langata High, Upper Hill and his current station, Dagoretti High.

Dagoretti coach Peter Orero
Dagoretti coach Peter Orero
Image: FILE

The world over, most sporting talents are identified during their formative years especially within the school set up. Stories abound of how accomplished sportsmen and women, in Kenya and beyond, used to juggle between class and the field of play during their teenage years.

However, little is said of the people who as well burn the midnight oil to ensure the success of their proteges and in return, the various national teams.

The Kenyan schools' sports setup is credited for identifying and nurturing some of the country’s best sportsmen and women. This is the sector that 

 

Peter Orero, the Dagoretti High School principal, has made his name.

For over three decades, anything Orero touches turns out golden. His Midas touch has ensured that, in every school he serves, the team he patrons turns out to be the team of choice.

Over the year’s, ‘Oresh’ as he is referred to across the sporting circles at home and in the region, has been credited with the rise of some of the country’s top talents.

Orero’s journey into secondary school sports began at Kamukunji Secondary in 1990. He has since tutored at Langata High, Upper Hill and his current station, Dagoretti High.

His past success is mind-boggling, his passion remains intact while the desire to improve keeps on burning. He is mainly involved in football, basketball and netball.

In football, Orero has played a part in the development of numerous internationals including UEFA Champions League winner MacDonald Mariga, his United States of America-based brother Victor Wanyama, China-based Michael Olunga and the Harambee Stars all-time goal scorer Dennis Oliech.

“Every Kenyan knows the achievements of the quartet on the pitch. All of them have even gone on to captain Harambee Stars at different times,” notes Orero, adding that they are still in communication up to date.

 

“They still seek my advice regularly. Oliech has a son in my school and calls me frequently,” he adds.

Canada-based Ray Odhiambo is another of the top Kamukunji products during Orero’s time there.

Just after winning the European Champions League title with Inter Milan, former Sports Editor at Standard, Omulo Okoth asked Orero, then at Upper Hill, what he thought about Macdonald Mariga.

“He is a good talented player with a high work rate, but his younger brother (Wanyama) is far much better in terms of poise, flair and creativity,”

Orero said, to the consternation of Omulo, who had hardly heard of Wanyama, then plying his trade in Sweden.

Orero’s ruthlessly honest opinion was vindicated years later when Wanyama turned out to be the first Kenyan to play in the English Premier League with Londoners Tottenham Hotspur.

“Such is the intuition that Orero has, which has enabled him to discover so many talents, from his years as headteacher,” Omulo recalls.

However, Orero insists he is not blinded by unearthing top players to the detriment of their academic success. He is strict when it comes to class work, encouraging students to perform exemplary on both fronts, however hard it is.

“We not only engage in sports. We also work to succeed academically. In all the schools that I have managed, I have worked hard to ensure that there is an improvement in the mean grades,” Orero says.

Orero was in Kamukunji for 12 years, a time when the school made a name for themselves in both football and netball. “It was at Kamukunji that my journey started,” Orero says. “Sports made Kamukunji a household named in the country.”

Kamukunji also dominated football competitions to reach the national championships in 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

“In all the years we made it to the national school championships, we reached the semi-finals and managed to win the title three times,” recounts Orero.

During that time, Orero guided some of the top players the country has had including Francis Odhiambo, George Odhiambo, Jamal Mohammed whom he describes as one of the best midfielders in Kenya, Andrew Oyombe, Oliech’s brother ­— who captained the team at the 2000 national championships, Geoffrey Kokoyo, who captained Ulinzi for about 10 years, and Francis Ocholla, who made himself a name at national giants Gor Mahia.

Mariga captained Kamukunji for two years and was twice named the national championships’ Most Valuable Player (MVP), in Nyeri in 2002 and in Malindi a year later.

After he left, it was Wanyama’s turn to guide Kamukunji to the nationals. Others who starred in the Kamukunji jersey during Orero’s time were goalkeeper Afu Major, Iddi Mohammed and Francis Nyagah.

In netball, the school won the national title for 10 years in a run that started in 1992 and produced many players who went on to don the national colours notably Caroline ‘Manjeng’ Achieng, Eunice Ouma and Maureen Ondeng.

The quartet of Caroline ‘Masaa’ Owino, Rose Akech, Judy Juma and Rebecca Sarange stared at both the Armed Forces and national teams. They also doubled up as astute basketballers and turned up for Premier League sides. The Kamukunji women's basketball team won the national titles in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2002. 

Interestingly, 98 per cent of all the players at Kamukunji learnt through scholarship, having come from disadvantaged families.

“There was so much talent at Kamukunji at one time the school produced 14 out of 20 players that made the national U20 team. Netball was not left behind either as five out of seven were starters as well,” Orero brags.

Orero moved to Upper Hill school as a deputy principal in 2002 and immediately  guided the school to the Nairobi finals and was named the coach of the KSSSA U-20 team to Kampala, Uganda for the Coca Cola-sponsored regional tournament.

He also guided the basketball team to their first Nairobi final in 2004, where they fell to St Austin’s Academy.

His next stop was Langata High in 2005. Here, he took netball to the national finals in 2006, 2007 and 2008. They also did well in basketball where they went to a number of national finals — but never won.

Their best product is Mercy Wanyama, the younger sister of the Mariga’s. Mercy excelled at the Premier League before she recently moved to Spain fora professionals stint with a Division One club. She remains an important part of the national team.

Langata also did well in football, winning the national title once and producing shining stars like former Gor Mahia defender Musa Mohammed, currently based in Zambia, John Gateri and Kevin ‘Ade’ Omondi, who went on to pro football in South Africa.

Orero returned to Upper Hill in 2007, this time as a principal and immediately engaged another gear.

“In my first year upon return, our basketball team reached the Nairobi semi-finals, then made the finals in the second and won it in the third attempt. From there on, we won the title until I was posted out of the school,” Orero notes.

At the same time, Olunga and Ovela Ochieng joined the national football team. Fred Ngararo, Dominique Obunaka and Teddy Ochieng got basketball scholarships to study in USA while Joseph Ongoro and Simon Mugambi moved to at Strathmore University.

He guided ‘Upper’ to the national finals, falling to Paul Otula-coached Maseno School in a closely fought encounter.

USA based Dominic Obunaka reflects on what Orero told him the first time they met in his office.

“You have a great body for playing basketball. If you focus on your education and basketball, trust me I will make sure you go play in the USA,” reveals Obunaka.

He says Orero loved him as his son and his support got him to the USA. “I literally owe him a lot for giving me a life.”

The school also did well in rugby 15s where they went to nationals but never won the title. The football team won the national title once after being there four times while the hockey side twice made it to the national championships.

While at Upper Hill, something unique happened. Through his efforts, the school was made a national talent center for football while basketball also benefited from the UNICEF-sponsored project. Orero coordinated all the activities and finances.

“We formed Talanta Academy and named Bob Oyugi as coach to guide the boys. That is where we developed players like national team goalie Fred Odhiambo,” says Orero.

In 2013 the Talent Academy team traveled to Italy for an invitational youth tournament which they won after beating the hosts, USA and Canada.

“At Upper Hill, we also did well in drama and music. We developed the now prominent group — Sauti Soul,” he reflects.

In 2017 Orero Upper Hill left for Dagoretti High and, as always, hit the ground running. After only three months, he guided the school’s basketball team to the Nairobi region quarter finals after 20 years in limbo. A year later, they wrestled the basketball and football crowns from Upper Hill.

During that time they graced the national championships reaching the semi-finals in football and rugby. They, however, lost the preliminary round games in basketball. He vowed to come out stronger the following year.

2019 was a much fruitful year for Dagoretti. They reached the national finals in Mombasa where they lost to Laser Hill in basketball and to Kakamega High in rugby. Their key player, Salim Amir went to the USA.

In football they went down to St. Anthonys but are proud to have had representation in the national U20 team through Kariobangi Sharks’ Boniface ‘Marcelo’ Mwangangi, Simon Omondi, James ‘Odo’ Oudu, Finley Soro and Peter Oyier.

Dagoretti traveled to Arusha, Tanzania for the regional championship but it turned out unsuccessful as they Budo of Uganda in basketball and rugby and succumbed again to St.Anthonys in football.

After going so close in 2019, Orero was determined to leave a mark this year but as fate would have it, their plans were never to be after schools were closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to success on the pitch and court, Orero recognises the importance of sound academic performances.

“At Upper Hill, the mean grade was 7.7 when I took over. I gradually moved it to 10.2 making it one of the best performing schools in the country. It has been like that in my previous schools,” Orero observes.

Dagoretti have also done so well in drama where under Goretty Rabut, they have won numerous national accolades. This is a passion of area MP and alumnus John ‘KJ’ Kiarie, who is the chairman of the drama club.

“In Langata, we got bursaries through Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who also took the boys football team for an international tournament in Ghana. While there, they interacted with renowned players like Michael Essien and Asamoah Gyan,” notes Orero.

At Upper Hill he had an exchange programme where his team visited English premier league giants Manchester United every year and vise versa.

Besides being involved in school sports where he is also the KSSSA Nairobi chairman, Orero also served as an assistant to long-serving secretary general David Ngugi.

In 1999 when Orero was at Kamukunji and Ngugi at Oshwal, they noted Nairobi teams were doing badly in sports nationally and they teamed up with Moses Mbuthia to ensure the performance improved. And it did.

“Orero is an extraordinary person. Everything he touches turns into gold. As a coach, he has produced stars in soccer, basketball, netball and rugby in all the schools he has been to,” Ngugi says. “Kamukunji was a school with little facilities but he used all at his disposal to produce many stars. He has also done so well in academics,”

“If you look at his academic trajectory, nowhere in Kenya has anyone had so much success. Parents never want him to leave and one thing I know about him, he sets high standards.”

“Orero is the only coach I know who never appeals whenever he loses a match. He will always accept the result and go back to the drawing board. To him, its all about discipline and fair play,” adds Ngugi

His interest in netball also saw him listed as a national team coach. He was involved with the TSC football team for 10 years both as coach and player. Before moving to KBF as the treasurer, he was the secretary of the Nairobi Basketball Association (NBA).

Orero, alongside other stakeholders, formed the National Youth Team (NYT), the first school team to ever play in the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) league. They represented Kenya in the U-18 championships. This programme developed many top players including Purity Ouma and Debra Obunga.

“I have done two terms at KBF and I feel it is still unfinished business even though we have done well with the national teams,” he says.

“The icing on the cake saw the men bag the only medal in Fiba Africa AfroChan in Mali last year and the Fiba Africa Zone Five in Nairobi in January.”

Last year Orero tried his hands in the fragile and emotive Kibra Constituency parliamentary polls, finishing second out of 11 in the party elections. 24 participants started the race.

“Only God knows what the future holds for me in politics. Now the job I am interested in is to take Dagoretti High to the top, academically. And this I will do to the best of my ability,” he vows.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star