Close

SKY THE LIMIT

Three blood brothers narrate their football

Their mother's death was a major blow

In Summary

•Okaka is the eldest of the three football siblings.

•Owiti says his most memorable match was against Mathare United in Machakos when they made a major comeback from three goals down to beat the Slum Boys 4-3.

Odenyi brothers; Jaffery Owiti,Aziz Okaka and Faraj Ominde pose during an interview at Harambee Estate.ERICK BARASA.JPG
Odenyi brothers; Jaffery Owiti,Aziz Okaka and Faraj Ominde pose during an interview at Harambee Estate.ERICK BARASA.JPG
Image: ERICK BARASA

Aziz Okaka and his twin brothers Jaffery Owiti and Faraj Ominde were all in the field playing football when their surroundings suddenly turned dark.

The siblings had received the shocking news that their mother had passed away. In fact, Ominde, who was turning out for Tusker, had a Kenyan Premier League match at hand and was gearing up for a bruising battle with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos when his coach Robert Matano let the cat out of the bag. Tusker were just from lunch and focusing on the game ahead when Matano unleashed the shocker.

“Matano asked me not to change into the team’s jersey only a few minutes before  the match and I wondered why he had suddenly changed his mind,” said Ominde.

“At first,  the coach had instructed all players to switch off their phones, and we were left asking ourselves why he had done that. I guess he was protecting me from receiving the information from other sources because he didn’t know how I would react.”

Ominde says his father later confirmed the bad news when he called and asked him to abandon the match and travel back home. Both Okaka and Owiti were in a jolly mood attending a training session with AFC Leopards when reality struck.

“I received the bad news during a training session. All along, I had this unusual urge to check on my phone and when I did so, I found several missed calls from my aunty. That’s when I sensed that all was not well,” says Okaka.

“When I tried reaching her, she told me to hang up and wait for her to call. When she called she was sobbing over her conversation and that’s when she told me what had transpired. I felt suddenly deflated,” he adds. As Okaka tried to come to terms with the news he had received, Owiti was still in the dark.

Odenyi brothers; Jaffery Owiti,Aziz Okaka and Faraj Ominde during the interview at Harambee Estate.
Odenyi brothers; Jaffery Owiti,Aziz Okaka and Faraj Ominde during the interview at Harambee Estate.
Image: ERICK BARASA

Owiti says: “After the training session, I was in the company of our team manager Tom Juma on our way to the bus and I was in high spirits exchanging pleasantries with him. He had already received the news beforehand and as much as I tried cracking jokes with him, I realised he wasn’t so much in the mood.”

“Once on the bus, my brother came and asked me to accompany him outside. I got irritated and asked him to share whatever information he had where we were. I didn’t understand why he wanted us to talk outside.”

“Once we hoped out of the bus, he unleashed the shocking message that we had lost our mother. I was devastated,” says Owiti.

 

Meanwhile, Okaka had been figuring out how to share the devastating news. “After giving it a deep thought, I ultimately gathered the strength to tell my brother what had happened. The sooner he got to hear about it the better it would be for all of us,” says Okaka. Did Owiti believe Okaka at first? “When I looked into Okaka’s eyes, I noticed tears rolling down his eyes and realised he was not pulling my leg.”

City Stars' winger Aziz Okaka poses during interview at Harambee Estate.
City Stars' winger Aziz Okaka poses during interview at Harambee Estate.
Image: ERICK BARASA

AZIZ OKAKA

Okaka is the eldest of the three football siblings. Born on August 8, 1995, Okaka began his football journey at Sosiani Primary School in Eldoret.

With only a few people willing to kick the ball in the area, there was glaring scarcity of football teams in the neighbourhood and Okaka had to turn to his father to learn his basic skills.

He and his two siblings would routinely spend some time with their father on the pitch much to the chagrin of their mother who felt that they should have used their hours rummaging through literature to up their stakes in academia.

His father Hussein, a former AFC Leopards defender, had established an informal academy where he nurtured budding footballers at Langas in Eldoret. He warmly received his three sons even encouraged them to be taking part in his training sessions.

The fact that Hussein was a football coach gave his sons an edge over the rest of the playing unit in the learning process.

Other than the fact that he engaged them alongside the rest of the squad during post match and post training appraisals, he would also frequently hold some pep talk with them once they returned home to dissect their strengths and weaknesses.

Okaka ultimately joined GFC 105 in the lower tiers and battled for them all the while as they rose up the ranks to gain promotion to the National Super League.

His major break, however, came through in 2010 when the side participated in the Sakata Ball soccer tournament which they clinched to become the national champions.

He was thereafter selected to join the Sakata Academy under Bob Oyugi and Edward Karanja where he was for a whole year. In 2013, the current Posta Rangers’ coach Pamzo recruited him at Sony where he inked a two-year deal.

He, however, left midway through the contract after sustaining an injury that kept him out of action for a significant period of time. He sprang out of injury to join FC Talanta in the NSL under coach Nam but only stayed there for four months after an opportunity to travel to Sweden came knocking on his door.

FC Talanta coach Nam had some connections with a Swedish Division 3 side, Gottne IF, who asked him if he could give them a striker as part of the partnership between the two sides. With five goals already to his credit at Talanta, Okaka was Nam’s best bet for Gottne.

After putting his papers in order, Okaka flew out of the country and joined the Swedes in 2014. At Gottne, he was on fire, finding the back of the net five times

Okaka returned home after a season but didn’t stay long before going back to Sweden in 2015 to pen a deal with Division 3 side Kiruna.

At Kiruna, he netted 12 goals to emerge the season’s top scorer and was well on his way to joining a Division 2 side in the Scandinavian country before a visa hiccup blew up his dreams.

“I had been offered a chance to join a Division 2 side but never made it after being denied a visa. Since then, I have been trying in vain to apply for a visa with little success,” says Okaka.

A drowning man will clutch at a straw. Eager to maintain fitness standards and top form, Okaka decided to ply his trade locally in the Kenyan Premier League while hoping for another chance to play abroad.

“I came back home and joined Ushuru FC just to keep myself busy. I played there for one season but the Tax men got relegated to the lower tier. Kenyatta denied him a chance to move to Tusker where Leonard Odipo was eager to bring him on board.

As time went by, his dream to play abroad became more remote, each time his efforts to get a visa hitting a snag. He eventually accepted his fate and settled his mind to play locally.

The then Tusker FC tactician Leonard Odipo was eager to secure his signature. He came knocking on his door with an enticing deal but Okaka’s coach at Ushuru Ken Kenyatta shot down his planned move to the Ruaraka-based KPL side after demanding an outrageous sign on fee. “Kenyatta thwarted my move to Tusker. He was asking for Sh5 million. He also blocked my move to Posta.”

Okaka says Kenyatta’s general attitude towards him suddenly changed and he (Kenyatta) began waging a cold war against him.

On the final day of the transfer window, Ushuru showed him the door just when all teams had closed their transfer window. “I had just come back from practice that evening when I received a shocking message that I had been sacked by Ushuru.”

He stayed inactive for six months before joining AFC Leopards in 2017. He joined the Robert Matano-led side mid-season and was part of the squad that clinched the 2017 GOtv Shield Cup.

On completion of the contract, they failed to agree on new terms with Ingwe. He opted to stay away as he waited for another opportunity to travel to Sweden. However, that was not to be.

“I went to the Swedish Embassy and bumped into a pile of papers rejecting my visa application. Teams had already recruited by then. I, however, got a chance to play for Sony.

Sony management told me they had secured a sponsor. However, all was not rosy when I went there. What I found was totally different from what I had been promised.”

Before entering into talks with Sony, City Stars had also expressed interest in him but Okaka had excused himself in the hope that he would go back to Sweden.

When his plans to travel abroad fell through and efforts to join Sony hit a snag, Okaka renewed interest in joining City Stars who had promised him that they would always be open for talks  henceforth. He went back and got a warm reception. Okaka attributes his success in football to his father’s motivation. His mother, he says was initially indifferent to their interest in football but later changed her attitude when she began seeing the fruits.

“When we won the Sakata Ball soccer tournament, I came back home with a token of Sh10,000 and gave my mother half the amount. From that time, she became positive about my activities of football and would frequently even seek to know when I would be attending training sessions next and when our matches would be.”

Okaka earned a national team call-up in 2016 under coach Stanley Okumbi.

AFC Leopards' forward Jaffery Owiti during an interview at Harambee Estate.
AFC Leopards' forward Jaffery Owiti during an interview at Harambee Estate.
Image: ERICK BARASA

JAFFERY OWITI

Born on November 11, 2002, Jaffery Owiti also attended Sosiani Primary School. He proceeded to Kivagala Secondary School where he was for only two terms before he transferred to Mukumu Boys High School. He took a keen interest in football from the time he was in Class Five and attributes his success in the sport to his father’s consistent support.  “Anytime we would discuss football with dad. Dad always reminded us as we grew up that he was coach on the pitch and father in the house. He would give us feedback about our performances.” says Owiti.

At Mukumu, he was part of the squad that participated in the Football Kenya Federation county league and maintained an unbeaten run throughout the season to earn promotion.

Back home, he featured for Rangers FC, a team in the neighborhood that belonged to his father. He would later turn out briefly for National Super League outfit Uasin Gishu FC. Even though his father was coach, he stayed at Uasin Gishu for only two months before making a giant leap to Kenyan Premier League side Chemelil.

After high school Chemelil Sugar coach  Baraza came looking for him at home. This was after he saw him perform exceptionally well at the secondary school games. He was at Chemelil for two seasons before AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano offered him a chance to wear the team’s colours. “There is a match we played against AFC. I was outstanding. In November I was a free agent and looking for a team. Coach Robert Matano called home to express interest.”

He was handed his first national team call-up in 2016 when Kenya participated in the African Youth Championships Qualifiers against the Sudan.

It was during that time that Sudan Football Federation accused the Kenya national Under-20 football team of fielding five over age players in their 1-1 draw in Africa Youth Championship qualifier on Sunday.

CAF rules provided that only players born on or after January 1, 1997 were eligible to play in the tournament. However, in Sudan’s opinion, the Kenyan team had five players who were born before that date.

Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa refuted the allegations, insisting that all Kenyan players were cleared by match officials after fulfilling all the stipulated requirements.

Owiti says his most memorable match was against Mathare United in Machakos when they made a major comeback from three goals down to beat the Slum Boys 4-3. He contributed to the big win with three assists at full time whistle.

Tusker FC's Faraj Ominde displays his jersey during an interview at Harambee Estate.
Tusker FC's Faraj Ominde displays his jersey during an interview at Harambee Estate.
Image: ERICK BARASA

FARAJ OMINDE

Like his elder brother Aziz and twin brother Jaffery, Faraj Ominde attended Sosiani Primary School. He proceeded to Mukumu Boys High School after his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam results came out. Aziz says that Faraj had always shown the white feather and getting him to change and play had proved an arduous task at times.

“He would accompany us to the field but never mustered enough courage to join us for practice or matches. Mum would always be upset and would ask Dad some tough questions when she came to learn that Faraj never got to play,” said Okaka.

Faraj would, however, later turn out to be a gem in the midfield of Mukumu when he finally mustered enough courage to start battling out on the pitch.

He was part of the “Tsunami” squad that  bulldozed their way to the apex of the county league to gain promotion. The school’s management, however, reached a decision to trade their slot and a different side proceeded to the regional league. Ominde, however, says he never made it to the first team straight away. “There were more talented players in the squad and it therefore took me a while to penetrate into the first team,” he says. So talented was he that he earned himself a scholarship to study in the school without paying a single coin. “I never paid school fees at Mukumu. Actually, I joined the school on the strength of football,” says Ominde.

It was also through the school that he found his feet in top flight soccer, joining aand captaining Kakamega Homeboyz in the KPL U-20 tournament, where they were guided by veteran tactician Gilbert Selebwa. Among his teammates were Michael Kibwage and Isaiah Wasakala both who currently feature for Sofapaka in the KPL.

Ominde fondly recalls how his father would take them along to the stadium to watch big games. “We owe a lot of success in football to dad. Besides training us when we were young, he would also take us with him to the stadium on numerous occasions,” he says.

Ominde had an opportunity to feature on the big stage when he was in Form 4 but fate dictated otherwise. After an impressive show at Homeboyz in the KPL youth tournament, the club’s management enticed him with an offer to feature for the senior team in the top tier but the principal thought it wasn’t good enough.

“When I was in Form 4, Homeboyz wanted me to join them but our principal Mr. Dennis Munyendo asked me to turn down the offer in anticipation that better deals would soon come along the way.”

As soon as Ominde was through with high school, he joined his brother Jaffery at Chemelil Sugar. Ulinzi Stars had expressed interest in his services but his mother did not welcome the idea. “My mother said outright that she would not allow her son to join the military.”

After toiling for Chemelil for one and a half years, he got offers from Vihiga, Bandari Tusker and AFC at ago. Ominde chose to join Tusker under Robert Matano and that’s where he is to-date.