•Owoko, a Diploma in Sports Psychology and Confederation of African Football (Caf) Level 'C' coaching license holder, is now fully focused on identifying and nurturing promising artists in his record label, Skyline Records located in Lucky Summer Estate, Nairobi County.
•Ugandan presidential hopeful Robert 'Bobi Wine' Ssentamu, Natami hitmaker Brown Mauzo, gospel rapper Eko Dydda and former Machachari actor Tyler 'Baha' Mbaya are among artists with whom Owoko has worked with so far.
When the 2016 Kenyan Premier League title and Shield Cup-winning assistant coach George Owoko delved into the trade 19 years ago, the idea of quitting prematurely to pursue another dream did not cross his mind.
Owoko envisaged a trophy-laden career in Kenya and beyond for at least five decades.
However, the immediate former FC Talanta assistant coach's ambition to remain on the touchline is over after quitting to try his luck in the music industry.
Owoko, a Diploma in Sports Psychology and Confederation of African Football (Caf) Level 'C' coaching license holder, is now fully focused on identifying and nurturing promising artists in his record label, Skyline Records located in Lucky Summer Estate, Nairobi County.
The former Nairobi Stima coach serves as the Chief Executive Officer and producer at the audio and video production studios, which fully swung into life in January after securing the necessary government licenses.
Ugandan presidential hopeful Robert 'Bobi Wine' Ssentamu, Natami hitmaker Brown Mauzo, gospel rapper Eko Dydda and former Machachari actor Tyler 'Baha' Mbaya are among artists with whom Owoko has worked with so far.
"I started singing in 1992 in church and school. At first, I did not think of doing music in the professional way. However, after my first collabo with my mentor Bobi Wine in 2016, I decided to give it a shot in my own way," he opened up.
The former Bandari coach painfully narrated how a nearly-fatal blood clot close to the heart, diagnosed in March last year and which culminated in surgery, played a massive role in his decision to leave the coaching profession.
Owoko, a member of the Kenya Football Coaches Association (Kefoca) under Bob Oyugi says the local football family also contributed to his exit after deserting him in his hour of need, admitted in hospital.
"I enjoyed coaching for 19 years but, unfortunately, I have to disappoint many for I am switching to music. When I fell ill last year, I realised it was such a thankless job as football stakeholders, whom I thought were my friends, abandoned me," said Owoko.
"I had to sell my car to defray the hefty hospital bills and consequently, had to rethink of my future. I felt isolated, unwanted and after leaving hospital, all I wanted was to revamp my studio and run it professionally to fend for myself and my family."
Owoko, a three-time Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association(KSSSA) national title winner with Ambira High School, Barding High School and St Anthony's Boys, Kitale, also faults the coaching structures in the country which he alleged are designed to favour a certain clique of gaffers.
"There is no fairness in the profession both at the club and national levels. The criteria FKF uses to promote coaches still remains a mystery to many and even appointments to the top job in the national teams (Harambee Stars, Starlets and the Junior teams) is not done in a competitive manner. This demoralises coaches and I am the latest casualty, " he observed.
The father of six, who prides himself in working with a number of renowned artists from the time he ventured into music also alleged that he has been unfairly discriminated against due to his 'contentious nationality'.
Owoko's nationality has been a hot topic in the football circles with a majority claiming that he is Ugandan.
However, his documents indicate that he was born in Ulanda Village, Asango Sublocation, Uholo Location, Ugunja Division in Siaya County.
"Our family relocated and lived in Uganda between 1986 and 2005 thus giving people reasons to believe that I am Ugandan. We moved there after our dad got a job at the Metaa Lugazi Sugar Company. I have been denied coaching opportunities locally because of nationality issues," he hinted.
"Instead of hanging around any longer and at the same time hoping for a brighter future, I felt a break and pursuing my passion for music was the best decision."
Despite leaving the coaching stage, Owoko is satisfied with the talents he churned from the KSSSA tournaments and guided them to make a name for themselves in the country's elite league and beyond.
Notable names among the wide pool of talents he takes pride in bringing to the big stage include Harambee Stars players Timothy Otieno, Mark Makwata, Brian Otieno, John Avire and Bernard Ochieng.
"I have lost count on the number of players whom I identified from the grassroots level and guided them to the top. Their success gives me satisfaction and I continue to wish them well. When I was taken ill, three of my former players... Avire, Ochieng and Calvin Wekesa returned the favour. They collectively gave me in excess of Sh40,000 for my medication out of their own volition," a grateful Owoko revealed.
Asked whether he may be tempted to return to the touchline, Owoko said he would rather capitalise on his popularity and following within the music industry and work with artists in mobilising fans back to the stadium.
He also dreams of fostering his newly assembled team, Celebrity FC which is largely made up of artists and comedians and feature in the lower leagues.
"I may return to coaching but not soon. I will, however, seek to use my label, resources and connections to drive fans back to stadiums. I am aware there are existing initiatives and I am open to working with them and all stakeholders to bring fans back to the game. It is disheartening for players and coaches to play in empty stadiums and I will do my best to make a change," he declared.
"Our team, which is made up of artists who love the game, is slowly taking shape and I believe at some point, we will play in one of the sanctioned leagues."
George Oduor Owoko
Date of Birth: 11/7/1978
Jinja College — 2001
Wairaka College — 2003
Vegetarian Academy — 2004-2007
Ambira High School — 2008-2011
Homegrown FC (Findlay's FC) — 2011-2012
Barding High School - 2013-2016
Tusker Fc — 2016
Bandari FC — 2017
St Anthony's Boys, Kitale — 2018- 2019
Nairobi Stima — 2019
FC Talanta — 2020
Copa Coca-Cola Under-17 National in 2010 and 2011 with Ambira High School
FKF U23 with Ambira High School — 2011
Runner up in Mumias Utamu Halisi Cup with Ambira High School — 2011
East and Central Africa Champion with Barding High School — 2016
KPL and Shield Cup with Tusker as an assistant coach — 2016
KECOSO tournament with Bandari—2017
National and Africa U17 Copa Coca-Cola with St Anthony's Boys Kitale in 2018
Second Runner Up in National Super League with Nairobi Stima in 2018-2019