•Persistent injuries meant he spent more time on the treatment table and not on the pitch
•During the 30-day trial period with Danish second tier side Hobro, the duo had promised themselves nothing but success because they had gone through a lot just to get there.
When he first emerged into the conscience of the Kenyan football loving public over a decade ago, many believed a new gem had been found.
Maurice Odhiambo Oduor had it all. He had close control, was calm with the ball, had an eye for a killer pass and was deadly on set pieces. It was just a matter of time before his talent got the recognition it deserved.
Then he was a teenager from Mukuru slums playing for KCB. He had grown up playing football with then international Patrick Oboya. But as fate would have it, he would never truly realise his potential.
Persistent injuries meant he spent more time on the treatment table and not on the pitch. “Football is a beautiful game. A game that I have always respected until today,” stated the 31-year-old.
He continued: “Unfortunately a footballer’s journey to greatness is not all rosy. I had to give myself some time away from the game because I had so many injuries, then went through a lot because the injuries locked me out of opportunities I got while trying to make it to Super Liga (Denmark).”
That the injury came when he was pursuing greener pastures abroad shows how fate conspired to deny Odhiambo a chance to make something out of the talent horned in the dusty fields of South B.
He had not even settled well in the Kenyan Premier League then when an opportunity to go for trials in Denmark came about.
He did not know it then but the trio was effectively the beginning of the end of his dream of playing professional football in Europe.
“I can say it all went sour when me and my friend got this opportunity to go to Denmark in January 2014. Since then, it has never been the same again,” Odhiambo rued.
During the 30-day trial period with Danish second tier side Hobro, the duo had promised themselves nothing but success because they had gone through a lot just to get there.
“We drove into different cities just to try and make it in professional football. We had a father figure friend who really sacrificed a lot including his family just to try and get us a deal,” he recalled.
“Sometimes though, things don’t turn out your way. We did everything just to try and earn those contracts. I remember we drove for five hours to Hobro for a one-day trial. They were looking for a striker who could score goals and fortunately my friend was very good. I knew he was going to grab that chance left but he had a swollen ankle even though we drove all this long to go and impress in that final training. We really did our best and the technical bench was honest enough to evaluate our performance and the feedback turned very impressive and we thought they were going to sign us.”
It was not to be for the duo however. The club did not sign them but did not entirely close the door in their face.
“The coach demanded my extended stay in Denmark then loaned me to a level lower club to try and study Danish football more for the good of my development as a player,” said the former Nakuru All Stars and Nakumatt playmaker. “This was the moment! I started seeing that dream coming into reality.”
Odhiambo recalls the first day of training which really proved they were in another level of the game (first paced football) and that was a lesson learnt.
“There was no time to rest even though my friend came back and I was left there alone. I kept on working hard, doing 5km especially evening hours cause winter was at its peak.”
With all the good things that come with professional football flashing through his mind, Odhiambo never relented. He kept on pushing more and more just to keep his fitness up there.
“My fitness was at its best than ever before. I could do things I couldn’t do before with the ball. During the final week into the first official match of the season, I could feel that heat. The energy in me left no doubt that this is what I had been waiting for,” said Odhiambo.
The former national Under-20 captain was handed his first start and he played really well. He had an assist but limped off with a slight knee pain. It was to prove to be the start of a series of injuries that would curtail his budding career.
“When I was walking off the pitch, I thought it was something small that I needed not worry about. We won the match 4-1 and the team celebrated that win and I felt more welcomed into the team,” narrated Odhiambo.
Feeling appreciated and well interested into his new team, Odhiambo thought little of his injury. The former Harambee Stars player thought his concern was minor and a little icing would do.
“Two hours later, the pain persisted and that’s how the journey of my dream was interfered with cause I started being an on and off player and this is never good for a player’s career. My knee kept on worsening,” he regretted.
Odhiambo was taken to the best facility for test but nothing came up. He had to stay away from the pitch for weeks which turned into months until June 2014 when another opportunity came.
“This time, it was this ‘JobForPlayer’ organisation where they pick some of the best players without contracts around the country. They train together, pick the best 20 to feature in a one week tournament (Holland) where scouts from different parts of the world attend to pick players,” Odhiambo explained.
The opportunity seemed God sent for the young Kenyan thousands of miles away from home. He impressed and was told to go back the following day for the final session. But it was not to be.
“My knee decided to give in again the next day and we had to call and say I was not going to travel. So that was that. We could do nothing but to hope I would get better. However, things were getting worse and I even developed groin injury on both of my thighs which finished me completely... I could not move nor walk properly,” he recalled.
The mental anguish forced Odhiambo to return home where he would briefly appear for Nakumatt and All Stars but the missed opportunity kept nagging him and he could not concentrate much on football and decided to take a break. “I haven’t declared I have retired yet,” he chuckles.
Currently, he is self employed, running a small business beauty parlour and harbours no regrets of how his life would have been had his knee not let him down.