•During his formative years, Okello also had an opportunity to sharpen his skills in the three different schools, where he enrolled for his elementary education.
•Okello hopes that one day he will get a chance to play for one of the big clubs in the English Premier League although he didn’t specify which one exactly.
A quisling ('kwIzlIN ) is a Norwegian term used in Scandinavian languages and in English to describe a person who collaborates with an enemy.
When Tito Okello made the tough decision to play for South Sudan in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers, he had to contend with the wrath of Uganda football fans who gave him the cold shoulder and dismissed him as a quisling.
To them, he had betrayed the course of their beloved country which brought him up and nurtured him to a fine footballer.
At first, one could be tempted to fall into the trap of perceiving Okello as a rebel. The coarse dreadlocks that calmly sprawl over his ebony face portray him as a perfect mutineer.
The lanky Gor Mahia forward who converses softly with a deep voice is, however, not hanging his head over his controversial decision. Okello is hale and hearty about that single step that got him into hot water and has since expressed elation at turning over a new leaf.
“To switch and play for South Sudan was not an overnight decision. It took me three years to think about it, consult before coming up with the final decision,” said Okello.
“South Sudan believes in me, that’s why they made that official move to invite me to play for them,” he added.
Born on January 7, 1997, Okello began shaping his career in football at Gulu in Uganda, where he and his friends would converge on a dusty playground for games and banter. He was around seven years when he developed a keen interest in the game. “I remember playing around our neighbourhood in Gulu,” said Okello.
At the age of 14, his love for football had blossomed into a deep passion that led him to join The Kids League (TKL) Soccer Academy where he became acquainted with the finer details of the game.
During his formative years, Okello also had an opportunity to sharpen his skills in the three different schools, where he enrolled for his elementary education.
He first joined Unifat Primary School but was later transferred to Police Primary School before finally settling at Bright Light Primary School, all in Uganda.
Meanwhile, he was persistently and relentlessly groping for his natural position in the field of play, shifting alternately from one role to another, first as an offensive midfielder and then as a striker.
After sitting for his primary school exams in 2009, Okello enrolled at Zana Mixed Secondary School for his high school education. It was while turning out for Zana in the quarterfinals of the 2013 post-primary school games in Kampala, Uganda that his exceptional ability on the pitch sprang to the fore.
So elegant was he in the tournament that the chairman of Ugandan premiership side, Bul FC marvelled at his exploits and immediately put him on coach Kefa Kisala’s radar. It wasn’t long before an invitation was extended to him to join the side.
“They saw me during the quarterfinals of post primary games in Kampala,” said Okello. Undoubtedly, the technical bench had made the right decision to draft him into the team.
Okello made it straight to the starting lineup in their following Ugandan Premier League fixture against Sports Club Villa at Kakindu Stadium and capped off his performance by netting a beautiful goal in his debut match. “I made it straight to the first team and scored in my first match for Bul SC Villa at Kakindu Stadium, Jinja. “We won 2-1 after I came off the bench and scored the winning goal,” added Okello.
After two seasons with the club, Okello crossed the border to ply trade in the Tanzanian Premier League, where he sealed a deal with African Lyon FC who were being guided by coach Bernardo Tavares. There too, he played for two seasons.
He later joined Mbeya FC in the same league, where he was for a full season before returning to his native land to transact business with KCCA in the Ugandan Premiership.
His stay at the Kampala-based outfit was, however, short-lived given he was only there for six months. Prodded to explain why he left so soon, Okello was curt and precise. “I can’t disclose it on media, I am sorry.”
Perhaps, it was the urge to graze on the greener pastures far away from East Africa that prompted the hasty decision to part ways with KCCA.
He would soon thereafter seal a deal with Benfica de Macau, a Macanese professional football team competing in the Liga de Elite. He hardly stayed there though, given he went back to Uganda and entered into talks with Vipers SC 8 months down the line.
On joining The Venoms, Okello strutted to the winners podium with them to lift the Pilsner Super Cup and was also part of the squad that clinched the Uganda Premier League title in 2020.
Okello featured for Vipers for two seasons before the reigning Kenya Premier League champions Gor Mahia expressed interest in his signature and acquired his services during the last transfer window.
Does he have his best football moment ever?
“Yes! In 2020, when I played for Acholi province in the Uganda Football Federation’s Drum tournament. I emerged as the tournament’s top scorer and my team became champions,” he said.
Did his parents encourage him to play football?
“No. They really wanted me to study. I got enough a beating when I was young because of football. I always wanted to play,” he said.
Okello draws inspiration from Nigerian midfield legend Austine ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha and Brazilian football luminary Ronaldinho both of whom dazzled fans with their dribbling skills in all the matches they featured.
Okello finally has a parting shot for youngsters who are aspiring to join the big stage. “There is no shortcut in football. Patience, discipline on and off the pitch and hard work will lead to their success,” observes Okello.
How does he spend his free time?
“I like listening to music and watching Derby games on TV.”
Okello hopes that one day he will get a chance to play for one of the big clubs in the English Premier League although he didn’t specify which one exactly.
Date of birth: January 7, 1997 (age 24)
Place of birth: Uganda
Unifat Primary School
Police Primary School Bright Light Primary School
Zana Mixed Secondary School
2012–2014: Bul FC
2014–2016: African Lyon
2016–2017: Mbeya City
2017–2018: KCCA FC
2018: Benfica Macau
2020 to-date: Gor Mahia
2020: South Sudan