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Ezekiel Odera: My biggest regret in football is signing for Gor Mahia in 2011

He has been in the Kenyan football circles for over a decade but is still banging in the goals.

Meet former Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards and KCB striker Ezekiel Odera, now in the ranks of promoted side Nairobi City Stars.

The evergreen Odera recently granted Nairobi News an exclusive one-on-one interview. Excerpts:

Give us your educational background

I schooled at Tumaini Primary School then joined Kangundo Complex School for my secondary education.

Talk to us about your football journey after high school

In 2007 and 2008 I turned out for a local team called Ujwanga FC in a Wazee Pamoja league. The next year I moved to Sports Connect Academy in BuruBuru. This is where KCB found me and signed me up.

Tell us how you first arrived at City Stars and why you are back for a second time

Nairobi City Stars held trials in 2016 January at Hope Center Grounds in Kawangware. Thereafter, I was picked by the then coach John ‘Bobby’ Ogolla, on a one year contract.

The experience was great and that’s why considering the team for the second time was never in doubt. This is why I signed my second contract with the club in January 2020.

Reasons for leaving the club in 2017 was because my contract ended and I had to look for new challenges in other teams. The experience was good and I enjoyed my journey until my contracts ended.

And now I’m back and glad to have helped the club gain promotion back to the Kenyan Premier League (KPL)

Nairobi City Stars striker Ezekiel Odera (left) with team mate Anthony Kimani during a past match. PHOTO | JEFF KINYANJUI
Nairobi City Stars striker Ezekiel Odera (left) with team mate Anthony Kimani during a past match. PHOTO | JEFF KINYANJUI

If it wasn’t football what sport would you be playing?

You’d have found me at the crease playing cricket. That was my first love. However, associated costs of playing it were prohibitive. Hence football.

Your biggest regrets in football?

Signing for Gor Mahia in 2011. Being the young player that I was then, I had a lot of expectations. I guess the pressure was too much for me at that time.

If I had stayed in KCB for another year that time, it would have been better for my career. I don’t particularly regret missing out on Ulinzi and Nile Basin tournament as those events shaped me in different ways.

As a player, it is a dream to play for the national team. Do you still hope to be considered?

It is every player’s dream to play for the national team. I’m happy I had the chance to get a call up to the game against Uganda in 2010 as well as to the Nile Basin squad of early 2011. For now, I have retired from national football.

How different is City Stars as a team now compared to back then?

Back then we had difficulties in payment of the players and technical bench, but thanks to Mr Peter Jabuya who always found his way to ensure that our needs were met without a sponsor. God bless him.

Now, things are different; we have a sponsor in the Jonathan Jackson Foundation that’s paying us well.

Recently you have been playing in various positions upfront. What is your preferred position?

Center forward (striker)

Tell us some of your sad moments as a player

Has to be when the AFC Leopards management sent me on loan to KCB FC in 2019 for reasons unknown to me yet I was the club’s top goal scorer. It was heartbreaking for me as a player.

As a forward, you have to contend with mean defenders. Who are some of those that cause you nightmares?

Eugene Asike, George Owino, Rodgers Aloro, Bethwel Warambo, Harun Shakava and Musa Mohammed have always given me problems. They are hard to beat.

Ezekiel Odera of Nairobi City Stars during a training session. PHOTO | JEFF KINYAJUI 
Ezekiel Odera of Nairobi City Stars during a training session. PHOTO | JEFF KINYAJUI

And who is that keeper that you have never wanted to face on a one on one situation?

Dancun Ochieng, the former Mathare and Tusker keeper and Kenyan International. He is a tough keeper in such situations and you have to be very careful when dealing with him.

Which players do you look up to locally?

There are several. Chrispinus Onyango (Tusker FC), Kepha Aswani (Sofapaka FC), Peter Wainaina (formerly of City Stars) and Allan Wanga (Kakamega Homeboyz) are players who I admire.

In your football journey, there’s that coach who has been an inspiration in your career, one that brings the best out of you. Name a few

The current City Stars coach Sanjin Alagic who has brought a different dimension to my game. Others are Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, Robert Matano, John Kamau, Habil Nanjero, Leonard Saleh and Rodolfo Zapata.

When not training and playing football what else occupies your time?

I spend a lot of my time with family. If not, I am playing pool.

Finally, when you hang your boots someday, what will you venture into?

I would like to venture into coaching at the lower levels at Nairobi City Stars, hopefully.