Nairobi News

Sports

Taiwo: How Raila helped me play for Harambee Stars

Former Harambee Stars forward Taiwo Atieno has opened up on how the team’s coach Francis Kimanzi and opposition leader Raila Odinga teamed up to help him to play for the national team at the time.

The 35-year old was born in England and went on to notch five appearances for Kenya between 2009 and 2012. He failed to find the back of the net. Via a lengthy Facebook post, Taiwo reveals how the challenges he experienced with his paperwork delayed his international debut. The Kenyan constitution at the time prohibited dual citizenship.

“After two months of trying out (with the national team), I was selected in the final squad but did not play because the Law (at the time) didn’t allow dual citizenship,” he explained.

“I spent two months at the immigration building only to be told they can’t give dual citizenship. I was finally recommended to see the (then) Prime Minister about my situation. I explained to the Right Honourable Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, that my late father was a Kenyan journalist and asked why is it people with African heritage living in Europe/America with NO Western heritage can play for Western countries in football tournament but a British citizen with Kenyan heritage cannot come back to Africa and play for Kenya.”

“Thankfully he agreed and granted me my passport pursuant to the new Constitution, which Parliament ratified but enacted in 2010.

Taiwo suggests he had no plans about playing for Kenya until he met renowned Kenyan coach Kimanzi, who now is in charge of Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League side Wazito.

“I came to Kenya in 2009 to lay my father to rest after he lost his 12-month battle to cancer. It (turned out to be a good period) because I was introduced to (Francis) Kimanzi (the manager of Mathare United/Kenya) by a sports journalist. Kimanzi invited me to play in a practice game with Mathare United (Kenyan Premier League champions) and after I scored a hat-trick he also invited me to try out for Harambee Stars. That was a proud moment.”

Taiwo is the son of late Moussa Awounda, a former Nation journalist, and Bridget Mary Glaisher. He turned out for English lower-tier sides Walsall, Rochdale, Chester City, Darlington, Torquay United, and Barnet in a professional career spanning a decade before hanging his boots in 2013.