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Wycliffe Otieno: I’d want to be a sports news anchor after retirement

Wycliffe Otieno Onyango joined recently promoted Kenyan Premier League (KPL) side Nairobi City Stars in mid-2019 and guided the team back to the top-tier.

The experienced defender is no stranger to the KPL having featured for Kariobangi Sharks before joining City Stars. Nairobi News caught up with him for a One on One session.

Share with us your schooling background

I went to Daima Primary School in Huruma. I didn’t quite play school football in primary, to be honest.  I went to Upper Hill high school for my secondary school education. My time there was a bad one for football in the school as my arrival coincided with the departure of Mr Orero, the deputy principal then. To add salt to the wound, my departure from the school coincided with the re-arrival of Mr Orero, this time as the principal of the school, something that heralded the school’s emergence as a dominant force in the school games. So yeah, I never quite played “meaningful” football in High School as well.

From high school, there is that transition to league football. Share with us your formative steps to club football

After High School, I first joined Thola Glass FC/Kenya School of Law in the second tier before moving to Nairobi Stima in the mid-season transfer period.

In mid-2015 you landed at the then fast-rising Kariobangi Sharks. Talk to us about that step up

Yeah, I joined Kariobangi Sharks in 2015 during the mid-season transfer window. They had a very interesting project that they thought I would fit into very well

Still on Sharks, in December 2016 you were in the squad that ended Nzoia’s unbeaten home run to earn promotion to KPL. Share with us that feeling as well as your debut season in the topflight

Beating Nzoia on the final day of the season to clinch promotion to the KPL was awesome. We had a very decent squad for our debut season so I settled in quite fast. The transition was seamless I would say.

After Sharks, you kind of disappeared from football

It was an injury-enforced break. I sat it out for a whole season doing rehabilitation. Thank God it was a short season. But it was a very tough time for me. Working alone is very difficult especially for us footballers as we are used to a team set up and working in a group all the time.

Thankfully, City Stars had faith in me and gave me an opportunity even though I wasn’t even at 100% when I joined. The coach was patient with me. Something that I am very grateful for.

You arrived at City Stars in mid-2019 at a time when the club was going through rigorous changes from the office to the team setup up. Talk to us about your early days at City Stars

Yes. Very positive changes. The project that was underway at City Stars was irresistible and I felt I could rediscover myself and grow with the club as it sought to re-establish itself as a force in Kenyan football.

After a slow start, you established yourself at the club and formed a formidable defensive partnership with Abdallah Salim. Talk to us about your partnership

It’s a good partnership. I have a good relationship with Salim on and off the pitch. We learn a lot from each other and complement each other well. But we also have well able centre backs in (Edwin) Buliba and Teddy (Esilaba) who are constantly pushing for a starting berth at the heart of the defence. We benefit a lot from this competition as there’s no room for complacency. I believe the four of us can play in any pairing and it would still be a decent partnership.

In January, you opted to stay on at City Stars for a further one year to the end of next season. What informed your extension?

I opted to extend my stay at the club because of the progress of the project and I also feel that I’m growing. There is a lot to come from the club and I want to be a part of it.

Other than being a header clearance specialist you dribble and play the ball from the back. Is that your normal style of play?

I wouldn’t say that I have a particular style of play. I am very adaptable and would fit into most systems and philosophies of the game although, I must admit, that I am a sucker for a possession-based style of play.

On a one versus one, name the striker (s) you never want to come up against

I would say the combination of (Meddie) Kagere and (Jacques) Tuyisenge was very tough to deal with. Those guys were relentless. They chased every ball for the entirety of the game. They never gave you space to breathe as they were constantly pressing and making those runs into the spaces behind. You had to be alert for the whole ninety minutes when playing against them.

You have played under numerous coaches. Name some of those that have positively shaped your football career

I have learned different elements of the game from different coaches that I have played for. I’m always open-minded and yearning to learn and challenge myself. Every coach has their way of viewing the game and you just have to try and see it the way they do because they are the ones who come up with the blueprint of how the team will play.

Lastly, you are a very eloquent and good orator. When you retire shall we see you as a football anchor, analyst?

I fancy that I’d make a good sports anchor if I get the opportunity, but I believe it goes beyond just being eloquent. It is one of the options, along with coaching, that I’m seriously looking at once I hang my boots.