No player in the current lot understands Nairobi City Stars better than one Calvin Okoth Masawa.
The right footer, who recently extend his stay by another two years to the end of the 2021/22 season, surprisingly prefers to play as a left back – he tells us why – has been in the ranks of the Kawangware based club since 2011 after joining from Migori.
In his decade at City Stars, Masawa has featured for no less than 18 coaches. He started out under tactician Kennedy Odhiambo and is now under the eyes of Bosnian Sanjin Alagic.
Beyond the lengthy instructions he has soaked in form the endless list of coaches, he has seen players come and go, was in the team when it suffered relegation from the Kenyan Premier League, and almost from the second tier during the transitional 2018/19 season.
Why hasn’t he ever moved from City Stars ten years later even when things were at their worst?
And when he finally calls hangs his boots, what next?
Give us your background from primary to high school
I am Calvin Okoth Masawa and my early primary days was just a normal one; that’s from 1998 to 2005 at Assar Johansson Primary School back in Migori town.
Later I joined Migori Boys High School where I studied for free as I was on full scholarship due to football
Share with us your football journey in high school and how far that took you (provincials, nationals)
My football journey in high school was a good one because we used to dominate up to the District level where we faced stronger opponents in the likes of Kanga High School, Kodero Bara Secondary and Manyata High school.
But there came a breakthrough year in 2007 where we beat fancied Manyata High at the district level to represent Migori District at the provincials.
The following year we followed suit and beat Migori Day Secondary for a second stab at the provincials where we fell to St. Marks Mokorogoinwa from Kisii in the semi-finals having eliminated powerhouse and national defending champs Kisumu Day Secondary where Enock Agwanda scored the winning penalty.
Tell us how you arrived at City Stars and how your early years at the clubs were
I arrived at City Stars in 2011 as an amateur. I remember it was through a friendly match organised by one Mr Samson Obonyo (Aspirant Nyatike Constituency) – who later became the club Secretary – and former Nairobi City Stars Chairman Mr Peter Jabuya.
We had traveled from Migori for that one friendly to give is a taste of what a Kenyan Premier League opposition was like. The match was played at City Stadium and we lost 6-0. I remember coming on as a substitute in the 75th min and 15 mins was all I needed for the then Coach Ken Odhiambo to notice me. And that’s how I joined City Stars.
Being an amateur and inexperienced it wasn’t easy getting in the first 18 because we had established and seasoned players in the team. That made me gain some experience. In the meanwhile, I featured for the u19s side where we played in the first edition of KPL U19. I was the Captain.
You have featured under no less than 17 coaches at City Stars. Tell us some of your favorites coaches from that lot
Indeed I have featured under so many coaches at City Stars. Some of the best being Coach Ken Odhiambo, Paul Nkata, Robert Matano, John “Bobby” Ogola, Bai Wadda, Jimmy Kintu and my current coach Sanjin Alagic
City Stars was relegated in 2016 after just surviving in 2014. What was the feeling?
In football relegation is always players lowest moments and it wasn’t different with me being that since I started playing professional football, I only knew one level and that was Kenyan Premier League.
I was so devastated by the relegation and even thought of quitting football because I couldn’t imagine playing in the lower tier. But later on, through encouragement, I decided to go down with the team knowing that one day we will be back to the top tier.
You have a lethal right foot but play as a left back. How comes?
When we played City Stars in that particular friendly match in 2011 I had come in as a substitute for a left back because I had a good left foot too. Everyone including Coach Ken assumed that I was only left footed and as the years went by I perfected playing at the left back and could easily slot in when called upon to date
I do confuse a lot of people and Coaches and coaches with that but the truth of the matter is I can comfortably slot at both left and right back as I am a right back by default.
It’s been five seasons of trying to return to the KPL. Do you believe at the end of this season that will be the end of trying?
It’s been hard actually playing in the lower leagues but we have been pushing each season knowing that at the end we will go back where we rightfully belong and that’s the Kenyan Premier League.
Many a times they do say that “Numbers don’t lie” and indeed our numbers this season in points, goals and position justify that so I believe “WE ARE GOING UP”.
From April 2019 the club management changed. Tell us how different it has been since then
Honestly there has been a new breath of life at the club since the new management came on. I remember going for months without salaries, unsettled allowances and sometimes even lacking a training ground.
That’s contrary to the present where we have the best kits, balls, equipment and proper motivation in terms of allowances and salaries. Personally, as the longest serving player now captain I say a BIG THANK YOU to Chairman Jonathan Jackson (JJ) and the entire JJ Foundation.
I cannot fail to mention former Chairman Mr Peter Jabuya. He played a big part/role to make sure this mighty club stay afloat all those years without sponsorship until a time he handed it over to then new able management.
As a fullback share with us the wingers that have caused you hell
During my early days in KPL I remember I had I nightmare making Danson Kago; he was such a fast and skillful player. Others are Clifton Miheso, Moses Mudavadi and Lawrence Owino.
Which players do you admire most in the local scene?
Fast I admire myself (he laughs). Joash Onyango and Atariza Meja Amayi
Will you retire at City Stars?
Of course, yes I would love to retire at City Stars. I want to create a rare history in Kenyan Football as a one-man club and that can be made possible by hard work and with the help of the management.
When not doing football what keeps you busy?
I am not an outgoing person so mostly I spend my time at home on net digging and reading past football articles and archival material because when I hang up my boots I will venture into sports journalism, analysis and commentary.