May 10, 2020 Patrick Korir

One on one with striker Ezekiel Odera

Ezekiel Odera in a City Stars vs Coast Stima game at Camp Toyoyo in Jan 2020

The allure to join Gor Mahia in 2011 was too good to turn down, but in hindsight, Ezekiel Omulo Odera regrets it.

In 2010, while at KCB, he had hogged all the headlines, for he scored 11 goals in his first year in the Premier League. His knack for goals earned the apprentice from Buru Buru’s Sports Connect Academy a consideration to the National team for a game against Uganda.

A step-up, or what he thought was, to the big boys Gor,  indeed turned out to be weighty on his young shoulders. Luckily, KCB welcomed their prodigal son back from his setback the next season but let him go for a stint at Thika United in 2013 before ushering him back home in 2014.

Before KCB he could have been in the ranks of Ulinzi Stars. That move came to a cropper in 2009 due to a lost ID.

In early 2011 he could have been part of Zedekiah Otieno coached National team for the Nile Basin tournament in Egypt. He missed out due to lack of a passport.

In 2016 he arrived at City Stars after journeys to KRA (Ushuru), Thika once again and Sofapaka.

He top scored with four goals that were however not enough as City Stars earned relegation from the topflight for the first time since the 2004/5 season.

Lower tier football in 2017 turned out to be a blessing in disguise as, for the first time in six years, he found goals in double digits, again. He was back! 11 of them made him the club’s top scorer which earned him a contract with top dogs AFC Leopards.

But after scoring ten goals for ingwe in 2018, he was, rather bizarrely, shipped out and sent back to KCB for a fourth stint, on a loan deal he is yet to digest to date.

With 177 Premier League games, and 41 goals under his belt, Odera – whose first love was cricket and not football – has tasked himself to lead City Stars back to the Premier League.

Very conspicuous in his after-football menu is the desire to be a youth coach.

City Stars; Give us your background from primary to high school

Odera; I schooled at Tumaini Primary School then moved my Secondary education to Kangundo Complex School.

City Stars; Talk to us about your football journey after high school – your early days at academies, KPL, the various clubs to date

Odera; 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.

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

Odera; 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 am back with the aim of taking the club back to the Kenyan Premier League.

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

Odera; 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.

City Stars; Your biggest regrets in football?

Odera; 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.

City Stars; As a player its a dream to play for the national team. Do you still hope to be considered?

Odera; It is every players 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 the national football.

City Stars; How different is the team now compared to back then?

Odera; 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 through the chairman /owner, Mr Jonathan Jackson who has invested in the club. And it is paying off.

City Stars; We’ve seen you recently play in various positions upfront.  But what is your preferred position?

Center forward (striker)

City Stars; Tell us some of your sad moments as a player

Odera; 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.

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

  • Eugene Asike – (KCB FC/ Tusker/Sofapaka)
  • George Owino – (Mathare United/Sofapaka)
  • Rodgers Aloro – (Sofapaka/Tusker)
  • Bethwel Warambo – (KCB FC)
  • Haron Shakava – (Gor Mahia/Nkana FC)
  • Musa Mohammed – (Gor Mahia/Nkana FC)

City Stars; And who is that keeper that you have never wanted to face on one v one?

Dancun Ochieng – Former Mathare and Tusker keeper and Kenyan International

City Stars; Who inspires you most at the club?

Calvin Masawa

City Stars; Which players do you look up to locally?

  • Chrispinus Onyango (Tusker FC)
  • Kepha Aswani (Sofapaka FC)
  • Peter Wainaina (Formerly at City Stars)
  • Allan Wanga (Kakamega Homeboyz)

City Stars; In your football journey there’s that coach whose an inspiration, 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;

  • Ghost Mulei – (Former national team coach / Liberty Academy)
  • Robert Matano – (Tusker Fc). He coached me at City Stars in 2016
  • Rodolpho Zapata – (Former AFC Leopards’ coach.)
  • John Kamau – (Former Thika United coach)
  • Habil Nanjero – (Sports connect Academy)
  • Leonard Saleh – (Former KCB Coach)

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

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

City Stars; Finally, when you hang your boots someday, when will you venture into?

I would like to venture into coaching at the lower levels at Nairobi City Stars i.e Under 20’s.

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