At Opitos, young talents get a listening ear
Although it is a seasonal team, Opitos FC of Ziwani is a stepping stone for budding players eager to grow their careers.
The club has helped mould some national team Harambee Stars players who now play for foreign clubs.
“Opitos’ aim is to help budding players to achieve their dreams. We give them a platform to market themselves with a possibility of growing further to coaching,” said one of the club’s founders Malcom Ngari.
Opitos was formed eight years ago by Ngari, Robert Ocholar Rowbow, Aggrey Ongoli and Daniel Ngilu.
“Some of our players such as Jacob Onyango Yobo, Evans Mieno Evander and Samuel Onyango play for Umeme FC of Ziwani that was elevated to the Nairobi Provincial League this season,” said Ongoli.
“Others are Flavious Chamia (JMJ Academy), Allan Sisero (Uprising), Lehma Miheso (Whithworth) and Fawceet Gwedeko of Locatl Government FC,” he added.
Ongoli said Harambee Stars players mes such as Omani-based, Humphrey Mieno, David Ochieng Cheche, Jamal, Brian Mandela Niang have played for the team.
“We groom young players and prepare them for competitive leagues. Players meeting during off-season in December is an ideal time for newcomers to mingle with established ones.
There is no pressure and it is a good time for seasoned players to share their experience. This helps in sharpening skills and speed of younger players,” said Ongoli.
He said their main challenge was lack of sponsors. This has not deviated them from their goals, as they make do with the meagre resources they have.
“We shall not give up on our plans even though we are hard-pressed for cash. Our joy is seeing a footballer making it big from a humble beginning,” he said.
Apart from coaching, Ongoli is also a counsellor. He educates youths, who are mainly from Ziwani, on vices such as crime, alcoholism and drug abuse.
“It is easy for young people to give up in life. They need to be given hope and encouragement to think of other means of making a livelihood.
The standard of living is high, yet youths’ prospects of finding jobs are scarce. There is a danger of some of them deviating from socially accepted norms to engage in vices that eventually ruin their lives.
Sports is one way they can keep them out of trouble and put food on their table,” said Ongoli.
“Youths are the most vulnerable to criminal gangs that entice them with cash incentives and favours. Apart from teaching football skills, at Opitos we also help in shaping upright, productive members of society. We also instill the value of hard work,” he added.
“The players are committed and feel a sense of gratitude. Those who adhere to instructions usually end up with prosperous careers.
A number of our former players are doing well because they were patient, committed and hardworking. We are happy that some members of the national team passed through our hands,” the coach said.
During the 2006 and 2007 Maina Kamanda Tournament, Opitos finished second on both occasions in Kamukunji. In 2006, they were beaten by Ziwani Combined in the final and the following year, they lost to Nyoli FC.
Opitos also competes in the annual Koth Biro Cup and won the 2011 title after beating Pumwani United in the final. In 2008, the team was beaten in the quarter-finals by Nyoi FC of Ziwani.
In the 2009 the team lost in the quarter-finals to NY Pellico that comprised of Jamhuri High School students.
During the 2013 tournament, Opitos were beaten 3-0 on penalties by Black Mamba FC in the quarter-finals.