|L-R: Alfred 'Kemboi' Wekesa, Edwin Mukolwe and Haron 'Gumwili' Nyakha|
They competed under a tournament dubbed “The Journey to Stardom” and by the looks of it, their star seems to be shinning already.
Haroun Nyakha, Edwin Mukolwe and Alfred Wekesa are three teenagers who share many things in common. They are not only in the same school, same class and are of the same age but their career seems to be heading in the same direction, at least as far as football is concerned.
The trio are members of last year’s COPA Coca-Cola contingent who starred for Kenya in South Africa helping the team finish in a respectable 4th position, beating the likes of Uganda and Nigeria, and this they did having barely trained together.
Their exploits in the Rainbow Nation did not go unnoticed as immediately after traveling back, the trio were handed an opportunity to play for Kakamega High School based Green Commandoes who play in the Western Provincial Zone A league. The team currently lies 5th on the log with 15 points, 4 adrift of second-placed Museno FC but who have played 2 games more.
“COPA Coca-Cola was an eye opener. The exposure we got there and the experience has been vital and I can confidently say that participating in the tournament and travelling out was key in the coach’s decision to include us in the team,” says Edwin Mukolwe, the man who guards the post for Green Commandoes.
Mukolwe who looks up to Tusker FC’s keeper George Opiyo and Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas emerged the best goalkeeper from the COPA national championships in Mombasa last year and was selected for the South Africa boot camp alongside his understudy, Stephen Ogweno.
His academic and real life colleague Haron Nyakha is not a rookie in the world of youth football. The diminutive holding midfielder represented Kenya in the 2010 edition of Milo Cup in South Africa and was part of the Ambira team who won the 2011 COPA Coca-Cola edition in Kisumu.
Nyakha captained the Kenyan team in South Africa last year and blossomed to the extent that he made it in the All-Star team. “I am glad for the opportunities I have had to showcase my talent thus far. I have not yet reached the pinnacle yet but I’ll keep my head leveled on the ground until I play for my dream club AFC Leopards,” says the 16-year-old who likens his game to that of Cameroon’s Alexander Song.
Nyakha’s strengths come in many ways than one. Besides his proven leadership skills, the Form 2 student at Kakamega high has body stamina that bellies his light years, has unbelievable body strength and is comfortable on both feet. “I play the defensive midfield position at Green Commandos and it’s always a pleasure to wear that green jersey and long may it continue,” he says.
The last of the trio is Alfred Wekesa, a down-to-earth player who lets his football do the talking. Wekesa, nicknamed “Kemboi” by his colleagues thanks to his burst of pace made his maiden appearance in COPA Coca-Cola last year and like a player who knows what success is about, he took his opportunity.
The 15-year-old played in the 2010 edition of Orange Mabingwa but it was last year when his football prowess came to life as he led Western region to 2nd place in the COPA nationals. “Am glad I got a chance to play in the youth football tournament. The experience I got playing at the national championships plus the training we received in South Africa from the Chelsea coaches have made me a better all-rounded player,” says Wekesa who likens his game to Western Stima’s Justine Monda.
When we caught up with them, Wekesa, Nyakha and Mukolwe had just finished playing for their team in a match-up against visitors Museno FC. The match ended in barren draw with the three performing their duties to perfection. “We want to win this league and get promoted to Nationwide football then Kenya Premier League. Am sure through hard work, discipline and maximum dedication, we can achieve that, and more besides,” concludes Nyakha.
The three Green Commandoes players are just but a few of COPA graduates who are getting noticed and picked up by local clubs. Recently during the Nzoia regional secondary school games in Kapenguria, Thika United grabbed the services of enterprising defender Christopher Oruchum who they slotted directly to the club’s U-19 team. The form 3 student at Chavakali High School was among the 16 players who travelled to South Africa last year.
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