Talent, Discipline and Hard work: An Interview With Arnold Origi

He is from one of Kenya’s greatest football families. His massive talent has catapulted him to the top of the country’s goalkeeper charts. The Lillestrom netminder continues to scale greater heights and he says, he just got started.

His name is common music to Kenyan ears, thanks to his unmatched talent and skill. He takes honours for being one of the nation’s most disciplined footballers, both on and off the pitch. While he continues to rise, he has not escaped controversy. On several occasions, he has been criticized for declining to play for his country. The last time he was in goal for Kenya, Harambee Stars conceded a late controversial goal, that led to chaos at the Nyayo National stadium.

While he is not pulling stunning save on the pitch, he is watching another of his family members, fast-rising cousin, Divock Origi whose name continues to hit headlines in England. Kenyanstar had an exclusive sit down with Arnold Origi and here is his story.

KS: Kindly tell us about your football journey from Kenya to Norway…

Well my journey started coincidentally in 1995 in Dandora while playing for Young Mighties in the Dandora MYSA Championships. I say coincidentally because I had been playing as a striker for our team then. We were waiting for our game to start and I decided to play in goal in a game called ‘royal rumble’. I guess that my agemates who were born in Eastlands know this game. I played well in goal and it happened to be the day that our goalkeeper wouldn't show up for the game because he was grounded by his parents due to poor results during his end of term exams. My teammates seeing how well I did in goal in the royal rumble game forced me to play again in goal during our MYSA championship game.

I played well in the game and it happened that MYSA scouts looking out for players for the selection of the Mathare United U-12 Norway Cup team were there watching. I was later invited for the trials. All went well and I made the trip to Norway and that's how it all started. Later on I played for Ngara youth Pelico in what was then called Division 1. I later joined Pumwani Sportive in the then Super 2 League. It was there that I was spotted  by the then Mathare United coach Gabriel "kingi" Njoroge who was also my coach at the Norway cup team. He asked me to go and train with them. I obliged and again all went well and I signed my first professional contract in 2001. 

However, competition was stiff as the goalkeepers ahead of me were Duncan Ochieng, Enos Karani and Alex Mwangi. There was little chance for me to play and so in 2002 I was sent to play for the Mathare Youth side in the second division. I played there for a season and did very well and my performances earned me a call up to the national U-23 side and also got me back to the mathare senior team this time with Francis Kimanzi as the head coach in 2003. 

I became the second choice keeper, an understudy to Duncan Ochieng. I would make my debut against Gor Mahia at the City Stadium. Everything went well and from there on I became the first choice keeper.

The good run continued and this earned me my first senior national team call up under Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. Unfortunately, I would later be dropped after Ghost was fired and Twahir Muhidin hired. Muhiddin didn't do so well and after a poor result in Morocco, he got fired too and Mohammed Kheri was appointed the new coach. Kheri recalled me and went on to give me my first international cap in a friendly at Kasarani in 2005, against Ghana.

The Ghana match went well and it was from there that my run as the number one goalie for the national team, something which has given me so much, started. My good run in the national team and Mathare United earned me a 2-month stint in Sweden with Bodens Bk, in the Swedish Nationwide League, before coming back to Kenya where I  played for Tusker for a year in the 2006 season. I later joined Moss FK  in the Norwegian nationwide league in 2007 and I played there for 5 years before moving to another Nationwide league Ull Kisa. I stayed in Kisa for a year before joining Lillestrom in 2013 where I am playing to date.

KS: You are probably the number 1 goalkeeper in Kenya. What is it that has kept you there for this long?

(Laughs) I  am not the number one at the moment because in the past few games I haven't been called up. But I thank God that I had quite a long and consistent run as the number one. What kept me there was plain and simple hard work. I knew and was aware of the responsibility that one has as a national team player and I also had an ambition that I was going to set a standard or rather the bar if you like as high as possible. The only way I could do that is through hard work. Sometimes the goalkeeping coaches who were there when I was there thought that I was crazy. At times it was difficult for them to keep up because almost at all times especially when we had our camps at Kasarani or somewhere where transport wasn't an issue, we were the first to go to the pitch and the last to leave.

I however, have to say that Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Kheri - the coach who gave me my debut- inspired me as well. Mahmoud Abbas achieved a lot with the national team and he rightfully got the title ‘Kenya One.’ I wanted the same title and this kept me going and working. I would have loved to play with the national team at major tournaments - The Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup-  not once, not twice but consistently and  win at least one Continental Cup. As it stands today, Mahmoud Abbas remains the one and only Kenya one. As for Mohammed Kheri,  after the Ghana game I remember him speaking to the press and when he was asked what he thought of me and my performance in that game, he said, “Kenya has found a goalkeeper for the next 20 years.  This really inspired me and I can also say his(Kheri) words are  what kept me going with the national team. I wanted to see this prediction come true

KS: Tactically, what does it take to be a great goalkeeper?

To be a top goalkeeper you need to understand the game. You need to think as an outfield player. Top keepers do not stay in goal but they play in goal and the only way you can play in goal is by understanding the game. This will help you read the game better which will eventually help you make good decisions in positioning yourself; knowing for example when to come out of goal in case of a long ball behind the defense or a cross. In return, this will minimize your mistakes. A top goalkeeper is the one who commits the least mistakes in the course of the season.  

KS: You suffered a nasty injury in 2008 against Zimbabwe. Dennis Oliech -Kenya’s top striker then- came in to replace you. Kindly take us through this moment.

Yeah,  the injury in 2008. This injury has a huge impact in my career. It somewhat halted my progress because I was at my peak for both the national team and my club Moss. Besides that though, the injury also made me stronger as person and an athlete.

I was just on the back of a very good season in 2007 with my club Moss and was looking forward to building on it in 2008, and top clubs in Norway were already showing interest. My performances with the national especially in the build up towards that match were also putting in a good case for me in my quest to make a step to another level in my career. The injury did not happen in that game but it's something that had been building up for a long period.

It all started in the winter while training with Moss in the preseason. I developed a stress fracture on my knee cap something which at the time I suffered the injury wasn't serious and 3 weeks with easy alternative training in the gym would have been okay. I was however, young some would say and stupid, but I rather choose to say ambitious. I wanted to go to the top and nothing would stop me, not even the small pain on the knee. The fracture developed and I remember the day before the game in training the pain was almost unbearable and I was limping heavily. The assistant coach then Yusuf Chippo saw that I was limping and came to me and asked if I was fine because I looked like I was in a lot of pain. 

I confirmed to him that  I had some pain in my knee but it was nothing to worry about. I promised to play. We had beaten Guinea two weeks before and a win against Zimbabwe at home would send us top of the table with 6 points. I remember the vibe was good both in camp and outside the camp. The whole country was buzzing and there was an air of expectation. I wanted to be part of this great moment that was about to happen so I wasn't throwing in the towel. 

The game itself was amazing. We were good and I remember Mariga opening the score and Nyayo almost collapsed. The atmosphere was electric with ‘spider man’ up in the floodlights doing his thing. I also remember Dennis Oliech running rings around the Zimbabwe defense and we had a good connection in that game. We had worked on counter attacks the day before the game where he made runs behind the defense and I tried to find him with a deep drop kick behind the defense. It was working very well especially in the second half and he was having the game of his life. He scored the second goal half way into the second half and  the atmosphere at Nyayo stadium was out of this world. The crowd started chanting his name together with that of Raila Odinga and Barack Obama. ‘Oliech Odinga Obama’ were the chants.  Zimbabwe started pushing for an equalizer and started to press us really hard and it is during this period that I produced three good saves and all over sudden I was in the chant. ‘Oliech Odinga, Origi, Obama.’

I was feeling good and unstoppable. I wanted Zimbabwe to shoot because  I felt I could stop anything they threw my way even if we played the whole day. Then came the moment. I think we had 3 to 5 minutes remaining. A simple corner kick was floated and I thought I would calmly go out for it and lie down to run the the clock down a bit. 

Unfortunately my studs got stuck in the grass and I slightly twisted my knee and there it was- a career and life changing injury happened. I remember looking at my knee and not liking what I saw. I immediately knew something was wrong. I remember Dennis Oliech asking for my gloves. I was worried because I couldn't imagine Dennis playing in goal.  We had already made all our substitutions  which meant we were to play with ten men. Things didn't look good, but luckily the only thing he (Dennis Oliech)  had to do on his debut as the goalkeeper for the national team was take a goal kick. (Laughs heartily) 

On a couple of occasions you have sent into Kenya different sporting gear to mostly young goalkeepers. Why do you do this, and why is it important for a footballer to give back?

KS: On a couple of occasions you have sent into Kenya different sporting gear to mostly young goalkeepers. Why do you do this, and why is it important for a footballer to give back?

Yeah I do this because first  of all my dream is that Kenya becomes one of the top if not the top goalkeeper producing country in Africa. My dream also is  to have a generation of goalkeepers in the national team where all of them are plying their trade in Europe. I believe if I get the time to train with a few kids this can be achieved. As a result of the time I have spent playing in Europe, I am convinced that I know what it takes for a goalkeeper to play in Europe. However, this needs time  and at the moment I do not have that apart from a few weeks or days when I am on holiday back at home or with the national team which is not enough. 

So the only thing I can do for now is to encourage them and this is what's my intention with these equipment.  Besides that,  for a  long time goalkeepers haven't had someone who they could look to and come to whenever they needed playing equipment. Outfield players have had so many outfield players; Mariga, Oliech, Robert Mambo, Victor Wanyama, Ayub Masika, Johanna Omolo and many others.  For goalkeepers I feel it is my responsibility to take care of them. I might not be able to help all of them but the two or three I can help, I will do so wholly because I know how much it means to them and the boost it can give to their young growing careers. It's Important for a footballer to give back whenever they can because these young kids really look up to us. We are their role models and giving them something is a symbol that you have recognized their talent and you think they are good enough, otherwise you wouldn't have given them the football shoes or gloves. The kids know this as well and I am 100% sure that this acts as a massive encouragement to them.

KS: You have had several run-ins with the previous administration, including Sam Nyamweya and Robert Asembo. They accused you of sabotage. How do you describe your relationship with Sam’s regime?

I wouldn't really want to start any confrontation with Mr. Nyamweya in the press. His tenure as the president of the Kenya FA is over and I know he is a proud father and grandfather. I think I saw somewhere in the social media that he was enjoying  life and especially as a grandfather. I saw his picture with his grandchild and he looked really happy. So I choose to respect that and not start any confrontation with him in the media.

KS:There is a new regime. In your opinion - Have things changed?

I honestly really don't know how things are or how they are doing because  I haven't been in Kenyan football long enough after they took office to make any sober judgement on what they have done. I was there early when they took office during the Guinea-Bissau game and I can honestly say that there was a huge change then as far as the organization around the national team was concerned. I don't know if that standard is still the same today because I haven't been in the team after that. If it is still as good,  then well done but as I said before I haven't been around long enough in their tenure to make any sober judgment.

KS: You previously have declined to come play for Harambee Stars due to a couple of reasons. Why was it so?

(Laughs) I think it's quite funny and interesting that it has always been stated that I declined or dishonored the call ups. Well, just to make it clear there is no single time I have ever declined or dishonored a callup to come play for the national team. The number of times that I never showed up for games was simply because  the release letters asking for me to be released came very late. I have been a very important member of the teams that I played for here and the clubs that I played for or even play for now weren't so keen on letting me go because of fear that I might come back injured. I also have to say that the respect the clubs over here have for our country as a football nation isn't that big. So anything that would give or would have given them any reason to deny me legally a chance  over and play for the national team they would have used it and used it brutally. I could have created problems and forced my way to come and play for the national team, but as footballer player you also have to be professional and respect your employer. The number of times that the letters came on time there wasn't any problem and I always came and did my duty to the best of my ability.

KS: In 2016, after Guinea-Bissau scored a controversial goal late into the match at Nyayo, you confronted the match officials in a not-so friendly manner, in protestation of the goal. Violence erupted. Robert Asembo later said that you should bear the blame for the violence.What do you say about your actions in that match. Do you feel guilty?

No, I  do not feel guilty even for a second. Football is a game full of emotions and allover the world we always see referees decisions being aggressively protested by players when they think it's a wrong decision and they do not agree with it. You don't see supporters creating havoc and disrupting the match. They (players) contest decisions, get booked like I did if the referee thinks that the protests are too much and unwarranted and the match goes on. You do not see what happened in Nyayo happening. It was an important match for us and up to date I am still convinced that the ball didn't cross the line. I protested and  got booked but to be honest I don't think that was the reason for the violence.

KS: We haven't seen you part of the national team recently? Have you quit international football? 

The sole reason why I haven't been in the national team is because I haven't been selected. However, I don't complain or mind because I see the man manning the posts at the moment is a very good goalie. I am a huge fan and good friend of Boniface Oluoch.  I think he is a top goalie and has been doing well in the games that he has been playing for the national team and fully deserves his position as the number one goalie for Kenya. I would have been disappointed if the person playing in goal currently wasn't good enough.

KS: Last year, you had a training ground bust up with Basel Zakari and you were suspended. How was it so yet you are known to be quote disciplined?

Whatever happened between Basel and I is something that happens in almost every training pitch in the whole world. In my opinion i think it's only positive. As long as the players don't end up hurting each other and they can leave whatever happened on the training pitch, shake hands and move on then as a coach I would be happy because  it just shows that I have players that care and that I can easily trust them to do the job that I want them to do. Basel is a winner and I am a winner. We had a different opinion on how things should be done or need to be done. We shook hands after training and up to now even though he has left Lillestrom we respect each other and are friends.

KS: A number of former Harambee Stars players have accused ‘Kenyan internationals’ of ‘not reporting and speaking out’ when bad things like alcoholism and sex were occurring in the national team camps. Do you feel you are a victim of these claims?

I personally have never seen any issues of alcoholism or sex while in camp in a way that was abnormal. I have seen players enjoying themselves after we have played games mostly away but why should I get involved or why should anybody get involved in a person's business when he came and did his job. I don't think anyone has the right to get involved or meddle in a grown man's business after he's done his job. I have never seen these cases before the game. I heard about the same before the game against Zambia which I must admit was very unfortunate and disappointing but I never saw it.

KS: You have reportedly had offers from Monaco. Is this true? Also have you received an offers from elsewhere?

(Laughs) Do not believe everything you read in the press. 

I however, still believe that I have 7 or 8 years left in my career. I see Buffon playing at the very highest level at the age of 39 and he is still going strong and doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. Mark Schwarzer played in  Champions League for Chelsea and the Premier League for Leicester at the age of 39. El Hadary the legendary Egyptian goalie just recently played the Africa Cup of Nations past his 40s. So I still believe I have a number of years. It's just a matter of taking good care of yourself and your body and living a disciplined life.

KS: Liverpool Echo quoted you saying, “Divock has everything you need to be a top striker. He can be the best. The only hindrance to him becoming the best is in himself..” What is your opinion so far on Divock playing at the top level?

I said that about Divock and not because he is from my family but because I really mean it and he has shown that  quite a number of times. For instance  at the World Cup. He went and showed quality at the very highest level in football. Then he went to Liverpool and before his ankle injury in the game against Everton, he was really putting in some top performances game after game. You cannot fluke top performances at that level game after game. You really must be quality to perform at that level. He had a dip in form recently but this is normal with a player of his age. It comes a point where you need or have to find yourself and identity yourself as to what kind of player you want to be or are. It's part of development process that a young player has to go through. He is giving Liverpool a different kind of dimension in their play, which I think will help them solve the problem that they have when facing the so called "smaller teams". He is the kind of striker who  will make tireless runs behind defenders, something which is a nightmare to many defenders and even though he might not get the ball he creates room in dangerous positions for the creative Liverpool midfielders like Coutinho, Mane and  Lallana. This is what this players need and have been lacking whenever playing against the smaller teams who look to stay compact and deny these the players the space. Plus he's had 3 assists in the last three games that he's played. He is working hard, he is humble and it's only a matter of time before he starts finding the back of the net again.

KS: How does it feel being part of a great football family? Any pressure?

(Laughs heartily) No. No pressure at all. If anything it helps you stay focused and grounded. If you have a father that has captained both his club and the national team, and has the title as the only captain to ever lift a continental trophy in the country and then an uncle that was the first Kenyan to play professional football in Europe and the first Kenyan to play Continental football in Europe, you have no choice but to be humble. What else can you bring to the table as achievements on the football pitch that these guys haven't achieved? No you just have to stay humble and keep on working and hope that you can be able to achieve something that's worth mentioning at the family dinner table. So no I have no pressure. Just thanking God that He has blessed me with people who have laid a difficult challenging path that I have to follow and try and maintain.

KS: Thanks for your time Arnold. All the best ahead!

Arnold Origi was previously Interviewed on Kenyanstar in 2011 as a Kenyanstar of the week. 

The National 'B' League match between Kimathi and UoN was characterised by missed chances and players slipping down the wet turf at the City Park Stadium.

The match that was played at a sub standard level through out saw UoN players slip on three separate occassios in the first quarter. The turf was watered just before the game and the surface proved unbearable for the university teams. The quality of play however was not as interesting.

After a change of shoes and the coming out of the afternoon sun in the second quarter the match played without anymore funny incidents. Unfortunately there was really not much going on in the second and third quarter to stir up the crowd like the slideshow in the early stages.

The game came to life in the final quarter as each team tried to push for a goal. The game was end to end. UON scored a goal but it was after the referee's whistle and hence did not stand, moments later Kimathi did the same, their goal disallowed as well. Both teams went all out attack. UON wasted shorts corners but it is  Kimathi that will knock themselves as two minutes before time they wasted two clear cut chances. The game ended 0-0 and it was the lack of finness that carried the day as the crowd booed.

The results leave UON third in the National 'B' League with 7 points while Kimathi are at sixth with 4 points.

Two valuable points were dropped by both JKUAT and Sliders, a missive hit in their endeavour to close the gap at the top.

The Ladies Premier match played at City Park Hockey Stadium started at a slow pace. The first quarter was cagey and both teams seemed to be focusing on defence. There was little action and the game was mostly played at the centre of the park.

The second quarter was no different. Both teams were tactical and the outcome was fatigue in both sets of players. In the third quarter however Sliders broke the deadlock from a short corner that was fumbled in goal, 1-0 to Sliders.

JKUAT came for the final quarter with more purpose. They pressed Sliders and finally got their reward. The match ended 1-1. A fair result that reflected their equal strengths.

A point didn't really do any team much good but it was JKUAT who were more pleased by it on the virtual that they cme from behind.

JKUAT remain second on nine points, that is two points more than Chase Amira and Sliders who have both played a game less.

Ghanaian forward Gilbert Fiamenyo will lead the forward line against Posta Rangers in the released line up by coach Stewart Hall.

AFC Leopards line up to face Posta Rangers:

Ian Otieno, Robinson Kamura, Joshua Mawira, Marcus Abwao,Samuel Ndung'u, Duncan Otieno, Bernard Mangoli, , Allan Katterega, Andrew Tololwa, Whyvonne Isuza, Gilbert Fiamenyo

Subs: Gabriel Andika, Yakubu Ramadhan,Salim Abdallah,Paul Kiongera, Marcelus Ingotsi, Juma Simeo,Harun Nyakha

 

Tusker FC line up sees Duncan Ochieng' start in goal ahead of David Okello in their away match against Muhoroni Youth.

Tusker
Duncan Ochieng, Collins Shivachi, Shafik Batambuze, Marlon Tangauzi, James Situma, Martin Kizza, Cercidy Okeyo, Humphrey Mieno, George Mandela, Michael Khamati, Allan Wanga

Subs: David okello, Eugine Asike, Hashim Sempala, Anthony Ndolo, Clifford Alwanga, Abdul Hassan, Jackson Macharia

Here are the Kariobangi Sharks vs Chemelil line-ups

 

Sharks

Jeff Oyemba, Geoffrey Shiveka, Pascal Ogweno, Bolton Omwenga, Michael Bodo, Sven Yidah, Patilla Omoto, Mike Misigo, Mathew Odongo, Duke Abuya, Rodgers Omondi

Subs: Robert Mboya, Wycliffe Otieno, Stephen Odhiambo, Ibrahim Kitawi, Cavin Odongo, Masoud Juma

Chemelil

 Jairus Adira, Willis Ouma, Yusuf Juma, Ouko Smith, Omino James, Ojuang David, Echesa Hillary, Majid Victor, Mwita John, Omondi Cliff, Saphan  Oyugi

Subs: Aimo Richard, Oketch Benjamin, Odeny Faraj, Osure Moses,  Jafary Owiti  Laban Gambareko Adebayo Mustapha.

 Mathare United assistant coach Salim Ali says his side will draw energy from their draw against Chemelil when they  face Gor Mahia on Sunday.

"The draw against Chemelil Sugar was a boost for the team in terms of morale. We know Gor Mahia is a good team. They have quality players both in their starting line up and on the bench. We will certainly have a different approach for this game.

"We have a young team and every match is part of their learning process. They have looked sharp in training and we are looking forward to tomorrow's game with renewed hope," said Salim.

Salim will be in charge of the side as head coach Francis Kimanzi continues to serve his ban from the touchline.

Gor Mahia midfielder Kenneth Muguna will miss the next fixture for Gor Mahia against Mathare United.

The midfielder took to social media on Saturday morning sending this message to fans.

"Good morning friends. A slight knock I picked during our last game has ruled me out of tomorrow's clash against Mathare. I hope to be back in action next weekend. Thanks for your support. Let's turn up and cheer the boys on."

Kenyan Striker Michael Olunga scored his first goal in the Chinese Super League on Friday against league leaders Guangzhou R&F.

Olunga, who plays for Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng, scored in the 22nd minute in his side’s 3-1 win over Guangzhou. This was his first goal in four games and will be looking to score more, after netting twelve times last season for Swedish side Djurgadens IF.

Manchester United held on for a goalless draw in a frantic Manchester derby at the Etihad after midfielder Marouane Fellaini was sent off. The Belgian lost the plot in the 84th minute in a moment of madness when he was booked for bringing down Sergio Aguero, and seconds later he walks over to the Argentine and delivers a headbutt. The referee Martin Atkinson had no choice but to show him a straight red card.

City, who dominated most of the game, thought they had a late winner when Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus noded home a Sergio Aguero cross from a close range but was flagged offside. The young Brazilian, who was put on as a late substitute for his first appearance since being injured in February, took some time to realise his goal won't stand.

The draw leaves City in fourth place, still a point and a place  ahead of their local rivals as Unites extends their unbeaten run to 24 league games.

Manchester will be at a stand still when City welcomes United in the third Manchester derby of the season. Champions League qualification spots are at stake an incentive that will psyche up the players more for the encounter, as if any extra drive was necessary.

The Citizens are a point ahead of their rivals at fourth with 64 points. They will be hoping the FA Cup semi final exit at the hands of Arsenal won't affect their League form. They are however on the back of two consecutive Premeir League wins. 

Pep Guardiola is looking forward to the game and insists United are a very good team with a very good squad. "They are good, good rivals, good quality, in good form. They've had big series without defeat in the Premier League. They have a lot of quality, history. We're looking forward to the game," said the City boss.

United on the other hand remain undefeated in the League since October, remarkable as that might be, most of their results have been draws. They have however collected maximum points in the last 3 league games including a 2-0 win over leaders Chelsea. A run that see them move within a point of top four.

Jose Mourinho affirmed his main target is to qualify for the Champions League and not to finish above their city rivals. Of course United still have the Europa League route to the Champions League.

"It means nothing. If we finish fifth and they finish sixth and we are above them it means nothing," said Mourinho. "If they finish third and we finish fourth they are above us, but it means a lot," he added.

The match will be played at 10pm local time.

Real Madrid played one of the best games of the season and they thrashed (2-6) Deportivo de la Coruña at Riazor. It wasn’t an easy stadium -Barcelona lost and Atlético Madrid drew- but Los Blancos made an exhibition. Again, the substitutes show Zidane that they deserve more minutes. Especially Isco, again brilliant.

Zidane might think in giving the opportunity in the big games to some of these players. Isco, Asensio or Morata are highlighting every time they have the chance. Kovacic or James Rodríguez show also a great quality when they have minutes. If Modric, Bale or Benzema are not fit, perhaps these are the solutions. Today, they play one of the best games of the season.

Messi four goals shy of another milestone at Camp Nou.

Messi is only 4 goals away from his 200th league goal at the Camp Nou.

188 appearances

196 goals

  70 assists

 

The 2017 CAF Champions League Draw was done earlier today in Cairo, Egypt.

The CAF Champions League is Africans' premier club football competition that sees top African clubs in their countries go ahead to head to be crowned champions.

The first round of group fixtures will start on the weekend of May 12. The groups are as follows:

GROUP A
Group A consists of Tunisia powerhouse Etoile du Sahel, Sudanese sides Al Hilal, and Al-Merrikh SC and Mozambique's Clube Ferroviario de Maputo.

GROUP B
Five time Champions League winners  Zamalek lead Group B. They play Zimbabwe Premier League champions CAPS United, USM Alger of Algeria, and Ahli Tripoli of Libyan.

GROUP C
African champions Mamelodi Sundowns will fight to retain their CAF Champions League title following tbeir group stage draw with AS Vita. The South African club will have a score to settle with AS Vita from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a side that was disqualified in last year’s edition to give the Brazilians a way back into the competition despite being knocked out.
The Brazilians will face AS Vita  as well as Saint George S.C. of Ethiopia and Espérance Sportive de Tunis of Tunisia in group C.

GROUP D
Egyptian giants Al Ahly who are on their way to claiming yet another Premier League title, play Wydad Athletic Club, Coton Sport and Zanaco in Group D.

The Gunners went into their Wednesday Premeir League clash against Leceister with only a win to suffice as they try to keep their Champions League hopes alive.

The match against the champions was cagey as they were happy to stay back and let Arsenal kick the ball around with no goal mouth action. It was Mahrez who got the first shot on target, a free shot resulting from a corner but the Algerian drove it right on Cech's path who punched it away.

Leceister showed little gimpses of their old self the little time they had the ball with Vardy and Mahrez hitting the side netting.

Granit Xhaka controlled the midfield as he occasionally sprayed long balls to the wings but the Leicester defence was solid. Theo Walcott got Arsenal's first shot on target when he dipped the ball past a Leicester defender and drew a superb save from Kasper Schmeichel.

Alexis Sanchez had a frustrating first half as he lost possesion on a couple of ocassion but showed what he is capable of on the brink of half time when his shot at the esge of the box hit the crossbar. Level it went at half time.

The second have started on a similar note with Leicester resolute at the back and Arsenal keeping the ball with no break through. Both teams made changes and it was the introductoon of Olivier Giroud for Arsenal that provided presence in the Leicester box. With 4 minutes to go Sanchez's deflected cross aimed at Giroud was knocked back to Nacho Monreal who drilled it towards goal and the ball took a wicked deflection on Roberth Huth for an own goal. 1-0 to the Gunners.

With 4 added minutes Arsenal tried wasting time with Sanchez trying some tricks that landed him in the referee's book with a yellow card. The vital win moved Arsenal to sixth with Leicester's relegation worries back.

In other games, Middlesbrough got one past Sunderland to take them within 6 points of safety at 27 points while Sunderland remain rooted at the bottom with 21 points.

Tottenham got a vital 1-0 away win against Crystal Palace to keep them in touching distance to the league leaders.

The 14th edition of the CAF Confederation Cup Draw held in Cairo, Egypt is out.

CAF Confederation Cup is the second African football club competition organised by Confederation of African Football, CAF after the CAF Champions league. This seasons competition has extended participants in the grouo stage from 8 clubs to 16. The winner of the Confederation Cup will face the winner of the CAF Champions League in the 2018 CAF Super Cup.

Jesse Were's Zesco United is drawn in Group C while defending champions TP Mazembe are drawn in Group D alongside Supersport United.

The full Draw of the knockout stages are as follows:

GROUP A
FUS
Club Africain
Rivers United
Kampala CCA

GROUP B
C.S.S
Platinum Stars
MC Alger
Mbabane Swallows

GROUP C
Zesco United
Club R.D. do Libolo
Al Hilal Elobeid
Smouha

GROUP D
TP Mazembe
Supersport United
Horoya AC
CF Mounana

First matches are set to be played between 12-14th of May.

Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has been banned from football for 18 months after an FA hearing over breaches of betting rules according to Sky Sports.

 Barton accepted a misconduct charge in February and requested a personal hearing after he was accused of placing 1,260 bets on football over a span of 10 years.

An FA statement read: "Joey Barton has been suspended from football and all football activity for 18-months with immediate effect after he admitted an FA misconduct charge in relation to betting.

"It was alleged that between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016, he placed 1,260 bets on the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, football matches or competitions in breach of FA Rule E8.

"Following the Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, the Burnley midfielder was also fined £30,000 and warned as to his future conduct.

Barton wrote in his own statement: "The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football. To be clear from the outset here this is not match fixing and at no point in any of this is my integrity in question.

"I accept that I broke the rules governing professional footballers, but I do feel the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players. I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem. I'm disappointed it wasn't taken into proper consideration."

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Those who love him, love him with so much passion. Those who hate him, also do so with the same gusto. If a book on ‘The most hated footballers’ were ever to be written, several chapters would be dedicated to him.

Matatu culture is part of living in Nairobi City and the transport means used by all. Soccer fans use their own cars, buses and matatus for traveling to away matches.

The day is September 26th 2010. Kenya U-20 coach Vince Ombiji brought on a young and promising player as the national junior side took on Lesotho. The rookie had an almost immediate impact, as he ran down the Lesotho defense rugged. Fleet foot works, pacy and pin point crosses made him a darling to the fans instantly. Kenya’s next big thing was alive.

The figure of Ksh. 600,000 released by Gor Mahia today, as the total gate collections for the Gor Mahia vs Zoo Kericho match in Kisumu are ‘stupid figures’,  Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Anyango has told Kenyanstar in a long ranging Interview.

Eric Ochieng' aka Cantona is one of most iconic soccer athletes to grace Kenya Premier League in the 1990s.

He is the Kenyan version of Portuguese super agent Jorge Paulo Agostinho Mendes. He is many things to many people, and recently added another feather to his cap by venturing into player and coaches representation. Starting off as a journalist, he grew through the ranks to become a Television producer, took the big risk and ventured into football administration, before jumping ship to start what has been a largely successful venture of talent management.

Even thou they finished fourth in the just concluded Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association Basketball championships, Rueben Muraya is one person who has caught the eyes of many. His dazzling dribbling skills and speed has made him a crowd favorite and a contender for the MVP award.

A terrific dribbler with an eye for goal. His skills and potential on the pitch have always left fans ecstatic. His dazzling runs and fantastic crosses have raised his profile in the local scene. He slowly grew through the ranks both at club and national level. He recently added to the statistics of players who have made the bold move from AFC Leopards to bitter rivals Gor Mahia where he penned a long term contract. 

Besides the magic on the pitch, critics have continually accused him of laziness and being a party animal. Is he? Kenyanstar sat with John ‘Softie’ Ndirangu and here is his story.

Kenyanstar: Thank you for your time. Tell us about your football journey so far.

John Ndirangu: I started playing competitive football at Nakuru AllStars when I was in form 2, by then the club was in playing in Nationwide League. I was with them all along, even when they got promoted in 2014 to the Kenya Premier League.  As a footballer, I have faced both difficult and easy times.

KS: Where did this nickname Softie come from?

JN: I rarely talk too much, and people say my face is soft. So, Softie.

KS: Please tell us about your time at Nakuru AllStars.

JN: It was a bit hard for me since there were the demands on the pitch and at the same time I was schooling. I had to carefully plan my time. However, sometimes it was difficult for me because I had to leave school for training and when I got back to class I was so tired and couldn't focus fully.  

KS: You made a name for yourself  while you were at Allstars. Tell us about your time playing there and your relationship with the players, coach, management etc.

JN: First, I would like to thank Robert Muthomi. He took me as his son, he took care of me,he used to advise me and  managed me well. I also thank everyone who coached me. During my time there, I learnt something from all coaches and this made me grow to who I am today. My teammates were also supportive, as football is a team sport and you support each other. 

KS: You would later join Bandari. However, you never stayed there for long...

JN: I would not wish to discuss about my time at Bandari. It was very difficult for me.

KS: What exactly affected you?

JN: Lack of play time.

KS: Well, you at one point joined Kariobangi Sharks. What necessitated the move?  

JN: After Bandari I went back to Nakuru Allstars to get my form back. However, at the end of the season the team got relegated and so we agreed with Robert Muthomi, the CEO,  that since I had already made my name and was still young, it wasn't proper to play in the lower tier. Therefore I joined Kariobangi Sharks. We agreed with President Nick Mwendwa that if the team won't get promoted to the top league he releases me and that's what happened when I joined AFC Leopards.

KS: Leopards - You joined the club, lots of expectations, but left. Kindly tell us about your time at Leopards.

JN: I enjoyed my time at Leopards and would like to thank the management and coaches. They believed in me and I wish them all the the best. In December, I was asked by Leopards to look for a suitable club where I would go on loan and I felt it was not good for me. Therefore I  asked them to just release me instead. As a team last season we were unlucky not to do well and meet the expectations but I personally think that I played my part and was very surprised when they suggested a loan move for me in the transfer window. 

KS: You have some serious football skills. Very good running, very good dribbles. What's the tactical secret for you?

JN: Apart from talent in me I do watch skillful players like Neymar, Ronaldinho and Cristiano and try apply what I see on the pitch. Besides, I also work very hard.  

KS: Harambee Stars: You have grown from U-23 to the senior team. Tell us about your time and experience so far at Stars

JN: Each and every coach has his style of coaching and the kind of players he wants. I think during Bob Williamson's time I was called several times to the national team. He liked my dribbling skills and speed and he would tell me to just do that in the pitch, since that is what made him like me and give me a call up.  

KS: We haven't seen you at the national team in recent days. Why?

JN: As I have said each and every coach has his style of coaching and kind of players he wants. However, while at AFC Leopards I earned a call up.  

KS: You made what many call a 'daring move' by switching from Leopards to Gor. Do you feel it was a daring move or just any other normal transfer?

JN: I believe if you have talent and you work hard everything is possible. Talent can never be hidden. Kama unajua unajua. For me I see it as a normal move. My time will come and I'll shine.

KS: Gor Mahia - How is life there. What are your targets/goals?

JN: I am enjoying life at Gor. They do things professionally and think that's what differentiates Gor with other clubs. My target is to play as many games and help the team lift the title and in future I go to Europe. 

KS: You have been accused of the following: Missing training at times intentionally, partying a little too much and alcoholism. Your response?

JN: In life you must have friends and enemies and for you to make in life you must have enemies. All these stories came up when I was at Leopards. When Ivan Minnaert left a Luhya coach took over and he only wanted Luhya players. Therefore, Ian otieno and  I decided to stay at home because no matter how hard we worked in training, we weren't being considered.  On the issue of alcohol, I even cannot tell how it tastes. Yes, I used to go to clubs and watch football while drinking Delmonte juice.  

KS: Any closing words? 

JN: I just want to thank God for the gift of life and talent. I also want to tell my fans that they should  not lose hope in me. I know they believe in me and I won't fail them. 

KS: Thanks for your time Softie!

 

READ: John 'Softie' Ndirangu: Major Transfer Or Forced Out? 

Following the news that Serena Williams was two months pregnant when she won the Grand Slam, Rev. Fred Nile MP, has called for the world champion to be stripped of the title, claiming “foetal personhood” means she was unfairly advantaged.

“She was playing doubles in a singles tournament!” Nile screamed at the ‘Day of the Unborn Child’ protest.

“I believe that ‘life at conception’ should be the law, and that clearly means two people won the Grand Slam,” said Nile, who is both an avid fan of professional tennis and aggressively campaigning to legislate how people use their uterus.

“That’s clearly against the rules!”

However, feminists argue Nile’s view that pregnancy is a sporting advantage shows ignorance to the realities facing those who are pregnant.

“Serena Williams was in control of her own body during the Grand Slam tournament, and as such has the right to her title, and the right, always, to bodily autonomy”, said Immy Grantson, an outspoken activist campaigning for progress on women’s issues.

“Williams, like all people, has the right to choose what she does with her body: whether that be powerful backhands, and/or be pregnant”, said Grantson.

This comes at a crucial time in New South Wales legislation. Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi’s End12 Campaign hopes to make it legal for world class athletes to choose whether or not they are pregnant.

When asked for comment by The Garter Press, Venus Williams, who lost to Serena Williams under the now contentious circumstances, said she was “excited to be an aunt”.

Former Inter Milan midfielder McDonald Mariga has come out to praise the Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino for the key role he has paid in developing the career of his brother Victor Wanyama.  

The Kenyan International skipper has been a vital part of the Spurs midfield, prove of just how much Pochettino trusts Wanyama. Big Vic first played under the Argentine gaffer at Southampton and were later reunited at Tottenham last summer.

“He (Wanyama) said Pochettino is the coach who has made him. He’s the one who, when Victor came to Southampton, he taught him what to do and how to play, all the things. He’s the one who taught him everything and made even more qualities for Victor. He gave him exposure and confidence. If you don’t have confidence from the coach, you cannot perform well. He’s helped him a lot,” Mariga told ESPN.

Pochettino’s favorite 3-4-2-1 formation has suited Wanyama perfectly as he provides cover to the wing backs when they move forward to attack, something that has put Wanyama in favor with both the manager and the Spurs supporters.

The midfielder will be expected to take his spot back in the starting XI for the FA Cup semi-final meeting with Chelsea at Wembley this Saturday evening after a minor injury.

As the title race stiffens and Spurs still on track for the cup glory, Wanyama may just be the rock Tottenham needs to win the first trophy in over years.

Everton are considering a pre-season friendly in Tanzania as part of their expected new sponsorship deal with SportPesa.

Drogba had been without a club since leaving MLS outfit Montreal Impact in November, after rejecting a move to Brazilian giants Corinthians in February.

However, the 39-year-old Ivorian striker has finally found a home in Phoenix, where he will also be part of their "MLS expansion franchise ownership group."

Phoenix are in their fourth season in the USL, 12th in the Western Conference with one win after three games.

"I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC," said Drogba.

"After seeing firsthand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch.

"I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS."

Drogba - a two-time African Footballer of the Year – scored 23 goals in 41 competitive appearances for the Impact, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League among other trophies with Chelsea.

"We want our club and our city to be synonymous with international excellence, and Didier Drogba is a testament to Phoenix Rising FC's commitment to that mission,” said Phoenix Rising club governor Berke Bakay.

"Soccer is an international language understood by sports fans all over the world, and we want to help inspire fluency among new fans everywhere we play throughout North America."

Wilfried Zaha has rejected Gareth Southgate’s suggestion that he had imposed a timescale to be selected again by England, effectively holding the national team to ransom, and has defended his right to instead represent the country of his birth, Ivory Coast.

Bale and Ronaldo both played as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 yesterday. Goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro strengthened their grip on the La Liga title.

However, despite the victory, all is not well at the Santiago Bernabeu. Spanish outlet Diario Gol claimed yesterday that Ronaldo was fuming with Zinedine Zidane for substituting him late on.

The former Manchester United star provided the assist for Benzema's goal but was replaced by Isco in the 79th minute. It was said that Ronaldo believed Bale should have been substituted instead after an abject display.

But Diario Gol claim Bale was also angry after the game. The former Tottenham star's stock is rising in Spain after helping Madrid win the Champions League twice in the past three years. And the Wales international reportedly believes Ronaldo is preventing him from becoming the club's main man.

Bale has to play on the left wing due to Ronaldo's desire to play further up the field. He feels that Zidane is making a mistake by deploying him in that position as he prefers to play on the right, where he can cut inside.

Club chief Florentino Perez is now monitoring the situation as Madrid's two biggest stars aim to do outdo the other. 

"Victor suffered a big injury on his back and we’ll see now what happens. We’re sad for both players and now we have to wait," was Pochetino's response on Victor Wanyama's injury.

A friendly match between Ivory Coast and Senegal was abandoned after 88 minutes after crowd trouble spilled onto the pitch with dozens of fans invading the field of play and confronting players.

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