Controversial. Hard tackler. Solid midfielder. Indisciplined... His character is described depending on where you swear your allegiance. A no-nonsense figure on and off the pitch. He commands influence and his contribution to the club cannot be underestimated.
His followers affectionately refer to him as Gattuso. At one point, he was rumoured to have quit football. He has fallen out with major coaches and attracted love and hate in equal measure from the fans. Love him or hate him, he is an outstanding player by his own right.
Just hours to kick off of the 2017 season, he has received a fair share of bashing from the fans. Others, have in fact said he is to blame for the title loss last year. Kenyanstar caught up with combative midfielder Collins ‘Gattuso’ Okoth, who talks about his career, (in)discipline, and his aspirations.
Kenyanstar: You are one of the most solid holding midfielders and you can walk into any starting eleven in Kenya. Tell us about it?
Collins Okoth: My secret is to work hard and work twice as hard in training. Also you have to believe in yourself, give your best and don't be intimidated.
KS: How can you describe your time at Gor Mahia?
CO: I have had a fantastic time at Gor Mahia. The best of it being winning 3 league titles in a row. I have certainly enjoyed my stay at the club.
KS: You have quit Gor Mahia before and accused the club of unfulfilled promises. For example, non-payment of salaries. How true is this?
CO: We had an agreement with club about my fee but they never fulfilled their promises. I played my role well. Having realized that the club could not fulfill their promises, I decided not to fight them but walk out peacefully.
KS: The current Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Nyangi has accused you on social media of sabotage and missing training intentionally. What is your response?
CO: The current OS is just an attention seeker. I asked for permission from the coach. I have been in this club under different regimes and we have worked amicably with other secretaries as was the case with Naima. You never heard them speak so ignorantly. Sometimes the level of education matters to...you know.
KS: You have fallen out with many coaches before. Zdravko Logarusic at Gor Mahia. Stewart Hall at Sofapaka. Where is the problem? Is it you or the coach?
CO: I have never fallen out with any coaches before. That is just a fabrication of the press and some critics. However, I have learnt to live with it.
KS: You have fallen out with Ze Maria before. Do you have any differences?
CO: Yes I have fallen out before with Ze Maria. However, we sat down(Himself and I) and he explained to me what he likes and his philosophy. We are friends and we are going to achieve great things with him.
KS: You have been accused of being indisciplined - missing training, disobeying authority...How true is this?
CO: Unfortunately, most people always believe in what they hear about me. Not the truth. The truth is I can't miss training without communication to the coach or team manager. I don't and will never miss training without permission.
KS: Why always you? Are you misunderstood?
CO: No. I am not misunderstood. In football you can't please everyone. I always speak my mind whether anyone likes it or not but I will tell the truth.
KS: Some fans say you cost the club the title last season when you failed to turn up for some matches. Your response?
CO: (Laughs) I never cost the club the league title last year. The coach makes decision whether I should play. If I am on the bench i can't force myself to play. So I never cost the team any league. Although fans believe I could have turned
things around if I played those matches.
KS: You were once quoted you in 2015 saying that, 'I attribute the current success to Frank Nuttal'. How good was Nuttall? Should he probably have stayed longer?
CO: In 2015, I indeed attributed the success to coach Frank. He was the best. A funny and loving man. He was always honest and I like him a lot.
KS: What's the secret to being a good holding midfielder like you?
CO: The secret of being the best holding midfielder is that you have to avoid doing so many mistakes always try and be simple; play one and two touches and protect your back 4.
KS: You captained Kenya before in CHAN. You are a regular there too. How much of an honour is it being a captain?
CO: It’s an honour indeed and a great thing.
KS: Your Gor contract expires in June. Are you renewing it...if not where are we likely to see you?
CO: Yes my contract expires in June. I have only three months remaining. We players we don't know about the future, so I can't say whether I will renew or move. God knows about tomorrow.
KS: Any closing words?
CO: I urge the fans to come and cheer us this year. We want to make them happy and they should ignore the officials who are always on social media fighting for power.
KS: Thanks Collins! All the best ahead.