It’s never easy to balance school and football- at least in the current Kenyan educational system. Sometimes one has to give, and most have given up football to pursue their academic dreams. Some- few with faith in the game, opted to run out their youthful years in on the field.
For Willis Otenda and Calvin Wekesa though, balancing the two may come as a tough task but it is worth the while. Sports Review Kisumu caught up with the two Maseno University graduates and sought their stories on how they managed to stay in school and play professional football.
Calvin- 22 years now, puts discipline first, one has to do the right thing at the right time, he says.
”First you have to be discipline, do the right thing at the right time. When it’s time for education you give it time and do the same with sports,”
Willis on the other hand- a 24 year old Bachelor of Arts graduate says he had to put football on hold first while in high school.
”You have to balance the two. You don’t put too much weight on the other. Personally, I decided to complete school first, then head to football,” says the man who recently graduated with Procurement option in his Bachelor’s degree.
He never played football in high school- something weird because he schooled in a footballing giant in the Lake Region. For the four years Willis was at Kisumu Day High School, he would not feature once for the school- even in the two times they played the national school games.
”I did not play any football. In the four years, I was at Kisumu Day High School, they went to the nationals twice but my parents had told me to focus on education. The coaches put pressure on me but I did not relent. I even missed a trip to Sweden because of this,” he recalls with a smile.
It’s different with Wekesa, a diminutive midfielder who says Barding High School exposed him to the world. He traveled out of the country twice with Barding.
”I went to Barding, played there, played in the East Africa championship and won it with Barding in 2016. The school helped me get exposure in terms of football, I even attended Aspire Africa in Qatar and Copa Coca Cola in South Africa,” says Wekesa.
Willis plays in the holding midfield role for Kisumu All Stars while Wekesa takes the freer role of joining attacks when chances come for the new Kenyan Premier League side. So how did they join the club, while still in school.
Kisumu All Stars
Willis says completing his degree course at Maseno University meant he could now play his football. His parents gave him the go ahead and when a friend told him to go for trials at Kisumu All Stars, he dashed there, eventually joining the then Francis Oduor coached side.
”A friend informed me to come to a try out with All Stars. I came and I was signed after their first season in the NSL,” says Willis.
For Wekesa, he had been in pro football before with Western Stima- one that never ended well and he joined All Stars after his brief stint with Stima.
”I joined All Stars after doing my industrial attachment. I was just leaving Western Stima and All Stars offered a safe landing sport,” concludes the 22-year-old Bachelor of Education Arts graduate.
Kisumu All Stars will be playing in the top flight Kenyan Premier League this season and the two look to be of help to the side as they begin their quest with a home tie against Ulinzi Stars. The two- who have shown that it is possible to balance school and education, are more proof to the rising need for sportsmen and women to diversify in the very unpredictable future.