Harambee Star, 25, attracts top European clubs after his rise from late Chemelil Sugar to Kenya’s top flight
Kenyan international Joseph Okumu is currently among the most wanted defenders in the current transfer window.
The 25-year-old, who currently plays for Belgian side KAA Gent, has been linked with moves to Arsenal in the Premier League, Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and, more recently, Atalanta in Serie A.
OBJECTIVE gives you everything you need to know about the defender.
Who is Joseph Okumu?
Okumu is a professional footballer who currently represents Belgian First Division A team KAA Gent. Born on May 26, 1997 in Kisumu City, the defender rose to prominence in the 2014-16 season when he represented Chemelil Sugar in the Kenyan Premier League.
His impressive performances saw him leave the Kenyan league for South African side Free State Stars in the Premier Soccer League in 2016. At Free State Stars, he only managed seven appearances and stayed for just one season before joining AFC Ann Arbor in the American League. Of them.
In a recent interview, Okumu revealed how depressed he was and didn’t get a chance to prove his worth at Ea Lla Koto in PSL.
“We had a terrible season because we had about four coaches in one season. I came to Kenya for the national team and when I came back I found a new coach [Selaotse Mosala]“, Okumu said during the interview.
“I had played like eight matches but the [new] the coach thought I couldn’t fit into his plans. I felt I had a chance in the team and I wanted to stay and fight for a place.
“The club wanted to loan me out but I insisted it had to be in the first division and if it’s the second division it had to be a top team. They were offering me to a second division team. newly promoted and I felt it wasn’t worth it.
“That’s how we decided on a mutual termination.”
At AFC Ann Arbor, Okumu had eight appearances, which caught the eye of USL Championship side Real Monarchs, who signed him on August 16, 2018. At Monarch’s, he had 12 appearances during of the 2018-19 season.
On August 28, 2019, Okumu made his breakthrough after signing for Swedish side Allsvenskan IF Elfsborg for an undisclosed fee. At Elfsborg he was their key defender, playing 34 games and helping them finish second in his debut season.
Okumu began attracting interest from top European clubs, including Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers, but eventually left for Gent, who he joined on June 21, 2021.
In the just-concluded season, Okumu played 27 times for Ghent in the top flight and he was also part of the squad that took part in the Europa Conference League, where they were knocked out by the Greek team PAOK in the round of 16.
He scored his first league goal for Gent as they beat KV Mechelen 1-0 at Ghelamco Arena on 7 May. The lanky defender linked up with Cameroon centre-back Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui as the Buffalos also won the Belgian Cup after a 4-3 penalty. victory on penalties against Anderlecht at the King Baudouin Stadium.
At the end of the season, Okumu was ranked the team’s second highest rated defender of the season by the football statistics website. Who scored.com.
How did Okumu fare for Kenya?
Okumu has represented Kenya in the U21 and U23 teams. He was the captain of the U23 team before being promoted to the senior team, Harambee Stars.
He made his senior debut in 2016 and was part of the squad that represented Kenya in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final in Egypt. He was trusted to play in the competition after Mamelodi Sundowns defender Brian Mandela suffered an injury while Kenya camped out in France ahead of the tournament.
In another interview, Okumu recalled how Mandela encouraged him to play at Afcon.
“Before starting the AFCON, I spoke to Brian [Mandela]“, said Okumu, quoted by National Sports. “He said to me, ‘This is the chance you’ve been waiting for for three years. You’re not just playing for yourself, you have to play for me too.
“That was the only pressure I had, I wanted to make him proud. He’s my friend, we’re so close and he can’t be on the pitch. He was passing the responsibility to me to represent him. He couldn’t nothing but I could do it for him.
Okumu seized the opportunity with both hands and partnered Joash Onyango in the heart of the defence, but Kenya failed to progress beyond the group stage after losing to Algeria and Senegal. They won their last match against their Tanzanian neighbors.
He has so far managed nine caps for Kenya.