TRACING KENYAN ROOTS: Spain-born Ismail at CD Las Palmas open to Stars call-up

By ROBIN TOSKIN: Monday, May 2nd 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Ismail Said Athuman Gonzalez, Spain-born Kenya footballer at CD Las Palmas. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

His father, Said Ali Athuman, left port of Mombasa in 1989 and set foot on the Gran Canaria, the second most populous island of the Canary Islands, Spain. His sojourn was meant to escape the harsh economic realities of his country Kenya.

Yet in a twist of fate, his son Ismail Said Athuman Gonzalez, though born to a Spanish mother in the Canary Island on February 1, 1995 and cannot speak Kiswahili, is now egging his father to connect him to his Kenyan roots.

Having gone through the junior ranks of Spanish La Liga side CD Las Palmas from the age of five, Athuman is weighing his options for international football.

"He recognizes that competition for positions in the Spain national team is cutthroat. I have suggested to him that he considers turning out for Harambee Stars (Kenya's national football team). He is open to the idea," his father Said Athuman told FeverPitch via phone from Gran Canaria.

The 21-year-old defensive midfielder is currently at Second Division (Segunda B) CP Cacereno, on loan from La Liga side CD Las Palmas.

"He had unsuccessful trials at Manchester City, but returned to the Las Palmas Academy where he has really developed well. He is really determined to make a break internationally that is why I am reaching back to my country of birth to have a look at my son," Athuman said.

Get the latest sports news updates. Subscribe to our SMS sports service by texting 'SPORTS' to 22840.

"It is not easy for him given he was born here in Spain and knows little about Kenya. I have, however, ensured he has a Kenyan passport."

Language barrier made it difficult for him to speak to Feverpitch, but through his father, Ismail said he was ready to switch allegiance.

Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi said he is open to assessing the youngster.

"I think it is important that we have a look at all players available. I will endeavor to have a look at his videos while training or even during league action," Okumbi said.

"It is healthy for the national team if we can also get players with different experiences from abroad."

If he does finally play for Kenya, Ismail Athuman will be one of many European-born Africans retracing their roots to Africa.

Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, Algeria and Morocco have successfully tapped into their diaspora to build formidable national teams.

Kenya did experiment with England-born Taiwo Atieno, but he could not cement his position in Harambee Stars.

But there are those that went away, the famous one being Liverpool and Belgium striker Divock Origi and Martin Tony Waikwa Olsson, who plays for Norwich and Sweden. Olsson and his twin brother Marcus, who plays for Derby County were born in Galve Sweden to a Swedish father and a Kenyan mother from Kangemi, Nairobi.

Related Topics: Kenya Mombasa Las Palmas