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AFCON: Gamble pays off for Gor Mahia midfielder Philemon Otieno

FOOTBALL By Gilbert Wandera | May 28th 2019 | 2 min read
Harambee Stars Philemon Otieno in the match against Ghana during African Cup of Nations Qualifier match at Moi Sports Centre Kasarani. Sept 8, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

What started off a gamble to play at the right-back position has paid off for Philemon Otieno, who has won a place in the Harambee Stars squad for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.

Otieno, a natural midfielder, was forced to play in the right-back position following injuries to Karim Nzigiyimana who has since left the club and Wellington Ochieng.

"I was challenged by former Gor Mahia coach Dylan Kerr to try out the right-back position after Nziyigimana and Ochieng picked up injuries at a crucial time. Kerr saw the potential in me to play in that position."

“With a lot of guidance from Kerr and current coach Hassan Oktay, I grew comfortable in that position though I still have to learn a lot from them and even other players.”

As he grew in confidence in his new position, Otieno became a rock in the Gor Mahia defence helping the club win the 2018 and 2019 SportPesa Premier League (SPL) titles and also earned a call up the national team Harambee Stars.

“I expected this because when we started the campaign, I was very optimistic we will qualify. The current coach has instilled a lot of confidence in the players and knew we would beat Ghana at home."

“We were confident that victory over Ghana would do it for us because we only needed to pick a point away to Ethiopia and then finish the job at home against the same team and Sierra Leone,” he said.

Otieno admits that part of the confidence he had for him to fit in the Harambee Stars squad was built while playing for Gor Mahia in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) matches.

“Those matches we played for Gor Mahia at the continental level gave us a lot of confidence when we went to the national team as their levels are not far off."

“I always knew that would come and I patiently waited for the opportunity which came after a while.”

Having Eric Ouma and Joash Onyango in the Stars' backline also helped matters a lot for Otieno as the Ouma was at Gor Mahia and Onyango is still with the KPL champions.

With his contract coming to an end in December, Otieno believes playing in Egypt will be a great opportunity for him to get new offers.

 

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