While he does not quite reflect a ‘Lou Diamond Phillips’ type of transition from the promising one to the frustrating one, Ezekiel Odera certainly looks like one who’s had quite a time in the four years since he joined KCB in mid-2010 from Nairobi Super League side, Sports Connect Academy.
In 2011, ahead of everyone else, in just under 6 months, Odera was the hottest thing in Kenyan Football; sought by the Mighty Gor Mahia, here was a poster boy in his own right with just four goals short of John Baraza’s haul of 15 goals in a single season.
Gor Mahia at this time needed a name to fill in for the departing George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and certainly so he did fit the bill. While he did not just come in to replace a part of a jigsaw puzzle, he was also at Kogallo to fulfil a personal dream. “I feel happy to be a part of Gor Mahia because it has been my ambition to play for them since my childhood. I feel at home now and I look forward to the season ahead.” He was quoted after signing for the club.
However, the fans had to wait till May (2-2 vs Congo in Mombasa) to witness his first goal and only for the club; a far cry from what the Blackberry had accustomed them to given the span of time.
Forgive the cell phone brand’s dwindling fortune in the African market and beyond, on the pitch ‘ALCATEL’s’ fortunes never amplified, neither did his predecessor ‘Blackberry’ perform any better far away in Randers FC.
A 10 point gap between Gor Mahia and the Champions, the clubs worst Goal Difference since 2008 and a technical bench in disarray meant ‘Zico’ had to leave; additionally Ezekiel Odera opted out of extending his deal with Gor Mahia.
Odera later termed his move to Gor Mahia as the greatest mistake of his career.
Looking back it was the wrong decision to join Gor Mahia one thing which I regret because I did not have a chance to prove myself. The pressure was too much and no one really gave me a chance.
A return to KCB in 2012 however did not yield instant results. A sum total of 14 matches (10 as a substitute), 85 more minutes culminated into 3 goals, a flicker of the coach’s growing ability in him in relation to his confidence that had taken a beating at Gor Mahia.
Coach Kamau, a man with a proven track record of getting the best out of players was the man however to get Odera out of KCB again. Thika proved to be a good destination; Top 8 football and a pool of talented players meant Odera had a new challenge though under a less stressful environment unlike Gor Mahia.
An amazing 26 matches and only three goals to show for it in the league, coupled by one KPL Top 8 goal however deserved some rewards- first, a KPL Top 8 loser’s medal and (wait for it) a one way ticket back to KCB.
Yesterday however, new KCB coach Rishadi Shedu dropped him, just 2 matches to the end of the first leg having featured in only half of KCB’s games this season. Coming on from the bench in five of those, Odera’s next move will form the subject of several debates all around the footballing scene.
It was never apparent that Odera settled in at Gor Mahia like he did at KCB during his first spell.
Zico for all the stick he got for signing Odera acted in all honesty at the clubs best interests, Leonard Saleh must be credited with discovering a gem and James Omondi for providing shelter when the storm almost eroded Odera and Abdalla when he needed a home again.
In erecting a platform for him to stand on at Thika, Kamau tried to hide him from his critics and past admirers but at the end of it realized he wasn’t offering any more shelter leave alone progress for his side that has been constantly taunted for under-performance.
If there was ever a way to measure doubt then the level of doubt amongst us fans might be supposedly at an all-time high and if there was a point to mark alarm- then certainly the indicator firmly points towards it.
Gor Mahia will certainly never play the victim and for Odera the realization that his earlier years brought him more football satisfaction over a change of lifestyle should form the basis of his pursuit of the former- that is if he really wants to.
Ezekiel Odera can more often than not make it work and certainly a club is going to knock at his door again however- how long it lasts and works or dies and fails will largely depend on him.
Of all the above even so, one thing stands out- Ezekiel Odera has featured in the KPL Top 8 with three different sides in four years, perhaps a certificate of optimism and ability to compete should he need one.