Many know him as Marcelo. A boy nicknamed after Brazilian international and Real Madrid leftback, Marcelo Veira. He is talented, classy and an entertainer with the ball at his pacy feet.
He has become a national pride, one of the youngest footballers to have ever played for Kenya and represented the country abroad. However, his close circles call him Erick.
Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma shot in to the limelight when he was signed by Kenya Premier League champions Gor Mahia at the beginning of the 2016 season. Two years on, he has added more value to his life, football and parents. Sportika’s Henrie William sought to converse with the prodigy on how he managed to pull the greatness as quickly.
A former Kakamega School student, he had already attracted attention to himself with his superb displays whenever the school outfit was in action.
However, his joining Gor threw the then 19-year-old into a countrywide lens and after a few matches, Marcelo became a house hold name. He had made the left back position at Gor his own, putting up virtuoso displays in the green jersey.
What seemed to many as springing from nowhere to become an intrinsic part of the most successful club in the country, has been a journey that started at the age of just seven.
Where it all began…
Born and bred in Nairobi’s Kibra Slums, the 21-year-old was introduced to football at the age of seven by his coach Benjamin Kipruto who was then handling his elder brothers with a local team there.
“I loved following my brothers to the pitch for their practice sessions and that’s how Kipruto approached and introduced me to football. By then I was at Ayani Primary School and I had to balance between school and football since I was determined to excel in both,” Ouma says.
His parents did not know football would benefit their children in any way and Ouma’s father did not shy away from telling them as much. However, his stance softened when the young ‘Marcelo’ landed a place in Kakamega School thanks to his football skills.
“KPL coach Nicholas Muyoti, who had been introduced to our team by Moureen Muhanji, was instrumental in my joining Kakamega School as he talked to the principal and I went for one week trials before joining the school. My parents had no hand in it,” Ouma explains.
While in form three, Mathare United expressed their interest in signing him to their academy but they were non committal.
“I wanted to join a KPL team but at the time I was not too keen on what was happening to the deals. I was just happy to be playing football in school and winning matches,” he says.
Inside Gor Mahia
Ouma admits that he doesn’t even know how the Gor deal came to be as he was still expecting Mathare to front a better deal when his school coach called with news that he had landed the move to Gor, which also had a more convincing deal.
“I consulted with coach Muyoti as well as my parents and they all advised me to take the Gor deal. It was my first team after school and I knew I was not going to have it easy. I had to work hard and bring my all, even in the first matches where I would only get few minutes of play,” he says.
Working under Frank Nuttall for Marcelo was a good experience for the youngster but the entry of Jose Ferreira (Ze Maria) changed the player for the better.
“Ze Maria had passion for young players and was equally passionate about me as we shared a name ‘Marcelo’. He really pushed us to change our tactical play as young players,” he says.
“He was the one who gave me my first full match in the league and I seized the opportunity to cement my position in the team,” explains Ouma, who elbowed Abouba Sibomana from the position.
With less than a year of play in the league, the then Technical University of Kenya student had earned a place in the national team Harambee Stars.
“The call to Harambee Stars came as no surprise as I had put in a lot of work to become the best in my position at the club. However, it was humbling whenever I donned the national team jersey,” he adds.
His move from Gor to Georgian side FC Kolkheti was negotiated by a Belgian agent who spotted him in a Harambee Stars friendly match against Sudan in May 2016.
“The Georgian league is extremely competitive and I had to adapt fast. The football there is speedy and players are technically gifted having gone through the academy system in to the premier teams. Their facilities are also top notch,” he says.
Adding that, “It was a real culture shock for me. Getting used to the food and the weather was hard. I had to stay out for three weeks recovering.”
The highlight of his stay in Georgia was being recognized as one of the best players in the league. He admits that he is a better player now after one year with the Georgian side.
“I had good times with the team. However I had to leave when the club decided to take me to Iran for money reasons. I wanted to stay in Europe. The league I was being sent to is good but for my age it would have been a wrong move,” he explains.
Reunion with Ze Maria
“I made contact with former coach Ze Maria since I knew he would help me find a club in Europe and that’s how my three year deal with Albania came to be. I am really excited about it although I have to wait until June,” Ouma says.
The 21-year-old will be joining his next home for six months, KS Kastrioti Kruje, next week, with his mind set on playing for the top flight European teams.