Photo credit: Mathare United
He is a silent and trusted general and does the business on the pitch with unmatched commitment. His experience and contribution to Kenyan football is certainly miles ahead from majority of his teammates.Although he maintains the status of a household name in Kenyan football, he continues silently with what he loves most- defending. Kenyanstar met Mathare United’s defensive rock, George ‘Wise’ Owino, and here is his story.
Kenyanstar: Kindly tell us about your football journey so far. Where did it start to today?
George Owino: My football journey started way back as a young kid playing in the estate, in Bata Limuru to be precise. I used to be a ball boy when Bata Bullets was playing and normally after the match we could borrow a ball then start playing. From there I developed an interest in football .
After completing my secondary education, I joined Kenya Pipeline in 1999 for a year as we played in the NSL league and later joined Homegrown in Naivasha.
I spent six months at Homegrown and moved to Securicor in Nairobi in 2001 for 6 months a before signing for Tusker in December 2001.I played at Tusker till 2005 then moved to Simba Sports in Tanzania.
In 2005 that I got my first national team call-up under Mohammed Kheri and got my first cap against Guinea in Conakry.
I won the title with Simba that year and decided to have some change. In mid 2006 I moved to Ethiopia for six months. In returned to Tanzania in 2007 joining Yanga and played them for two years during which we won one title.
In 2008 I had a good time at the national team since we were able to attain position 68 in the FIFA rankings. Well, I thank God for having been in this industry for that long especially as a player.
KS: You have been in this business for so long, what has kept you at the top and in form?
GO: I think discipline on and off the pitch is what has kept me going stronger in this business.
KS: You once suffered a nasty knee injury. A good number of players I have interviewed have failed to come back after such injuries. How different was your case? How different was the injury handled?
GO: It was the worst moment in my career and I was certain that it was the end of my career. I was treated by the renowned Dr Mutiso who gave me professional attention and things got better. I also thank God for healing me.
KS: Are you comfortable with where you are today and what you have achieved?
GO: I am happy where I am, but will be happier if I lift the Kenya Premier League title.
KS: Germany ; You were recommended by Antoine Hey. How influential was Hey in your move to Fortuna Dusseldorf. How was it playing there?
GO: I thank coach Antoine Hey for having taken me to German though I never signed there because I still had a contract with Yanga and both clubs could not agree. So I returned to Yanga.
KS: You played for two of Tanzania’s biggest clubs - Yanga and Simba. What was the experience like? Which one did you love the most?
GO: In Tanzania, playing for both Simba and Yanga was a great experience, although the Simba fans were not happy with my move to Yanga. They eventually accepted the reality as I was only doing my job as a player.
KS: You made a switch between two clubs that have so much rivalry. What necessitated this move?
GO: Playing in Tanzania was such a fun experience because the fans are passionate about their teams and games. The pitches were filled every time we were playing or training.
KS: Most Kenyans have claimed that one reason they don't excel in Tanzania is because of witchcraft. Did you encounter this?
GO: Yes there is witchcraft, but it all depends with what you believe in. I never believed in black magic, and that is why I played longer and did well.
KS: You were a regular face at the national team. Tell us about your time there…
GO: At the national team I enjoyed every moment despite not qualifying for a major tournament.
KS: Mathare- When you signed for Mathare, you said on Facebook that you were now looking to end your career. However, you are now the captain. How’s the Mathare experience?
GO: Life in Mathare has been a good. I thank coach Stanley Okumbi and William Muluya who had faith in me despite the age and injury history and signed me. I hope we fight harder this year and win a title or two.
KS: Are we seeing you off the pitch any time soon?
GO: (Surprised)Retiring soon? No. I don't think so. My role model Musa Otieno played until when he was 37 years. I am praying that I play past that age.
KS: Any closing remarks?
GO: I just want to thank God for the talent, because with these talent I have been able to travel worldwide and meet new friends. I also am able to pay my bills and leave a decent life with my family.