A terrific dribbler with an eye for goal. His skills and potential on the pitch have always left fans ecstatic. His dazzling runs and fantastic crosses have raised his profile in the local scene. He slowly grew through the ranks both at club and national level. He recently added to the statistics of players who have made the bold move from AFC Leopards to bitter rivals Gor Mahia where he penned a long term contract.
Besides the magic on the pitch, critics have continually accused him of laziness and being a party animal. Is he? Kenyanstar sat with John ‘Softie’ Ndirangu and here is his story.
Kenyanstar: Thank you for your time. Tell us about your football journey so far.
John Ndirangu: I started playing competitive football at Nakuru AllStars when I was in form 2, by then the club was in playing in Nationwide League. I was with them all along, even when they got promoted in 2014 to the Kenya Premier League. As a footballer, I have faced both difficult and easy times.
KS: Where did this nickname Softie come from?
JN: I rarely talk too much, and people say my face is soft. So, Softie.
KS: Please tell us about your time at Nakuru AllStars.
JN: It was a bit hard for me since there were the demands on the pitch and at the same time I was schooling. I had to carefully plan my time. However, sometimes it was difficult for me because I had to leave school for training and when I got back to class I was so tired and couldn't focus fully.
KS: You made a name for yourself while you were at Allstars. Tell us about your time playing there and your relationship with the players, coach, management etc.
JN: First, I would like to thank Robert Muthomi. He took me as his son, he took care of me,he used to advise me and managed me well. I also thank everyone who coached me. During my time there, I learnt something from all coaches and this made me grow to who I am today. My teammates were also supportive, as football is a team sport and you support each other.
KS: You would later join Bandari. However, you never stayed there for long...
JN: I would not wish to discuss about my time at Bandari. It was very difficult for me.
KS: What exactly affected you?
JN: Lack of play time.
KS: Well, you at one point joined Kariobangi Sharks. What necessitated the move?
JN: After Bandari I went back to Nakuru Allstars to get my form back. However, at the end of the season the team got relegated and so we agreed with Robert Muthomi, the CEO, that since I had already made my name and was still young, it wasn't proper to play in the lower tier. Therefore I joined Kariobangi Sharks. We agreed with President Nick Mwendwa that if the team won't get promoted to the top league he releases me and that's what happened when I joined AFC Leopards.
KS: Leopards - You joined the club, lots of expectations, but left. Kindly tell us about your time at Leopards.
JN: I enjoyed my time at Leopards and would like to thank the management and coaches. They believed in me and I wish them all the the best. In December, I was asked by Leopards to look for a suitable club where I would go on loan and I felt it was not good for me. Therefore I asked them to just release me instead. As a team last season we were unlucky not to do well and meet the expectations but I personally think that I played my part and was very surprised when they suggested a loan move for me in the transfer window.
KS: You have some serious football skills. Very good running, very good dribbles. What's the tactical secret for you?
JN: Apart from talent in me I do watch skillful players like Neymar, Ronaldinho and Cristiano and try apply what I see on the pitch. Besides, I also work very hard.
KS: Harambee Stars: You have grown from U-23 to the senior team. Tell us about your time and experience so far at Stars
JN: Each and every coach has his style of coaching and the kind of players he wants. I think during Bob Williamson's time I was called several times to the national team. He liked my dribbling skills and speed and he would tell me to just do that in the pitch, since that is what made him like me and give me a call up.
KS: We haven't seen you at the national team in recent days. Why?
JN: As I have said each and every coach has his style of coaching and kind of players he wants. However, while at AFC Leopards I earned a call up.
KS: You made what many call a 'daring move' by switching from Leopards to Gor. Do you feel it was a daring move or just any other normal transfer?
JN: I believe if you have talent and you work hard everything is possible. Talent can never be hidden. Kama unajua unajua. For me I see it as a normal move. My time will come and I'll shine.
KS: Gor Mahia - How is life there. What are your targets/goals?
JN: I am enjoying life at Gor. They do things professionally and think that's what differentiates Gor with other clubs. My target is to play as many games and help the team lift the title and in future I go to Europe.
KS: You have been accused of the following: Missing training at times intentionally, partying a little too much and alcoholism. Your response?
JN: In life you must have friends and enemies and for you to make in life you must have enemies. All these stories came up when I was at Leopards. When Ivan Minnaert left a Luhya coach took over and he only wanted Luhya players. Therefore, Ian otieno and I decided to stay at home because no matter how hard we worked in training, we weren't being considered. On the issue of alcohol, I even cannot tell how it tastes. Yes, I used to go to clubs and watch football while drinking Delmonte juice.
KS: Any closing words?
JN: I just want to thank God for the gift of life and talent. I also want to tell my fans that they should not lose hope in me. I know they believe in me and I won't fail them.
KS: Thanks for your time Softie!