Joseph Okumu: The Meteoric Rise Of Kenya’s Current Most Valuable Footballer

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Joseph Okumu's rise has been meteoric [Photo|KAA Gent]

According to the African football data centre, Egyptian forward, Mohamed Salah is the only African footballer valued above $100 million and any club seeking to sign him will have to part with an estimated $115 million.

KAA Gent centre-back Joseph Okumu is the current most valuable Kenyan footballer. Statistics as at 1st April, 2022 indicate that Okumu is currently valued at approximately $4.6 million (Ksh 540 million), placing him at position 212 on the African continent. Second to him is his former classmate and left back Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma who plays for Swedish club AIK and is valued $2.2 million. Ouma is ranked position 329 in the African continent.

This article will feature the profile of Joseph Stanley Okumu who has been outstanding in the recent years.

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Background 

The 25 year old towering defender was born in May, 1997. According to him, he has taken after his father who was also a defender and sometimes advises him on various defensive techniques.

Okumu was raised in the western part of Kenya. He studied at Kakamega High School, a renowned football powerhouse which nurtured his football talent. However, Okumu only got a chance to play for the Green Commandos as they are nicknamed while in form 3 and form 4. He completed his secondary school education in 2015.

Career 

Immediately after high school, Okumu joined his home club Chemelil Sugar. After a short stint, he was signed by Free States Stars plying in the South African league. However, his stay there wasn’t an easy ride as the team frequently changed coaches and after one season wanted to loan him to a lower tier side.

Okumu was against the move and decided to part ways with the club. Despite various offers, he resolved to stay away from football for a while before he got an offer in the US.

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I wasn’t comfortable going on loan to a lower division side. I decided to take a break for almost 8 months before I went to the US,” he said in a past interview.

While in the US, Okumu played for AFC Ann Arbor and Real Monarchs. In 2019, he earned a call up to the national side ahead of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament where he was pessimistic of being selected to the final squad.

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Okumu knew that there were other experienced players who were likely to be picked. An injury to one of the defenders earned him a chance to play against Madagascar in a friendly. In another match against DRC, Okumu also showed his prowess and the technical bench picked him to play in the 2019 AFCON tournament.

I played against Congo and I think I did well. That is how I won my place to play in the AFCON,” he recalls.

Even though Harambee Stars performed dismally and were eliminated at the group stage, Okumu details that the contest propelled him to the eyes of football scouts.

Sweden League 

Okumu joined Swedish top tier side IF Elfsborg in August 2019. Even though he was faced with language barrier, he remained determined in honing his skills. It is during his Swedish stay that European top giants like Rangers and Celtic toyed with the idea of signing him.

KAA Gent 

Belgian giants KAA Gent signed Joseph Okumu in June 2021. In his first season, Okumu has been outstanding and helped the team win the Belgian Cup by beating Anderlecht in post match penalties.

However, the club finished 5th in the Belgian league having accumulated 62 points in 34 games. During the season, Okumu scored one goal for the club.

Racism Spit 

In May 2022, a white woman was captured on camera spitting at Okumu during an away match against KV Mechelen. The matter led to a public uproar with the home side taking responsibility and saying they were going to bring the woman to book.

Let’s be clear, this has no place in our stadium, in any football stadium. We provided the footage to our security team. Appropriate follow-up will be given,” said KV Mechelen in a statement.

Current Salary 

According to salary sport, Okumu earns a weekly salary of £2100 (Ksh 1.2 million monthly) which translates to around Ksh 14 million yearly.

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