How K’Ogalo legend missed lucrative 1978 pro deal in Saudi Arabia
Were it not for the bureaucracy by Kenya Football Federation (KFF) in the late 70s, former Luo Union and Gor Mahia international defender Swaleh Ochieng’ “Oswayo”(picture) would have landed a lucrative professional deal in Saudi Arabia.
It was in 1978 and coupled with tough Fifa rules then, the rare chance of Ochieng, one of Kenya’s best defenders of all times, to join paid ranks went up in smoke.
It was a kind of a cat and mouse game between Ochieng and KFF and in a bid to take his career to the next level, the indefatigable left full back played mischief when he was lured by scouts of a Saudi club behind the back of Kenya’s football governing body.
The development was soon after a series of friendlies which Harambee Stars was involved in Sauidi capital Riyadh where Ochieng, alongside Kenya Breweries stars Binzi Mwakolo and Mohammed Hamisi Magongo were a revelation for Kenya.
“I was in Harambee Stars squad that had toured Saudi Arabia for a series of friendly matches and the scouts there were impressed with my performance and subsequently invited me for trials together with Binzi and Magogo,” Ochieng told Peope Sport in Nairobi on Monday.
It was, however, paradoxical that while Binzi and Magogo were secretly released by Breweries to attend the trials, which were unsuccessful, Luo Union would hear none of it in regards to Ochieng’s case for fear of repercussions by KFF.
The bone of contention by the federation was that Ochieng’ was heading to a foreign land at the expense of club and national team duties.
Before then, KFF had got wind of Ochieng’s great interest from the foreign scouts but the player was crafty enough to deny this and was given a clean bill of health through a letter signed by then KFF national chairman Clement Gachanja.
“I had to deny the claims to save my local football career otherwise what I was eyeing was a professional stint in the Middle East. In fact, I had been told by the scouts that I was good enough not even to attend the trials,” said Ochieng’.
Ochieng’ had no option but to stick to local action and his career continued blossoming after he joined Gor Mahia from Luo Union in 1984.
He was also the defence stalwart at Harambee Stars, then under coach Marshall Mulwa, who won the Senior Challenge Cup Championships three times in a trot, 1981-1983.