John Olande has already achieved what most players his age can only dream of.
At the tender age of 16, Olande was a member of Kenya’s team that travelled to South Africa for last year’s Copa Coca-Cola African Championship and also had an opportunity to watch two Fifa World Cup matches.
“South Africa was a good experience for me.
The Copa tournament was well organised and it helped me to improve as a player,” says the Form Three student at Kisumu Boys High School.
Olande’s exploits continued last weekend during the Kisumu County Copa finals in which he scored two goals on the day.
His deft touches and mesmerising ball control left his markers chasing vapour trails across the Kisumu Polytechnic pitch and helped his team to qualify for the provincials after 3-0 and 1-0 victories over Kisumu Day and Shauri Moyo, respectively.
Argentina, Barca superstar
The player, who has been christened “Black Messi” by his peers, was also part of the Thika United squad that won the inaugural Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Under-19 tournament in April after beating Sony Sugar 1-0.
The nickname is not surprising going by Olande’s diminutive and stocky frame that is similar to that of the two-time Fifa player of the Year Lionel Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona superstar.
“I got the name because people say my game is similar to his (Messi’s),” enthuses Olande, who was also voted the best Copa midfielder last season.
“Messi is definitely a player I look up to and model my style around. I’m also a big fan of Xavi (Hernandez) and Rooney (Wayne).”
Olande’s profile grew two-fold this year following Thika’s U-19 success.
“We are very proud of Olande because of the things he has achieved so far,” says Kisumu Boys coach Dan Otieno. “Playing at Thika has made him a better player. As of now, he’s the only player in our team who earns a salary.
“I’ve also had several KPL clubs calling me with the intention of signing him.”
Playing in Europe
Olande is relishing his time at Thika. He is confident of earning a place in the first team and making his mark in the KPL although his ultimate aim is to play for a European club.
“I enjoy playing for Thika United during my school holidays,” says Olande. “Earning a salary makes it even better.
“I look forward to playing in the KPL because it’s a very exciting league. I also hope to play for a team in Europe.”
In the short term, however, ending the Copa campaign at the top of the pack with his team is Olande’s main priority and with the
national finals taking place in Kisumu, he believes the season will culminate in his team’s favour.
“There’s no pressure on us since we are playing at home,” he says.
“We will be counting on home support to help us win the trophy.”