For the love of the game; lawyer with a case for football
Football is the most followed sport in the world and owning a club brings pride to any lover of the beautiful game but, as Ken Ochieng admits, being owner is as challenging as rewarding.
Ochieng is held in high esteem within the football circles in Kericho County where he owns the region’s first ever team to feature in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL).
The flashy lawyer is perhaps the KPL’s youngest club owner and has previously represented Football Kenya Federation (FKF) in legal suits at the Sports Disputes Tribunal.
His club Zoo Kericho FC began playing in the KPL in 2017 and have since never been relegated although their stay in the top flight has been anything but a storied affair.
A report last year highlighted Zoo as the only KPL team whose players are placed under no payroll, instead offered part time side jobs yet that fact has taken little shine off the club viewed as a rare piece of footballing pride by a community only known for its athletics excellence.
“Before 2009 we played for fun until I realized there was a big vacuum where the community can entertain themselves in a more competitive manner.
“I decided to register this club to the district league and we rose from there. We used to train twice week, played local friendlies with other neighboring teams from which we’d recruit players to join our team,” Ochieng said.
In a league with little financial reward, owning Zoo has meant Ochieng must dip into his own pocket to facilitate the running of the club despite occasional help from the Kericho County Government.
“There are always challenges that I face especially financial being the major one but for my love of the game I cannot abandon the project,” he said.
Despite often struggling in the league due to its inability to attract top stars and talent loss to bigger KPL teams, Zoo commands a huge fan-base and the lawyer tell us the secret to that.
“Most of these players come for the local community; they have their friends, families, colleagues,schoolmates and neighbours who come to cheer them. Even on a weekday the stands are always full because of the connection with the locals which is very humbling,” he added.
That fact is linked to a good recruitment plan led by him.
“I am personally involved in the recruitment process, apart from James Mazembe who I scouted at Kakamega High School now playing for Kariobangi Sharks I don’t go for my players in the big schools.
I attend School Games from the sub-county to the national level and I believe in giving everyone an opportunity to showcase their talents. At the moment we have Danson Kiprono who is only 19 and I scouted him at Chagaik Secondary School, it’s not about the name of the school is the talent the passion and the discipline that we want,” Ochieng said.
Asked about his vision for the club in the next five years Ken said:
“With the limited finances, all we depend on is the goodwill of the community and the good structures for our club we have an under 20 that is in division one, an Under 13 which you can see the ball boys around is all about structures and development of talent that will see us through,”Ochieng stated.
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