American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said that "If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary."
The adage seems true in the life of Johana Omolo, a 32-year-old player whose story embodies the proverbial rags to riches phrase.
Growing up in the streets of Dandora, Omolo did not one day envision that he would rub shoulders with some of the elite players in the world as well as earn a whopping Ksh4 million a month salary.Kenyan midfielder Johana Omolo during a past match in 2017sportsnews.africa
How did it all happen for the talented footballer?
"Professional footballers are not supposed to come from Dandora. Nobody is supposed to come from Dandora" were the words that Omolo heard growing up in the slum.
The walkways, bursting with filth and dirt to crowded shanty houses, living in Dandora was not a bed of roses for him as he grew up.
"When I was a kid, Dandora was controlled by one gang. They tried to run the community, telling people what to do. They were real bullies.
"But then at some point another gang challenged the status quo. And this new gang … whoa. It was so big and organised," Omolo recalled during a past interview.
His parents struggled to make ends meet as his mother was a hairdresser and his father, a retired brigade officer. According to Omolo, football would be his lifeline away from all the chaos and hardships caused by the streets.
"When I was growing up we could play football without worrying about our safety. It was just for fun, a distraction from our troubles. We’d play barefoot on gravel, with balls made out of plastic bags. When we got an actual football, it was like Christmas!
" On weekends, we’d play organised games against other neighbourhoods, and the whole community would be there cheering. Sometimes the prize would be free milk," he stated.
Whenever Kenya would play, Omolo and his friends would trek five Kilometres to the stadium in Kasarani to watch Kenyan players in action- with a dream that one day he would become a professional footballer.
By the age of 13, he had earned a chance to go for Mathare Youth Sports Association trials but his mother, who was skeptical about football as a career, denied him the opportunity.
The coach who had invited Omolo to join the trials also tried to convince his mother to no avail. However, his breakthrough came two years later when his mother finally allowed him to go for the MYSA trials.
Omolo seized the chance and was selected to head to Norway to play in tournaments. After two months in Norway, he got spotted by an agent who approached him with a contract to play for a third-division team in Liège- he accepted.
Ever since, Omolo has played for major clubs such as Visé, Fola Esch, Beerschot, Lommel United and Antwerp, as well as Belgian top side Germinal Beerschot.
In January 2021, he signed for Turkish side BB Erzurumspor but left six months later after the team’s relegation from the top-flight. In August 2021, he jumped ship to Turkish side Kocaelispor where he bagged a lucrative 31,000 Euros (Ksh4 million) a month deal.Harambee Stars players celebrate during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 14, 2018.Daily Nation
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