The Harambee Star explained why he had to start his career in North America rather than Europe after a failed assignment in South Africa
Kenya and KAA Gent defender Joseph Okumu has revealed he opted to relaunch his career with United States of America semi-professional team AFC Ann Arbor to avoid the pressure of high profile competition level.
After joining former Premier Soccer League side Free State Stars in the 2016/17 season, former Chemelil Sugar centre-back was dropped at the end of the campaign.
He returned to Kenya despondent, pondering his next move, something that took him about a year.
The defender then moved on to the Real Monarchs as he continued to regain his footing.
“It didn’t look good but it was the best thing to do. I had lost interest in football and if I went to a top or demanding team I could either crumble, either go back to the [required] level. And if I don’t catch up right away, I go to the trash,” Okumu told the Nation.
“I chose to go to the United States because it’s a place where I would play without pressure. The level was a bit low but I was playing every week. I had playing time, I was having fun and I regained my confidence. I fell in love with football again.”
After impressing at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, there were several offers for the imposing defender but he opted to join Swedish side Elfsborg, who then signed him for Ksh. 23 million.
“When I made the decision to start playing again, I had already made the choice to have the mentality, the courage and the confidence to play football, so when the offer came I wanted to give it a shot. my chance and go compete,” Okumu continued.
“There was a lot of interest but Elfsborg was the first to make an offer. It made my decision easier.”
He was a constant performer in his new home and established himself as one of the key players. Suitors came in droves but he opted to go to Belgian club Ghent, who paid Ksh427m for his services.
“There was a lot of interest and teams put in offers, it dragged on until the last day when I signed for Ghent,” the Harambee Star added.
“Every team was competing, but my coaches and I were looking at the big picture, not just the numbers. A lot of things had to be taken into account, like playing time and development.
“If I had gone to France, I would have had a higher salary but I would not have had the chance to play in the European competitions offered by Ghent.”
Rumors have emerged that Europe’s top sides Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund are watching him. Okumu commented on the question.
“I don’t want to move just to move, it depends on the project. I want to progress, develop and grow as much as possible,” he concluded.
“Finances matter, but it’s not just about finances. I have to have playing time and the environment has to be conducive.”