This is the man who played for AFC Leopards, Played for Gor Mahia and played for Harambee Stars. He won titles with the 2biggest teams in the country. Just like that, a sterling career.
When we finally sit down to pen the story of Kenyans who have stood between the poles for the national team, we more likely will write of their exploits between the poles and go beyond that simple fact and write about their exploits beyond the pitch. But today we are not doing that story.
We shall pen a story about how some of Kenya’s great shot stoppers went out of their way to apologize to their wives on national news paper; we shall again pen stories of how some of them were beaten up with the very same fans they once entertained. But all in all this stories shall be written either way. But this story we are writing is exclusively about their exploits in the pitch.
Matthew Ottamax Owino, he who found himself in between the poles by accident, just as many other shot stoppers out there, went ahead to become one of the best goalkeepers to ever grace our pitch and adorn our national team jersey. A goal keeper so good, so sophisticated and so proud that they called him goalkeeper wa stadi simply put ‘Goli wa Stadi’ no one ever come close to touching his pride, his glory and his side shows in between the poles. This is his story.
In 1974, the family of Janes Otama Nyaminde was gifted with a baby boy, Ottamax, he was born in Nairobi. He proceeding to Eastleigh Airport Primary school and went ahead to Kangaru school for his secondary school education. Google those who have gone through Kangaru School and you will know the weight behind that name. For this, is not a story about schools.
In 1991, while still in high school, Ottamax, got his first call up to the national team, Harambee Stars, through Mohamed Kheri. His football career begun within Eastleigh community where Mathare Sports Association has her roots, his first tournament comes in 1988 in Kenya Youth Tournament where he emerged the best goal keeper. Here players such as Ken Odhiambo, The late John Magwe, Sebastain Mungai ‘Sebo’, Abdi Kadis, Maurice Wambua, Evans Nyambaru, Ezekiel Akwana, Asthman Ngaiwa, Alfred Chege among others, comes alive.
When Ottamax left school, he was already a big name, having already been called in the national team. In 1990 Otamax with the Mathare squad traveled to Norway for the Norway cup tournament, this was just the beginning of his sterling career. If it was sterling at all, he made a quick stop at Undugu sports FC where he played with the likes of the late Davis Oyiela, Jared Ochieng Achieng and his elder brother Martin Otama.
After going through Mathare, his first major Club was Re Union, where Peter Kenneth was the chairman then. Here he was in the company of fellow goalkeepers Mohamud Abbas and Charles Bushira, some of the greatest goalkeepers to ever stand between the two poles. His first break in the team comes when the senior players had gone on a strike. He was taken from school to go and play, against Bata Bullets and AFC Leopards the next day. Among the young players who made their debut on this day in the league included Martin Musisi former AFC Leopards and Alfred Kirago, former Tusker.
It was not the best of his performance and 3 goals went past him against Bata Bullets, and the next day another 3 goals caped his first weekend in the league, a total of 6goals in one weekend of a debut. And for the rest of the season, Ottamax never saw the jersey again.
Ottamax was to gain his Jersey the following season, of 1992. After great performance during the pre season, they played, KTM from Thika and Yanga of Tanzania. Yanga even wanted to sign him at some point, school stopped that move. After 4seasons at Re Union, between 1991 through 1995, he left and he landed at Gor Mahia. Here he was up against, the late Joseph Asembo, Michael Kisagi and Tobias Mahira, and in the company of Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno, Daniel Shikanda, Charles Ogutu, Paul Ochieng, the late Joseph Owino, the late Steve Odiaga, John Odhiambo ‘Baresi’, Josiah Ougo under the stewardship of Austin Oduor, they won the league that season.
After one season at Gor Mahia he left due to club politics, and player indiscipline. His next stop was AFC Leopards, this used to be one of the rarest moves a player could ever made during their times. The first person to ever make that switch was the Late John Okello Zangi, and Ottamax might have been the 2nd player to do the same. He was at AFC Leopards for 3 seasons before moving to Sports Club Villa in Uganda. He was in the last squad that won the league for AFC leopards in 1998, and also the team that won the East and Central in 1997, a cup they could not defend after a series of thrashing in Zanzibar.
For a man who was just walking by the pitch and was summoned to place his slippers to act as goal posts and stick in between them to stop the ball and look after his possessions, Ottamax had come along way, and he was now ready to go beyond the borders to ply his trade. It was an accident. This is that story.
In 1999 he landed in Kampala, the reception was not good; the Kenya Uganda football rivalry was at its peak. The late Coach Paul Asule was not ready to recognize Kenyan players as he was not involved in signing the Kenyan players who included James Khaimba. For 3months they never got to the field of play in Uganda. Here Ottamax was against former Shabana Goalkeeper Ramdhani Elengesa.
His break comes when they were to face their greatest rivals, it was a team that Sports Club Villa always lost to. On this day, they were up against Simba FC, a military side. Ottamax was named in between the poles; this to him was a trap so that fans could loose confidence in him. And for the first time Villa won the match 1 nil and Ottamax had done some amazing saves and the newspapers went berserk over him. Just like that Ottamax had picked the Jersey, and he owned it, from there on.
In 1996, in Algeria, he has a reason to remember this match. The game pressure was so high, and the Stars played an all defensive game. Stars had a 3 home advantage and they needed to defend that advantage. He says, within the first 15minutes he wanted to let the ball through and breath. He says he was tired, the pressure was too much as Algeria kept coming for him. He decided to talk to Captain Sammy Omollo. ‘pamzo’ that they needed to keep the ball. This was his first game.
Pamzo insisted that the game had to be pushed forward; this remains his greatest game of all time. He says he thrives under pressure. Many people would pass a blanket judgment on the man, and say his pride and indiscipline overshadowed his career, but he digress and says, that this was his way of getting into the game. He remembers how he intentionally kept this team to wait for him for 10minutes as he did nothing.
Another moment where he decided to pull a first one was on away duty for the Stars in Conakry Guinea, while everyone else was training for the upcoming game, Ottamax, Coach Reinhard Fabisch and Seif Mutie were playing basket ball. Apparently the Team manager had switched positions. Ottamax had been cancelled from the squad; the TM had said to the technical bench that Ottamax had claimed to be sick. Just like that, Ottamax was benched and Coach Fabisch had read some sabotage in Ottamax as earlier they had played some basket ball with the Coach, so he could not understand how he had fallen ill. This was just coming after Coach Vojo Gardasevic had been sent packing. Later on Ottamax was to learn that he was the one who was sabotaged.
Another highlight of his career was the Stars game against Djibouti, where Stars thrashed Djibouti 7 goals to 1. The contention here is the one goal that he left went through. I guess it should not be such a highlight in his career as Kenyans have kept talking about it. Maybe it was the way it went through, he tried to go past the strikers, he only did beat one striker but he could not go past the second striker. Who scored that goal.
Two games that are a signature in his career, The Stars game against Algeria and the Under 23 game against Nigeria. He says these are the games that built and destroyed him at the same time. His all time devil scorer, Evans Alemba the former Mumias player who he feared the most, and always punished him, somehow he managed to get his secret and finally stopped him. The man he could not stop was Elkana Swaka, Utalii Striker, every time he saw him; he knew there was a goal in the works. Joe Birgen was another of his fears.
Here is his all time first 11 at Harambee Stars.
Matthew Ottamax in between the poles, Francis Baraza, Francis Oduor ‘Kolo Kolo’, Sammy Omollo ‘pamzo’, Paul Ochieng ‘Kunde’, Allan Odhiambo ‘Ale’, Sammy Sholei, Tom Juma ‘gaza’, Tony Luanga, Michael Okoth, Henry Motego and Tom Odhiambo. This was the Algeria squad.
At AFC Leopards
Matthew Ottamax in between the poles, Erick Bwabi, Francis Oduor, Wyclife Jumba, Paul Ochieng ‘Kunde’, Hassan Sisei, James Khaimba, Peter Kakonge, Omar Banza, John Magwe, Fred Ambani, and Boniface Ambani.
At Gor Mahia
Mathew Otamax, Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno, Joseph Owino Kindai ‘Helmet’, Paul Ochieng, Josiah Ougo ‘kaki’, the late Tom Ochieng ‘Malindi’, Dun Ogada ‘Dunga Masaro’, The late Tom Okaya ‘Mabele’, the late Steve Okumu ‘Jibe’, and the late Steve Odiaga.
This is the story of a man who played for the 2biggest clubs in the country, won a league title with each of them, this is the story of a man who played for the national team and left at his peak. Mathews Owino Ottamax, the current Gor Mahia goal keeper Trainer, the man who is in charge of the national team keeper training and one of Kenya’s wasted talent (sic). A career that did not live to see its potential or did it? He who played for the stars for three generations of players, this is a summary of Matthew Owino Ottamax’s story.