Steve Odhiambo is a go-getter. A man who punches above his weight. He had to quit football because of featuring for a third-string school team to go play rugby for one of the best performing rugby schools in Western Kenya, St. Mary’s Yala.
Odhiambo who currently plays for Nondies started his rugby journey in form two. It was after trying his luck in football but saw no need of featuring in the third-string school football team. He would then join rugby at least to get a chance to represent his school.
“I joined the game while in St.Mary’s Yala in my second year,” Odhiambo told the scrummage.
“The late Tim Okullu was my coach. I got encouraged to join it by my peers. Initially, I was a footballer but going to football was not making any sense because of playing in the second or third team.”
After high school, Steve played for Kisii because it was close to their home. Featured for Kisii in the 2013 Dala 7s before getting an admission letter to join Kenyatta University, with his former school mates already at Blad, he knew he had found a new home far away from home.
“I moved to Blad because most of the guys we were with at St. Mary’s Yala were in Blak Blad. The likes of Trevor Ayombe, Paul Mugalo encouraged me to join the team since I was joining Kenyatta University,” Odhiambo added.
Just from featuring for a nationwide side to a Kenya Cup side was a transition that Odhiambo’s body had to pay for it. He says he had to come up against big guys with a wide range of skills.
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That forced him to go to the gym, piled up some muscles and readied for the task ahead. His hard work enabled him to pull on the maroon, gold and black colours of Blak Blad Rugby while still a freshman.
“Club rugby was difficult. I had to face off with players of different body sizes and skills. You have to fight for your position knowing that you are a junior. You have to be fit, go to the gym and so it came with many challenges. It was tough but playing Kenya Cup in my first year was a big achievement I didn’t expect. “
“I would say, Blad, made me the player I am today. It gave a platform to express my skills and learn more. Starting in 2013 was not easy. A number of times I felt like there is no need for playing but I had to find a way to motivate myself. The experience that I got at the club was totally different. I came to the club as a normal player, got a chance to play Kenya Cup, and later got into leadership positions, that gave me a greater experience.”
The Kenyatta University outfit got promoted to Kenya Cup in 2012/2013 season and its the only varsity side in Kenya Cup currently. In the last few seasons, Blad have engaged in a relegation dogfight but at the end of it all, they survive.
When it matters most, they always show up to the party wholeheartedly. In 2016, they were forced to dig deep to see off Western Bulls 7-5 to escape relegation. In 2019, they had to leave it late to beat Strathmore 24-0 in what was the last game of the season to survive being relegated to Championship.
Those are some of the incidents Blad were forced to put the performance of their lives. Odhiambo had to share some insights of what goes on in KU’s camp during those difficult times.
“The tactic is isolation of a number of teams and we make sure we do it. It is a bit of hard work and resilience that has put Blad there. The people who took Blad to Kenya Cup constantly reminded us of how many years it took them to be there. They ensured that we kept in mind that we are not going down whatsoever,” the former Kenyatta University back-rower added.
The potential Odhiambo was showing while with Blak Blad made him attract the interests of some of the good Kenya Cup teams. Many requested for his services but he only settled for one, the Red Lions, a club that most of his peers back in Campus are currently playing for. The likes of Moses Begi, Mark Ongayo and others.
“We had an engagement since I was in third year. So having talked to the management and how Nondies builds an individual into a holistic person made me chose them though I had other offers.”
Odhiambo’s debut season for Nondies was awesome. It is the season that they defeated KCB in the first game and went on to finish just below the playoff bracket.
“Getting to a new club you have to know that there is another person who needed that opportunity so you have to work hard in that position. I believe I worked hard, focused on team’s and personal targets and that made me a better player,” Odhiambo commented on his first season at Nondies.
Odhiambo, the man who prides himself of beating Maseno School anytime they met back in the days, is taking it slow on matters national team call up. He says he has a dream but an opportunity has not yet knocked.
“My focus is to win the Kenya Cup and make my club successful in each league and tournament they play in. The dream of getting the Kenya team call up is there but the opportunity has not yet come. But that is not my main focus, what makes you earn a call up is what you do for your club,” the 2017 KUSA Champion said.
He concludes by urging youngster in the game that: “Rugby is about hard work and resilience. You have to compose yourself and work towards your targets. I don’t believe much in talent but hard work makes each and every player better. If Kenya Cup is your target, you have to focus and work for it. Above all, you have to be disciplined,” he concluded.