Blow to Harambee Stars' Otieno in his comeback bid
Harambee Stars defender Philemon Otieno during an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ghana match at Kasarani in 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Injuries in sports occur in varied magnitude and they often bring some physical and mental burden to the affected. 

For Gor Mahia defender Philemon Otieno, staying on the sidelines with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury for more than eight months is not something he was prepared for. 

Not many can welcome the idea of being separated from what they enjoy doing for such a long period. 

“This is the longest time I have been out of action due to injury. I have always been absent for a few weeks but this injury was quite serious and I had to accept what had happened,” Otieno said. 

The Mathare Youth Sports Association graduate tore the ACL on his right knee in August last year while playing for the national team Harambee Stars in a 2020 Africa Nations Championship(CHAN) qualifier against Tanzania at the Kasarani stadium. He has not kicked a ball since then. 

Otieno, who underwent surgery in 2019, was on course to making a comeback to K’Ogalo in March only for the coronavirus pandemic to bring sports activities in the country to a grinding halt. 

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The indefinite suspension of the 2019-2020 Kenyan Premier League season meant that the right back would be forced to wait longer for his much awaited return.

“The absence of football has affected me a lot but it is also a blessing since I can now fully concentrate on regaining fitness without the pressure of competition,” he says. 

“It is not a good period for footballers because this is our job. We have no option but to learn how to cope with the situation.” 

Otieno, just like other athletes, has been training from home as he takes advantage of the break to work towards his recovery. 

“I see the physiotherapist once or twice a week depending on his schedule. I am training well and I will be ready when football returns,” he says.

Otieno previously played for National Super League side Ushuru as well as the now defunct Mahakama FC. 

Earlier this year, the 27-year-old extended his Gor Mahia contract for two more years, a decision he says was informed by his injury setback. 

“I received offers from local as well as international clubs but I felt I was not ready to make the move due to my injury. That’s why I decided to remain at Gor Mahia since they know my potential and they would allow me to recover fully without putting up a lot of demands. 

“I felt that it would be difficult for people elsewhere to understand my situation and that’s why I decided that I will spend two more years at Gor,” he adds. 

Otieno is now keen on coming back stronger from the injury layoff that threatened to ruin his career.

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