He has established himself as a fan favourite at the club after becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.
When Harambee Stars forward Jesse Were joined Zesco United in 2016, becoming the all-time leading goalscorer for the Zambian club was not among his priorities.
For someone who had never played in a foreign league before, such a feat seemed far-fetched.
However, Were has gone on to defy the odds, scoring 94 goals for the Ndola-based team in all competitions and effectively becoming the club’s all-time top goalscorer.
He has found the back of the net 14 times in the 2019-20 Zambia Super League which was suspended indefinitely in March due to the coronavirus.
The 31-year-old striker, who played for Mathare United and Tusker before crossing borders, credits youth coach Glyde Aswani with his development.
“He (Aswani) has made me from scratch having coached me at under-12 and under-14 categories. He instilled a good mentality in our teams by letting us know that we should always play to win,” Were said.
“We always felt that he was putting us under pressure but he told us one day it would pay off. Aswani is like a brother and father figure to me. He has never lost hope in me,” said Were.
Growing up in the football-mad Kibera slums in Nairobi, Were suffered several setbacks during his formative years.
He once contemplated quitting the game after failing trials at Kenyan Premier League (KPL) side KCB in 2011 but Aswani’s intervention forced him to make a U-turn.
“The trials took one week and he (Were) was rejected on the final day. He told me that he wanted to quit football and pursue his studies abroad but I told him not to lose hope,” Aswani said.
Following that disappointment, the Emusire High School alumnus joined Kibera Black Stars after which he finally made the KPL breakthrough by signing for Mathare United.
Were’s prolific nature at club level has not caught Aswani by surprise with the coach saying he expected him to do well.
“He is a complete goal poacher and I knew he would perfom well. He is hard-working and disciplined. That’s why he remained committed unlike some of his peers who turned to crime and ended up losing their lives,” said Aswani.
Aswani handled Were at Soccer Talented FC which was previously known as Olympic Talented.
While he has been scoring for fun at his club, Were, who won the 2015 KPL Golden Boot with 22 goals, has failed to replicate the same form in national colours.
“At club level, you play week in, week out unlike the national team where there is only one or two games. There is no much time to rectify your mistakes but that’s how football is. You can’t be a hundred percent all the time,” Were said.