Profile of Mike Okoth Origi

Mike Okoth Origi has the distinction of being the first Kenyan ever to play professional football in Europe. He was a true trailblazer. It comes as no surprise therefore that his son Divock Origi is poised to become the first person of Kenyan descent to play in the world cup.

The Origis, a footballing Family

Born on November 16, 1967, Mike Okoth comes from a family with immense football pedigree. His elder brother Austin Oduor Origi was the skipper of the Kenya national team in the mid to late 1980s and captained Gor Mahia FC during the same period. Another brother Anthony Origi also played in the Kenya national league for Mumias Sugar and Kenya Breweries in the 1980s. His younger brother Gerald Origi was also a national team stalwart during the early to mid 1990s.  The second generation of Origis includes current Kenya national team goalkeeper Arnold Origi who as of 2014, plays in the Norwegian top tier for Lillestroem. Then there is Divock Origi, the Belgian international striker who as of 2014 plays in the French Ligue 1 for Lille.

Mike Okoth at Shabana and Iterio

Mike Okoth’s his footballing career first took off while he was attending Iterio secondary school in Kisii. During this period, Iterio boasted a number of star players who were already playing in the national league for Shabana FC while still in secondary school. Among the players Okoth played with at Iterio were Henry Nyandoro and Henry Motego, both of whom would later play for the national team. Interestingly enough, Okoth played as a goalkeeper during this period. With Motego leading the strike force and Okoth in goal, Iterio reached the national schools final in 1986 then went on to win the national title in 1987.

Mike Okoth at Kenya Breweries

Upon leaving Iterio, Okoth continued his career as goalkeeper for Shabana FC. In 1987 with him in goal, Shabana finished 3rd in the league. In 1988, Shabana played in the Africa champions cup. In the first round match against Kabwe Warriors, Shabana lost 4-1. It has been said that conceding those four goals is what made Okoth decide to quit goalkeeping and become a striker. Shockingly, his switch from goalkeeper to striker was an unprecedented success as he immediately became one of the top scorers in the league. His goalscoring exploits attracted top side Kenya Breweries FC (now known as Tusker FC). He joined them in 1989 and ended leading the league in scoring.

Mike Okoth called up to Harambee Stars

Mike Okoth’s first appearance for the national team came in 1989 when he played for “Kenya B” at the CECAFA senior challenge cup. Though Kenya B finished last in their group, Okoth was impressive enough to earn a call up to the national team that would play in the 1990 Africa cup of nations. However on this occasion, he would play second fiddle to established strikers like Henry Motego, Sammy Onyango and Peter Dawo.  By 1991 however, Okoth was now in the starting line-up of the national team. His first decisive moment for the national team came in the final qualifier for the 1992 Africa nations cup against Sudan. With the score at 1-1, Kenya were staring elimination on away goal’s rule as Sudan employed time-wasting tactics. With only seconds left, Okoth met a well timed cross from Sammy Onyango to head home the second goal that propelled Kenya to the 1992 Africa nations cup.


Mike Okoth top left with Harambee stars at the 1992 Africa Nations cup

Mike Okoth joins the professional ranks

During this period, there was a trend by the top Kenyan footballers to pursue professional football in Oman. Okoth was no different as he joined Al Boshar in Oman. His performance at the 1992 Africa nations cup was impressive enough that he attracted the attention of Belgian talent scouts. He would then join KV Oostende which was in the Belgian top tier at the time. He played for Oostende for 3 years.  His most memorable event while at KV Oostende came at the end of the 1994-95 season. Oostende were staring relegation and badly needed to beat arch rivals club Brugge in the last game of the season. KV Oostende won 3-2 with Mike Okoth scoring the decisive 3rd goal. It is for this reason that he will always be remembered by fans of that team.

 

Mike Okoth at RCD Genk

In 1996, after having spent a season playing in the second tier with Oostende who had been relegated, Okoth returned to the Belgian top tier when he was signed by Genk. His biggest successes at club level came at Genk. In 1998 Genk won the Belgian league and in 2000, they won the Belgian cup beating Standard Liege 4-1 in the final. He would stay at Genk until 2001 when he joined RWD Molenbeek.


Mike Okoth in the blue strip of Genk

1998 world cup qualifiers

In 1996, Mike Okoth was in the national team when the qualifications for the 1998 world cup started. He was part of the team that famously eliminated Algeria in the preliminary round by a score of 3-2 on aggregate. When German coach Reinhard Fabisch took over as national coach in 1997, Okoth and all the other senior players found themselves in the cold as Fabisch decided to overhaul the team and introduce a group of young players , many of whom were recent school leavers. They were known as the Fabisch boys. It was not until the 4th group game that Fabisch saw it fit to call up Mike Okoth, this despite the fact that he was then the only Kenyan playing professional football in Europe.

 

Mike Okoth closes his international career

Throughout the period of the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Okoth was the main striker for the Kenya national team. At the qualifiers for the 2002 Africa nations cup, Kenya beat Swaziland 5-3 on aggregate with two goals coming from Okoth. When Morocco arrived to play Kenya in the group stage, they identified Okoth as the man whom they would pay the most attention to. However Okoth was able to give Kenya an early 5th minute goal against the Moroccans before the visitors equalized in the 43rd minute.

 Mike Okoth winds down his club career

After playing for RWD Molenbeek for one season, Okoth joined Heusden Zolder in the Belgian second tier in 2003. He would play there for 2 seasons before joining KSK Tongeren in the Belgian 3rd tier in 2004. By now he was 37. He would end his career playing for Cobox in the Belgian provincial league from 2006 to 2007 whence he retired at age 40.

“Normal Mike”

While playing in Belgium, he earned the nickname “Normal Mike because he always had a calm demeanor, was gentleman football player, never complained, never protested and never engaged in rough play.

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One Response to Profile of Mike Okoth Origi

  1. sammy mugo says:

    you have such a great history on okoth. kindly send me a list of current professional kenyan players who are playing abroad.