A lot has been said and written about Erick Titus Ouma 'Marcelo' who currently plays for a Swedish based side AIK.
For a young footballer who has achieved yet quite much at his age, must he have had perfect grooming at that tender age? Has he surpassed what those who knew him as a little boy expect of him? Many have written about him after he started to shine.
What about his football life before then? Was he shining? How has he come up through his developmental stages? Who was the first Coach to set his eyes on the then Titis? The man who bought him the first-ever football boots?
Football Made in Kibra we took the initiative to dig deep, beat all odds and bring to light how the then Titis was transformed to be the now celebrated star Marcelo. As it is for every footballer, there must be the first Coach to ever believe that you could make it.
And for 'Marcelo' this was brought to be through Coach Benjamin Kipruto. We feature him as he takes us through the developmental football life of the now Erick Titus Ouma 'Marcelo'. He is widely known as 'Marcelo'. Deep in the hoods at the tender age, he was, and still, those who grew up with him refer to him as 'Titis'.
His early childhood football came to light through Coach Benjamin Kipruto is well known as Kip who is the current Head Coach at Kibra United. We visited him and inside his house, the first impression is that of a sportsman. Lots of medals hanging on the wall and trophies in a good display. He is the Coach who first came into contact with 'titis'.
This dates back in 2005, on a Saturday afternoon as Coach Kip was doing rounds in Olympic, Kibra. He passes near the then Ceno grounds along the railway (now the ground is no more because of the erected buildings). He notices some boys playing football, a norm in the hoods.
"I noticed a boy who could dribble past the other boys with so much speed and in bare feet. I got so much impressed and this forced me to put halt to my walk" says Coach Kip whom by then was in charge of Future Stars Fc in Kibra. An under categories team.
He moved closer, called and talked to him. Titis then directed him to his Dad who had a stall in Makina. Little did Titis knew that his football life had just started seeing light. Coach Kip talked to the dad about his urge to nurture the boy into football.
The Dad was impressed with the approach and asked him to accompany him to their place in Soweto so as to engage more. By then Titis was only nine years old. After a lengthy talk, the dad agreed but laid conditions that Erick would only be allowed to go play after school and on weekends.
Coach Kip says this was okay since they only trained on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays after school. Weekends were slotted for friendly games and Tournaments. Titis then started training the next week on a Tuesday.
"I bought him his first soccer boots since he had none. After a two weeks training, I sorted for a 7 aside friendly game with Super Eagles Fc. We won 3-0 with Titis scoring a hattrick on his debut. His Dad was over the fence watching on that day. He got so impressed." Say Coach Kip with lots of smile on his face.
"I used to make follow-ups to my players up to their homes and this established a strong relationship between me, players and their parents." Coach Kip. "Titis displayed so much hard work from the first day in training. In the first two weeks, he had already adapted and anyone would think he had stayed for too long with us" he adds.
Coach Kip says Titis was already a good player but by then what he was only lacking was the direction. He had good speed and would dribble. So in training, what he majored on towards Titis was to do runs along the flank then deliver crosses (and this is his style of play until today).
Something funny is that Titis was naturally a right-footed player. The Coach says he began playing him on the left side because it was the team’s weak point and on the right, he had a good player also. Here is where Titis started developing the ability to use the left foot.
In this year, Future Stars Fc registered for the Carolina For Kibera(CFK) Under 12years tournament. At 9 years of age, Titis was registered in the U12 category. They went all the way to the finals where they lost to Olympic talented Fc on penalties with Titis scoring his.
Coach Kip says his speed and talent made it possible for him to play Titis in a category more than his age. He also adds that most teams used to mark Titis tight but he would outdo them because of his speed.
In 2006 Future Stars Fc registered for an Under 12 year’s category Tournament dabbed East Africa that was being hosted by Ligi Ndogo. They were finalists where they lost to a Ugandan team on penalties with Titis scoring his penalty. “Since we were the runners up we went for plate’s knockout where we won 2-0. Titis scored one goal and we received certificates" Says Coach Kip with a broad smile.
The same year the team also registered in the John Packard tournament both the Under 10 and 12 categories where the Coach played Titis in the u12's. This time they only managed to the Quarterfinals. He says this was because of Titis calibre and also this would push him to work more because he had already outshined the u10's.
The Coach adds that at this time Titis had become adaptive to playing on the left side to the extent if you put him to the right he could really struggle and tell you that he is uncomfortable. At the same time, he had adapted to using the left foot.
"His ball-handling was a bit poor at the start, and he was also somehow poor when off the ball but he was showing improvement. At this time he had also developed the desire to play for Gor Mahia since he kept asking me about it and his Dad was a staunch Gormahia fan. This is also where he had started watching 'Marcelo' in football halls. He really liked the internet mostly following stories about the Brazilian" Coach Kip.
Come the year 2007 there were fewer actions since mostly the team concentrated on training and friendly games.
Coach Kip says this was a busy year and among the best he can rank. They played a number of friends as displayed above with Titus scoring in most of the games. The game he likes to outline is the CARE KENYA Tournament where they clinched the trophy by Winning 1-0 against Lucky boys with Titis scoring the lone goal.
In the Carolina for Kibera Tournament (CFK) they also won the u12 category 3-1 against Lexus Damu with Titis scoring a hattrick. He adds Titis was also named the Man of the Match in the Final, He also won the top scorer trophy after having scored in each game of the tournament.
In the year 2009 Future Stars registered in the Kiko Cup 7 aside Under 13 category where they displayed good performance but lost 1-0 in the Finals. It was also a good year since they played in the East Africa Tournament and Won it. In this year Titis was named the best player.
Coach Kip then lowers his head as he talks of the year 2010. He registered the team for the East Africa Tournament at Ligi Ndogo where they lost 6-0 to a Ugandan side in the Finals. "I had to encourage my boys as we went back to pick up. By then Titis was in Class 8, I kept encouraging him that football could enable his schooling. Our interactions made Titis trusted me so much" says Coach Kip in some soft voice.
Come 2011 is the year Titis joined Form one at Kakamega High School through a Football Scholarship since he had performed well and he had already displayed his soccer prowess. Coach Kip outlines that his then Assistant Coach Dan and Coach Muyoti played a vital role in Titis securing a place at Kakamega School.
"We took Titis to Kakamega School, by then his body size was small so he was to be returned since the then Coach Mwinamo thought he could not make it to the team. But before we left, they arranged for a friendly match where Titis was given chance to play. On seeing his game Coach Mwinamo was so impressed and he could not release him. That is how Titis joined Kakamega School" says Coach Kip.
The Coach also says that while at school they maintained communication. He could always call to know how Titis was doing. He says he encouraged him to study hard and not just focus on football alone because there is also life after football. He talked to him about avoiding bad company and peer pressure.
All along Titis was disciplined, humble and hardworking, he also loved studying. Whenever he was on holidays he could only stay indoors either studying or checking the internet for football stories and doing follow-ups on Marcelo and when outside the house it was only when he was coming to the pitch. He used to still train on holidays with the team. We always kept a close relationship through communication on and off school and the pitch.
"This made him entrust me so much that he could not do anything without engaging me. I can say I acted as his football father figure which he used well. I also contributed much to his stay at school since the scholarship could not cater for tuition fees and the feeding program where I also chipped in" says Coach Kip.
At Kakamega High School in 2013 Titis was among the key players in the Western Stima team that won the Kenya Premier League under 19 years category. Then in 2014, he went ahead to win the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association National Trophy against Kisumu Day at Bukhungu Stadium with Kakamega School.
"After high school, a number of teams wanted to sign him, with the biggest team being Gor Mahia. Mathare United contacted him but he did send them to me where they came and we talked. But after a number of engagements, we resolved for Gor Mahia. We went with him to Mr Rachier who hosted us well for two good days at his home after which then Titis signed" explains Coach Kip.
In signing for Gor Mahia, Titis made his debut match against Nairobi City Stars in July 2016 where Gormahia won 2-1. In this year he also received the first call up to the National Team. The same year after 22 appearances he won the Kenya Premier League Young Player Award.
"He was instrumental in that year. I really admired his dedication and hard work. I can also add he was a go-getter, very calm and humble. From the first time I saw him I knew he had a bright future ahead since he was too young. I really wish him all the best always" says the then Gormahia Captain Jerry Onyango.
From here is when Titis went ahead to Kolkheti Poti in Georgia, and then in 2018, he signed for Ks Kastrioti in Albania. In the same year, he came back home and played for his mother team Future stars Fc in the Carolina for Kibera Senior categories where also the team had registered the Under 17's. Both their teams reached the finals with the u17's losing 1-0 to Kibera Lexus while the Seniors won 1-0 against Laini Saba Fc by a lone goal(free kick) scored by Titis.
Coach Benjamin Kipruto then sums up by saying that he first came up with the team because of his love for the kids. He prefers them because they are always ready to listen and shaping up their life is a big plus to the community in the future and that’s why the name Future Stars Fc.
He has nurtured a number of players including Mike Matasio at Vihiga United and Daniel Otieno at Mathare United insisting among them a player like Titis reflects well the desire he had a while ago and the name of the team though he insists there is still much ahead for them.
"I really desire he makes it to either England or Spain. I wish he plays for Real Madrid" he says with a big laughter.
Coach Kip advises young players that they should ensure discipline, they should set goals and work hard in their career by remaining patient, follow passion instead of thinking of making money way too quick. He also insists that once on some money one should try and invest.
He goes ahead to advise Coaches dealing with young players that they should remain patient with them, to be role models both on and off the pitch. That they should remain in touch with players on and off the pitch as well as their parents. "Titis would not play for any team unless through me.
"If you wanted him to play for your team when we had no game he could send you to me. So we could talk about how you would handle him, and also in case, he gets injured. After then is when I could call him and give him a go-ahead. It was a culture we build and this increased our trust levels" illustrates Coach Kip.
Feature by Clinton Lisuli