All Stars snub was my turning point, says Farouk ahead of SPC final

Farouk Shikhalo is undoubtedly the best keeper plying his trade in the country at the moment. The Bandari FC shot stopper has had a colossal rise in his stock in the past year and as he prepares to add to it more by lining up for the Mombasa based side against Kariobangi Sharks in this year’s SportPesa Cup final to be played Sunday 27 January at the National Stadium in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania, the Kenyan international has outlined the incident that sent him on this exponential rise.

It is mid-2017 and the then Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi is naming his 18-man final squad for the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) All Stars team that will travel to Spain for two friendly matches against Sevilla Atletico and Cordoba.

Dropped

The squad comprises mostly of young talent to be groomed for the future but there is no room for one Farouk Shikhalo who was named in the provisional squad but has been dropped.

It is at this point that the former Muhoroni Youth and Tusker FC keeper’s extraordinary rise begins.

“It was a wakeup call,” Farouk who at the time was contracted to Posta Rangers confided to Soka.

“To not be named in the final squad was painful to take at the time but it provided the basis for me to take charge of my career.”

At Posta he was playing second fiddle to Stars first choice custodian Patrick Matasi and rarely got enough game time which hurt his All Stars chances and due to this he decided to end his stay with the club just one year in.

A drastic move then it seemed as he decamped to Bandari to fill the void left by Wilson Obungu’s retirement but one year on, it was the perfect decision.

The decision

“It was a decision that I had to make if I was to move to the next step in my career. It was either that or continue to be on the bench and I am so happy that it worked out for the better. No player wants to be on the bench.”

At Bandari he flourished, ending up being named Goalkeeper of the Year at the 2018 KPL Awards in his first season with the club after racking up an incredible 18 clean sheets and helping the club finish second in the league. This he attributes to the technical staff at the coastal side and particularly goalkeeper trainer Razak Siwa.

Siwa’s experience and resume speak for the man who has worked with some of the country’s best shot stoppers like Duncan Ochieng, Wycliffe Kasaya, Jerim Onyango, Obungu and many others.

Having also had coaching stints outside the country with Yanga FC, Siwa was the right man to help steer Farouk in the right direction.

“Razak has been a big part of what I have achieved not only in the one year that I have been with Bandari but in my whole career as well as outside the game.

AFCON dream

“He has known me since I was a kid and he has been a father figure to me both on and off the pitch. He knows my strengths and my weaknesses and I turn to him for advice whenever.

“I am in good hands and it being an AFCON year, I am going to do everything possible to put myself in the plane to Egypt and this tournament is giving me the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

His second season has started in the same manner as the first and even better as he now has the chance to win a title with the club. Just one goal conceded in the two games of their debut appearance at the tournament, Bandari have shocked many by reaching the final by way of eliminating one of the favourites in star-studded Simba SC.

Now an all-Kenyan final awaits them and if they are victorious, a once in a lifetime opportunity to play against English Premier League (EPL) side Everton will be theirs.

But before then, one thing is for sure though that Farouk Shikhalo’s rise if far from reaching optimum point.

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