Ulinzi Stars newly signed forward Kelvin Thairu leaves Mount Kenya United for the first time since joining the side straight from high school way back in 2014.
A side in the headlines for the wrong reasons during the 2018-19 Kenyan Premier League season, MKU, he says was home to him and he is grateful for the delicate nurturing he got while there, despite the hardships.
The 21-year-old recalls his first day at the then Nakumatt side- moneybags of the second-tier National Super League. He had just finished school in Kathungi- Eastern Province football giants and had taken his friend for a trial session with the side. Thairu himself had not gone for trials.
”Joining Nakumatt is a funny story actually, I had escorted my friend to try out. Day one went by and day two, then one Kent Wandera saw me behind the goalposts and asked me why I was not with others (trialists) in training. He asked me to carry my boots the following day and join the rest,” Thairu recalls.
Kent was a senior Nakumatt player at the time and had noticed him collecting balls behind the goalposts while others were training. Thursday was to be the last day and when Thairu showed up and scored three goals in a friendly match, Italian coach Giovanni Troiani asked where he had been during the initial three days.
”He (Troiani) wasn’t really carrying out the trials. He was seated somewhere on a hill and having noticed my performance on the day, asked me to come again the following day. This was to be the day a final cut had to be made on the trialists,” narrates the attacking midfielder.
He made the list. His friend did not. And that is just football. Troiani did not waste any time parading his new catch and sent him out against Bidco United for his debut.
Before he knew it, he was equalizing for the side in a cup competition after the then Kisumu side Palos FC had threatened to knock out Nakumatt in the Shield round of 16. Troiani’s charges would win on penalties and much credits to the youngster Thairu.
Nakumatt changed name to Mount Kenya United, and financial woes burdened the once-revered super league side. Players left, coaches left and the team went down once more. Despite all this, Thairu, a constant figure in the team, would stay- and even earned the captain’s armband in his final season.
”The club nurtured me well and I am thankful for that. They were patient with me because I was young and from everything, I earned a lot of experience,” he continues.
He is part of coach Nyangweso Benjamin’s pre-season camp in Nanyuki were Ulinzi Stars are currently engaging in training and friendly matches. With progress comes more responsibilities and he is ready for them he says.
”There is a lot of experience here in Ulinzi and focus is on the title. I also want to win something now that I have moved to a bigger club and possibly get myself at the top with the national team,” he concludes.
The soldiers have KPL newbies Kisumu All Stars (formerly Palos) as their first assignment for the 2019-20 KPL season, a side Thairu scored his first-ever senior goal against. The fixture comes up on 31 August at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu.