Lawrence Juma played his first match for Harambee Stars last Sunday- a 1-1 draw against neighbors Uganda Cranes with his teammate Kenneth Muguna scoring the leveler after Emmanuel Okwi had given the visitors the lead at the Moi International Sports Center.
Juma, a surprise starter in Coach Francis Kimanzi’s first game in charge since taking over from Sebastien Migne, saw full minutes of the clash- and believes it is a sign of good things to come.
”Everyone’s first match is always tense but one thing worked for me. I could see two of my teammates on the field and that brought down the pressure. When a coach trusts you like that you have to give your best and I thank him for showing trust in me,” he tells Soka after a training session with his club Gor Mahia who are away this weekend to USM Alger in Algiers.
Joash Onyango and Kenneth Muguna were the other two starters for local champions Gor Mahia in Kimanzi’s lineup.
”It was easy for me because we could bring some cohesion we have at club level into the national team in that match, and we tried to do it. Three years ago when I was first called up, I was the only one from Nzoia Sugar and it was tough even in training,” the midfielder goes on.
Before Sunday, Juma had only been called up to the national team twice, all of them three years ago while still at Nzoia Sugar. He never made the final matchday squad on both occasions. First was Coach Stanley Okumbi who was preparing for an International friendly and later on Belgian Paul Put summoned him a couple of months later for the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge. He never made both squads but has grown a lot since then he admits.
”I’ve gained a lot from our CAF Champions League and Confederation cup exposure by Gor Mahia over the past two seasons. Last season, in particular, I played so much,” says Lawi, adding that away matches in the continent teaches one so much.
”You toughen up when you play those matches because at that level you begin to experience the real ‘home’ and away feel. You play against Internationals and you see how tactics have to change for specific matches.”
Lawrence was not the only debutant last Sunday- alongside the diminutive midfielder at the center of the park was Bandari FC anchorman Collins Agade.
It’s never easy to maintain a place in the national team and Lawrence knows this. for this reason, his targets are to remain consistent at club level and hope that luck swings his side again in future national duties.
”There are a lot of good players in the country and making it to the national team is always about consistency at club level. That is my target now. He concludes.”
The midfielder has previously played for Timsales, Nakuru All Stars and Nzoia Sugar FC. He is currently doing his third season at Gor Mahia having won the league twice in his previous two seasons.