The decision by long-serving Harambee Stars custodian Arnold Origi aka ‘Kenya One’ to drop his Kenyan passport and adopt Norwegian nationality, brought the curtains down on an illustrious national duty by the Origis, who faithfully played for Kenya with distinction.
In 2017, Origi made it official to Football Kenya Federation (FKF) that he will no longer be available for national duty, after dropping his Kenyan passport and is now a Norwegian.
For close to four decades, the Origis dominated the Kenyan football landscape. From the legendary Austin Oduor (Origi’s father and former Harambee Stars and Gor Mahia great) to Uncle Gerald Origi, this football family has given so much to the country they so dearly loved, but in return, got nothing from their motherland.
Then there is Mike Okoth Origi, Arnold Origi’s uncle and father to Belgian international and Liverpool forward Divock Origi.
In fact, this family has produced some of Kenya’s finest football gems, so much so that if the Kenyan football history books are to be written, they would easily have a whole chapter to themselves.
Their dominance has been so great and their talent refined that it becomes practically difficult to pick out who among them is the football scion. Perhaps a toss of a coin would do.
While Austin was a revered legend in his heydays; being the cog and spine of a ruthless Gor Mahia machine and Harambee Stars, Mike Okoth, his younger brother, did equally great – notching several goals in the national colours – while also keeping the Kenyan flag high in Europe, where he played his professional football.
Years later, Origi, the goalkeeper, would follow in the footsteps of his uncle Mike, who prior to becoming a striker had begun his career between the goalposts playing for Shabana FC as a goalkeeper.
Ironically, several years later, this great football family has seemingly become fed up with Kenyan football as they are practically citizens of the respective western countries they adopted.
Gerald Origi, brother to Mike Okoth and Austin Oduor is today based in the US, where he went to study after turning out for several clubs, notably Clayworks FC, Blue Triangle, Portland Cement, and Utalii and Harambee Stars.
On the other hand, Okoth who plied his trade mainly in Belgium also adopted Belgian citizenship and resides there to date with his family. His son, Divock, a Liverpool striker, is also Belgian and turned down several attempts by the Kenyan authorities under then-coach Adel Amrouche to have him turn out for Harambee Stars.
The young Origi went on to grace the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, sneaking in a goal against Russia in a group stage match at the historic Maracana Stadium.
In Europe, most countries grant foreigners the option of taking their citizenship after a residency of seven years uninterrupted and without a criminal record.
Origi first went to Norway in 2007 and joined FK Moss. He has played his entire professional football there, turning out for amongst others, UllKisa and his current club, Lillestrom.
Arnold’s father Austin Oduor was coy on the factors that could have made his son turn his back on Kenya.
He said: “Kuna umri ukishafika… when you have a wife and children, you make your own decisions. It’s all upon him, and it’s his decision based on his own wisdom.”
Asked whether his son left a gap at Harambee stars, he said, “He’s played his part. In life, there’s time for everything.” Origi has however endured frustration with the national team. From late reimbursement of air ticket costs under the Sam Nyamweya led Federation, to being overlooked for call-ups.
An ex-international and former teammate of Mike Okoth, Dan Shikanda, also weighed in: “Most of them do not want to come back here where there is no structural development and where they cannot give back. When you come back to Kenya, you come to frustrations.”