PARIS, France, Jun 15 – John Avire was only six years old the last time Harambee Stars played at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), but 15 years down the line, the Sofapaka FC hit-man finds himself in Kenya’s 23-man squad that heads to the 2019 edition of the biennial championship.
Speaking to Capital Sport at the team’s training base in Marcoussis, France, Avire says he couldn’t have imagined himself at this same scenario, not even five or so years back.
“To be honest this is all a dream come true. I never thought this chance could come this soon and I am very excited being here, being with the team and most of all being named in the final squad that goes to Egypt,” Avire says, with a huge smile beaming across his face.
“I don’t even remember whether or not I watched any game when Kenya played at the AFCON. I was young and probably just playing around the estates,” joked Avire who grew up in Kangemi, playing childhood soccer at a ground famously referred to as ‘Bufa’.
The youngster is liked by head coach Sebastien Migne who says he is his second favorite striker in the team after Michael Olunga and believes he has the capability of becoming a regular starter in years to come.
“He is on the way to learn and it is important for the future of Kenya to have him with us, stay with us during the camp and learn. He is happy to be here and happy to be second after Olunga. He is ready to compete and he has shown something interesting and that is exactly what I want,” Migne said of the 21 year old striker.
The Sofapaka man says he has learnt a lot during the 16 day period he has been with the national team and reckons he is now a better player, having come in as almost raw talent.
“Every day, you learn a new thing here. The coach really insists on hard work and the tactics he gives me everyday have made me a better player. For sure, I cannot say I am the same player who arrived here on May 31. My play has become better and my awareness as a striker has improved,” Avire says.
He adds; “Being with players like Olunga (Michael) and Victor (Wanyama) who are some of my role models has breathed a new fire in me. I want to emulate them and play at the big stages of world football and learning from them is the best way.”
Avire scored seven goals in the just concluded Kenyan Premier League campaign and made his debut in national team colors turning out for the Under-23 team in the Olympic qualifier against Sudan in March.
He was then handed his senior team debut by Migne on June 7 during the friendly match against Madagascar at the Stade Robert Bobin in Paris where he played the opening 45 minutes.
“It was a bit tough for me because I wasn’t used to most of the players. It was the first time we were playing together and it takes time to know how someone runs, how he plays and that’s why at times the coordination was hard. But now, I have learnt all the players, I have learnt the team tactics and I think I am way better now,” he added.
A graduate of Passenga High School, Avire now hopes he can step up his career and make moves abroad, but says he is still willing to learn under the local shade until the right time to hit the runway comes.
The striker has confirmed he has received so many offers to leave Sofapaka and among the teams that Capital Sports has learnt is yearning for his signature is Gor Mahia.
“As at now I am just focusing on AFCON and doing well if I get the chance to get into the pitch. At this moment I can’t say anything about my future but I will sit down and make a sober decision. I have to be better next season and this will be in mind before I make a decision to move,” he added.