NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 17 – Harambee Stars left back Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma says he is relieved after finally resuming group training on the pitch with his new Swedish employers AIK following the month-long stoppage caused by the novel coronavirus.
Swedish clubs have gone back to training on the pitch after the country managed to reduce its rate of infections and this is the first week players are training together.
“Last week we got back to the pitch but training in small groups and no physical contact allowed. This week we have finally got to train as a team with very high levels of sanitization enforced and it feels so good. It has been tough training in isolation,” the defender told Capital Sport from Stockholm.
Ouma joined top-flight side AIK from third tier team Vassalund at the start of the year and his long awaited debut in one of the top leagues in Europe has been slowed down because of the shutdowns occasioned by the virus.
The former Gor Mahia man says he has been dejected that he can’t make his debut yet, but remains focused on earning a permanent place in the starting line-up.
“Of course it has been very disappointing because I was really excited to get this chance to play in the top flight. But this is something beyond our control and as a player you just need to continue working waiting for that moment to come,” he noted.
He now hopes to keep a permanent role with AIK and mirror in the journey taken by Harambee Stars teammate Michael Olunga who started off his adventure with Djugardens IF before he went to China, Spain and now in Japan.
“His story is an inspiration for me definitely because he was here and now he is on top of his game in Japan. I want to keep working hard because he has paved the way for us and I want to keep growing and play in the top leagues. Playing for AIK is a huge achievement but the sky is the limit,” he stated.
Ouma’s journey to the top-flight of a competitive league has been a long one since he left Gor Mahia in 2017. The sojourn has taken him to Georgia and nearly Albania, before he landed in Sweden with Vassalund.
He reveals the process it has taken him to get to AIK has taught him enough patience, and he believes the small wait to make his competitive debut for the club will not sway his focus and determination.
Having joined the team at the start of their pre-season campaign, Ouma says he has gelled in brilliantly and now feels at home.
“I have been with them from January and before the lockdown, we had played several friendly matches and I have worked hard to understand the team and its philosophy. They have been very welcoming and I feel right at home,” Ouma outlined.
“There are also some African players in the team; two from Ghana, one from Ethiopia and one from Somalia and the fact that we can talk about common things has made it easier,” he said.
Even as he pushes himself to break the barriers in Europe, Ouma has not forgotten his roots and the difficult life he endured while growing up and in this respect has set up a foundation to help the vulnerable and less fortunate in Kibera.
“We started in 2017 but it was just random activities of going to children homes and making donations but this year we decided to set up a foundation with my team because I really felt touched to give back to the community,”
“I know how it feels to lack basic needs because I grew up in Kibera and experienced this kind of life. We have just started small but we hope it keeps growing so that we reach even more people out there,” stated the third born in a family of four.
He was born in Kibera and went to Ayany Primary School before joining Kakamega High School.
So far, his foundation has already donated foodstuff and sanitizers to a few families in Kibera while they are currently running a drive to collect sanitary towels to donate to needy homes.
“At the moment we are just trying to set up the nitty gritties and increasing our social media presence and hopefully we can get bigger and better,” he noted.