NAIROBI, Kenya, May 9 – Harambee Stars midfielder Antony ‘Teddy’ Akumu has vowed to work his socks off and succeed in the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) where often, most Kenyans have seldom enjoyed considerable joy.
The most notables Kenyan to succeed down south are former Harambee Stars skipper Musa Otieno who spent more than a decade with Santos both as a player and a coach as well as defender Brian Mandela who has been in South Africa since 2012.
“I have heard that a lot, that many Kenyans don’t succeed in South Africa, but for me, that is just a myth. Everyone’s character and work rate is different and everyone’s fate is different. I am here to work hard. I am here to excel,” Akumu told Capital Sports from Johannesburg.
“I love challenges and I am ready to face the challenge of playing in the PSL and succeeding. It is a top league in Africa and I want to even better what I achieved with Zesco,” he further added.
Harambee Stars teammate Mandela has also been of huge help in easing his settlement in South Africa and he says the former Tusker and Posta Rangers defender has given him helpful advice to succeed.
“We have been talking a lot because he has been here and has succeeded a lot. When I arrived he called me and congratulated me and also gave me lots of advise on what to do and what not to do. Just like a big brother he has really made it easier for me to settle down and work,” Akumu noted.
The lanky midfielder, a graduate of the famous ‘James Siang’a brigade’ at Gor Mahia, joined South African giants Kaizer Chiefs in January after his contract with Zambian champions Zesco United ended.
So far, he describes his time at the Soweto based club as a massive leap in his career and believes he has all the requisite ingredients to succeed and make a name in South Africa.
“So far so good with the club. Kaizer Chiefs is one of the biggest clubs in South Africa and so far, it has been an amazing time. It is a massive professional club; their facilities and everything they have here is just perfect. It is not only a football club but it is like an institution. I am so happy to be in this club. It is a rare chance for anyone to be here and I feel privileged,” Akumu further stated.
“Mine is to work hard every day and be ready to wait for my moment. I am ready whenever called upon,” he further stated.
The defensive midfielder becomes the first ever Kenyan to play for Amakhosi and he says the opportunity to fly down South almost bordered on a dream when he had other options lying in front of him, but chose what he thought was the best opportunity.
“There were leads in Belgium and Japan but at that time, none was concrete. Japan looked to be headed well but when Chiefs called in, I didn’t think twice. This is a massive club and when they really show their interest in you, you have to listen,” he stated.
Akumu spent four years at Zesco and was stalling to sign a new contract with the Ndola based club as he sought a bigger and better challenge. On a warm morning as he headed to training, a call from Johannesburg turned his head.
-Called by Chief Scout-
The midfielder was called by the club’s Chief Scout asking him to consider joining the club with only a few weeks left on his contract. Another call later in the evening from a high ranking official at Chiefs turned his head further and he began giving the idea a serious thought.
The rest of the journey was thrown his agent’s way and in January, he was a Chiefs player.
“To be honest, when someone shows you that much interest, then you have to get confidence to join. When I came in, the way they treated me, the way I was welcomed was surreal. That has pushed me to work even harder to repay the faith they have had in me,” Akumu adds.
His start has however been slowed down by the novel coronavirus pandemic which brought football to a standstill just as he was gathering his feet to settle down.
Football in South Africa has been halted indefinitely and just like the rest of the world, they are playing the waiting game to see when things will resume.
But, Akumu says he will not be discouraged after experiencing speed bumps in his start.
“I think for me, I will look at it positively. I didn’t start as well as I would have wished because I had a small knee problem that was healing and this period has given me more time to be fitter and work on a few weak areas,”
“I have been working with the coaches. They are so helpful and everyone here is so supportive as well as the teammates. They are here to help you get into the team system and philosophy. The teamwork is massive because everyone wants to achieve something with the team,”
-Training from home
On his own at the club’s residence, Akumu has been hard at work doing indoor training and he says the club has also been conducting virtual sessions via video-conferencing app Zoom.
“There are programs that we have been given weekly. We have strength and conditioning as well as aerobic sessions via zoom. We also have team analysis meetings and of late, we have also had jogging and running sessions via the Strava software and at the end of each session, the data has to be collected,”
“It is all about self-discipline. There is no one there monitoring you and you have to know that it’s all about yourself. We feel bad that we miss football, but maybe there are lessons we need to learn so that when things go back to normal, we go back improved in some areas of our lives and careers,” he added.
Once football resumes, Akumu hopes to play part in helping Chiefs clinch the title and win a crown in a third different country.
By the time the PSL was stopped, Chiefs were leading the standings with a four-point buffer over second placed Mamelodi Sundowns. There were eight rounds of matches remaining before the season ended.
Also top in his agenda is to do well with Chiefs in continental football and better the semi-final feat he achieved with Zesco in the CAF Champions League in 2016.
“Winning the league on my first season would be amazing and hopefully when we return, I will do my best to help the team whenever called upon. I would also love to do well in the CAF competitions and go the furthest we can reach,” Akumu states.