NAIROBI, Kenya, May 13 – With sports facilities and gyms closed in Uganda as the country battles to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve, AFC Leopards goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan has decided to be innovative with his train-at-home regime, adding Karate into the mix.
At his Entebbe home, the Ugandan has sought the expertise of Assistant Superintendent of Police, Barnabas Tusingwiire to sharpen his Karate skills in the morning, while he dedicates his evening sessions, also in the compound of his house, to strength and conditioning.
“Training Karate helps me work on my flexibility a lot. Karate is a whole world of adventure. Those guys do a lot of weird stretches and reflexes and it is so good for your body. As a goalkeeper, having good reflexes and good reaction is very key and this is what Karate is teaching me,” Ochan told Capital Sports.
“Also, for self defence you know! Nobody can try rob me,” joked the Ugandan custodian.
With uncertainty over whether or not the Kenyan Premier League will be completed, Ochan says he will continue training to keep fit, just in case matches resume.
“In the evening, I have to do some strength and conditioning exercises in the house. Also there are some training programs coach Webo (Lawrence) sent me and I ensure I do them everyday as well. It has been a difficult time for sportsmen because we are used to being out in the field competing or training but now we can’t. Hopefully we can deal with this virus soon enough,” Ochan added.
The 30-year old joined Leopards from Zambian outfit Kabwe Warriors at the beginning of the season and has been an integral part of coach Antony Kimani’s squad, aiding Ingwe to bounce back from a poor start to the campaign.
But on his own admission, it hasn’t been smooth sailing and settling in at the club was a bit tough at the beginning.
“I was struggling with the language at first because I don’t know Swahili so well, but at least now I have learnt and I can say I am at 40pc. But the good thing is that everybody in the team speaks English and it’s not very hard to communicate. But sometimes, the conversation switches,” explains the keeper.
He adds; “Another challenge was getting used to the style of play. I joined the team late in pre-season and so it took me a bit of time to catch up but at least towards the end of the first leg, we were all in the same wavelength. The style of play became clearer and now we have a definite way of playing whereby we want to knock the ball around.”
Ochan has also admitted that the Kenyan league is tougher noting that there are no underdogs in any game.
“It was tougher than what I expected. The competition very high and the intensity is crazy. You also cannot underestimate any team because everyone comes out to win. Especially when you are playing for AFC Leopards, teams come out to beat you for pride and give their best.”
With uncertainty over when and if the KPL will be resumed, Ochan hopes that at least they can play the FKF Cup where they had already booked a ticket to the quarter finals. His hope is that they clinch the trophy and book a slot to play in the CAF Confederations Cup.
“I had hoped to win something with AFC Leopards this season. As at now, if the league resumes, it is hard for us to win the title; maybe we get to top three. But with the Cup, we have a very good chance as we are in the quarters. We have a good team and the coaching staff is amazing and I believe we can go all the way and win.”
“We want to play in Africa because that’s where the big competition is. AFC is a big club and we deserve to play there. Hopefully we can resume and I achieve one of my targets. But next season when we come back, we definitely want to challenge for the league title,” Ochan confidently asserts.
At the same time, the keeper is optimistic he can challenge for a return to the Uganda Cranes national team, having last featured at the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco. He however missed out on the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017 and 2019.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel bad after missing out on AFCON. It’s a dream for every player to play for the national team and I want to work hard to get back there.”
“It is tough because I am competing with very good keepers. Dennis (Onyango) is the best goalkeeper in Africa and you have to respect him and what he has done for the continent and Uganda. He is an inspiration to all of us and also a challenge to work hard and get to where he is,” he notes.
Adding; “I want to keep working hard at AFC Leopards and giving good performances and I believe with the help of coach Webo who is the best goalkeeper trainer in Africa, I can get back to the national team and be part of the squad in the qualifiers for the Cup of Nations.”
Ochan has had quite an adventurous career, having featured for Victoria University, Vipers and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in his native Uganda, Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa and Kabwe Warriors in Zambia.