Joseph Okumu: Harambee Stars and KAA Gent Defender Reveals Battle With Depression

Joseph Okumu: Harambee Stars and KAA Gent Defender Reveals Battle With Depression

Martin Moses
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:05 PM
  • Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu has revealed how the termination of his contract from South African club led him to depression
  • Okumu decided to end his contract with Free State Stars due to a difference in thinking with the club owners
  • The tall defender has since established himself as a very promising defender drawing the attention of top European clubs

Joseph Okumu has opened up on how depression took a toll on him after South African side Free State Stars dismissed him.

The now high-flying defender who plies his trade with Belgium's top-flight club KAA Gent did not have the best of paths before finding his breakthrough.

Joseph Okumu, Harambee Stars, IF Elfsborgs, KAA Gent, Free State Stars
Sargis Adamyan of Club Brugge and Joseph Okumu of KAA Gent during the Croky Cup Semi-Final match between Club Brugge and KAA Gent. Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen.
Source: Getty Images

Okumu began his career in Kenya with Chemelil Sugar before moving to Free State where he only lasted one season. In an interview with Nation as quoted by Goal, Okumu says that he wasn't given enough time to prove his worth at the club.

We had a terrible season because we had like four coaches in one season. I came to Kenya for national team duty and when I returned, I found a new coach.
I had played like eight matches but the [new] coach thought I couldn’t fit in his plans. I felt I had a chance in the team and wanted to stay and fight for a place.
The club wanted to loan me out but I insisted that it has to be in the first division and if it’s the second division then it has to be a top team. They were offering me to a newly promoted second division team and I felt it was not worth it. That is how we decided on mutual termination

It was after ending his contract with the club that depression kicked in. He went back home and almost gave up on football. It took quite some time before agents came back for him. Luckily, he had the support of his father who encouraged him to soldier on.

The 25-year-old secured a short-term move to AFC AnnArbor in the United States where he only played eight games. He then moved to Real Monarchs. His breakthrough came when he turned out for Harambee Stars in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019.

He was signed by Swedish club IF Elfsborgs before moving to Belgium in 2021. He is now reportedly on the radar of top clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal.

Joseph Okumu suffers racial abuse in Belgium

Sports Brief had earlier reported that disgusting scenes were witnessed in Belgium when Kenyan international defender Joseph Okumu was allegedly racially abused. Okumu was part of his team's KAA Gent 2-1 victory over KV Mechelen in the UEFA Conference League playoffs.

Okumu did not start the game but was introduced after 67 minutes taking Andreas Hanche-Olsen's place. The incident happened in the 78th minute when a fan spat on him.

In a quick rejoinder, KV Mechelen, who were the hosts for the game, issued a strong-worded statement condemning the incident.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)