Wednesday, January 18


Tucked deep in the Himalayan Mountains in the Asian continent is the Federal Republic of Nepal. Nepal cuts a lone figure in the middle of pseudo continents, India and China.
 It boasts a large land mass, but not as large as its two neighbors to the East and South West.Its own culture is not very different from those of its neighbours,but independent in its adaptations; it has embraced a bit of the west and its ways.
Being one of the first civilizations (it was founded in 4th century AD),there would be much to talk about,f it was in the field of culture and art.Today Nepal takes center stage in a different area:It is has a blooming and vibrant soccer league. It is also home to former Ligi Ndogo and Kenya right back,Thomas Wangira Biketi;while everyone was attracted to the west and north, he decided to explore up;now at sunset, he is still on the plow at one of the highest (literally!) points on earth.
The versatile Biketi had a short stint at Ligi Ndogo during last year's push for the premier league. His mental contribution left imprints in the young players' minds. He is now back playing pro as a holding midfielder for Jawalakhel soccer club, a professional soccer team in the Nepal A league (the equivalent of the premier league in Kenya).He fills in at centre half at times. His adaptability has offered him comfort in his working country. Of course there are a few hiccups, the most common for expatriate football players, being culture, food,language barrier and team selection based on color as a prejudice. He has waded through all this in stride, and is now telling it.

Biketi has had an illustrious career that has spanned two continents and more than four countries.He has played in Kenya, Ethiopia,Singapore,Bangladesh and now Nepal.He has also played for the Kenya national team,Harambee Stars.He has been in Nepal for the last two years where he has found abode in the bosom of one of the unlikeliest soccer destinations.

He is comfortable as he talks about what Nepal is to him: residence, employer and spiritual compass.

Tell us about your career.
I started my career at Webuye Youth,then moved up respectively as follows:Nairobi Combined,Waterworks,Harambee SACCO,Kimbo,Utalii,AFC Leopards and Thika United.I then played in Singapore for S-Afrique FC in the S league.The next year i moved to Arambagh in Bangladesh.I came back home and featured briefly for Leopards and Thika United.
The next year i was invited to Ethiopia. I made the trials and played in the premier league for Ethiopia Coffee. I am now at Jawalakhel in Nepal. All this in a span of quarter decade!

How was it growing up
Soccer runs in the blood. Most of my paternal uncles were great footballers, my big brother,too. He played in goal at school (St Peter's Mumias).The great team also featured former AFC Leopards and Kenya international midfielder Francis Xavier and Tom Ochura.Should i name them all?(Ha ha!No!)
Against my mum's wishes-she did not see soccer as a fulfilling career-my late uncle, Michael Ford pushed up my soccer abilities. He really inspired me and encouraged me.He used to play for Viatu Sportif (Bata Bullets).He later became a coach and started his own academy in Bungoma County at Webuye.At seven years old, I was one of the first beneficiaries. I played for his youth categories during school holidays. Growing up, I used to play with a ball made of polythene plastics, woven nicely into a sphere. It was fun! But when i got a chance at the academy, the realization of greater things to come hit me like a vision.
I still could not get my parents off my back, though, and could only play when they were at work!

In high school I was chosen my school's soccer captain while in form 2 and overall games captain in form three. I guess the school administration saw some leadership qualities in me.Unfortunately,coming from a footballing province (Western),i could only manage to lead my school team(Kivaywa high)to the provincial level as the competition was quite tough...i must add.

Take us through your career
I play central midfield and center half. I had to improve on my reaction, passing accuracy, keeping the ball and pitch vision. The game here is also much faster. So i had to work on my speed and looking up for the open man.This is the hallmark of a central midfielder or stopper. I have also had to improve my aerial skills.
In Asia football is on the high and you can attest to this by how the Asian champs, AlSaad, performed against (Spain's) Barcelona in the past World Club Of Champions. They did even better than Santos (Brazil) who were humiliated by Barca.

Take us through your team and a typical practise
My coach here is called Kishor KC.He is former Nepal's under 17 and 19 national team head coach. He is known as the smart tactician to the locals here.
Asians value their time so training starts at 8.00am sharp. By 7.30am we are changed and on the pitch waiting for the coach.
We line-up at the field to get the day's brief and the kind of session plan for the day.

Normally, training starts with a slow team jog around the pitch for 15 minutes. We then do some ball work (2 players per ball),push, passes (both short and long),heading,chest,thigh controls for about 10 minutes; we go for 5 minutes of short sprints and take a 2 minutes water break.
Coming back we start on a 5 v 5 drills ball possession in a small space (pressure training) for about 10 minutes; we then switch teams again for another 10 minutes and get a 5 minutes water break. When training resumes, we play a 20 minutes tactical full game. One side one formation and the other side another. We then wind up with a warm down and stretching for 10 minutes.
That does it for a day's session. Of course this varies slightly for different sessions and game days.

Have you had other players from Africa tryout in your team/in Nepal? Did they make it.Why not? What would you tell players eager to play in Asia?
We have had several players tryout in Nepal and we have a few who play here.Those who failed to make it was solely because of their attitude. You see,most African players come in with the notion that Asian soccer is easy. So they take it into trials, next thing they realize is they have flopped. African players, given this backdrop, are so talented that they can play anywhere in the world. They are gifted with strength, skill and endurance. And that is what clubs, world over,are always looking for.

Have you come across exceptional players?
Yes i have met a few very talented, gifted and skillful players with very high awareness of the game.

Any big names?Since you are also a big name?What is remarkable about them/you?
I've met Samuel Etoo, Zinedine Zidane, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell. These guys are very warm and simple and they love what they do.

How do you push yourself
Before i hang my boots, i believe i will make it bigger than it is right now. As long as i have the strength to play i believe i will.

Players are often burdened with a lot of words on how to excel in soccer. In short summarize for us the key points that have kept you going.
I would recommend players undergo short and sharp sessions and get good rest. The most vital, though,is discipline.

What has helped you stay heathy?
My diet and rest

What is your diet?
In the morning i drink a glass of milk, a boiled egg, cereals, a fruit and water. After the training session at 10am i take a snack, a fruit and drink water. For lunch i eat rice, vegetables, soup,fruit and drink water. And at 4pm i have another snack and take water. For dinner it is soup with vegetable and bread, white meat, some fruit and drink water.

How is your social life?
My social life is OK but easygoing. I have made quite a number of friends both
foreigners and the natives. I’m enjoying learning new languages and living in a different culture.I visited the tallest mountain in the world (Mt.Everest).There are great temples here that you would not fail to notice. Once in a while i adopt the different traditional garbs, and marvel at what an eye opener Nepal has been.

Bring it down..
We have a very big potential to be ranked among the best of the best in the world but we MUST leave politics out of our soccer.

What next after pro soccer? Are you leaving soon?
Not now but after i hang my boots, I will study sports management. I intend to be a soccer agent but as of now i just want to concentrate on my game and enjoy it.See more Thomas Wangira Biketi