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Has Okello succumbed to the proverbial African football glass ceiling?

By Football256 Team
Allan Okello poses with the 256 Footballer of the year Award on November 18th, 2019 / Aminah Babirye Image

By Timothy Kuteesa

For most-if, not all-Ugandan footballers, cracking the code in Africa’s top leagues is a tough grind. The sheer scale of this difficulty has over time manifested itself more glaringly in the talents that leave the country, only to resurface a year later.

That this seems to be the case for Allan Okello, a player whose destiny seemed fixed with a successful orientation following his magnificent move to Algerian side Paradou AC is extremely worrying.

Okello, a player very assertive in transition and one whom many had grown accustomed to watching timing his runs to perfection in the final third of the pitch, was generally expected to be the fulcrum at Paradou.

Allan Okello weaves past defenders against Burundi in the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in Kampala | Photo by Nicholas Bamulanzeki

The reports gaining traction, however, about the former KCCA midfield maestro currently being at home in Lira (Kiira) rub football wellwishers the wrong way.

To compound matters, there appears to be no guarantee of a benign outcome for him in the near future especially if these reports are anything to go by.

Okello’s destiny might just be taking up an unfathomable face, one synonymous to his counterpart Nicholas Kasozi. Very beautiful on the outside but hideous on the inside especially taking into account the immense talent bestowed unto the latter but yet negligible to show.

It is therefore cliché or at the very worst, proverbial that Okello is following in the footsteps of fellow Ugandans to show the lack of ambition and professionalism while going pro.

Astonishing reports from Algeria indicate that Paradou has gone ahead to sell a maximum of fifteen players to Europe since the Uganda Cranes forward joined them in 2019. With the right attitude, he could have made this elastic list.

It is honestly contradicting that a player who has been mentored by Mike Mutebi-who sought him out for his finesse and gave him a debut at only 18-years of age with a clear intent for fantasy to prevail over pragmatism can go AWOL.

Uganda Cranes midfielder Allan Okello training at the MTN Omondi Stadium in Lugogo | FUFA Media

A player whose midfield partnership with Muzamiru Mutyaba and Sadam Ibrahim Juma combined to form the heartbeat of Mike’s side and saw the results eventually coming easily enough as did the style and swagger.

The kind of partnership that simply created a romantic atmosphere for the team. Everyone, KCCA fan or not, was fascinated to witness the beautiful game being played the way it should.

Many fans remember Okello’s debut in 2017 against Onduparaka more fondly, a hattrick with effortlessly dribbling past the opposition defence climaxed an incredible announcement to the game.

What went wrong?

Happy day: Allan Okello (L) celebrates a goal with a teammate at Paradou in Algeria / Paradou Image

There are, broadly speaking, three competing schools of thought when it comes to explaining one of Ugandan football’s special talent’s current predicament.

The majority view is that this maestro has been undone by injuries -that the gruelling series of muscle strains he has sustained while in Algeria chip-chip-chipped away at the edifice of his talent before he had the chance to properly sculpt it.

Some will tell you he does not want it enough -that he lacks that flame and adrenaline that burns deep inside the chests of the true greats, lending that dash of urgency to everything they do.

Those who know him paint a portrait of a well-rounded human being who is content with his place in the world. Perhaps, faced with a choice between hard-won immortality and the good life, he just chose the latter.

Others will insist he has not been all that good and that he is yet another hype that can not leave with the pressure that comes with the expectations weighing on the shoulders. He lacks the sportsmanship gusto.

Allan Okello celebrates a goal at the 2019 CECAFA Kagame Cup in Lugogo / FUFA Image

The most authentic of them all however has to be professionalism. Forget the excuses about Covid-19 related travel restrictions that the player cites, he would be dominating the Algerian league by now given his impeccable talent.

It is therefore not surprising that many have gone ahead to talk about his career in a rather nonchalantly manner. Labelling him a player synonymous with mediocrity.

What is for sure though, is that the football environment is traditionally unforgiving, punishing-as it so often a does-any whiff of a mistake.

That explains why Ugandan players, even at a tender age, are expected to showcase stoicism and resilience in the face of sophisticated disappointments.

Okello, therefore, needs to regroup and find a new agent since reports reveal him to have parted ways with the now Express FC CEO Isaac Mwesigwa, and most importantly, show face at Paradou since he still has a running contract with the club.

Putting his head right will see him get back to flamboyance that caught the essence of the game, captured the artistry and joy. A level where he danced to his beat and enthralled an entire generation.

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