Allan Okello wasted no time in making a name for himself in the Ugandan Premier League with Kampala Capital City Authority.
After joining the club’s training academy at 15, he made his professional debut while still 16 and went on to compete in the 2016/17 CAF Confederation Cup.
In three years with KCCA, Okello racked up 39 goals in 112 matches, putting him on the radar of many North African clubs, including several from Morocco and Egypt.
Despite some financially enticing offers, the forward finally opted for Algeria’s Paradou Athletic Club, who have a good reputation in Europe thanks in particular to their youth academy.
Indeed, three members of the Algeria side – Youcef Atal and Hicham Boudaoui (Nice) and Ramy Bensebaini (Borussia Monchengladbach) – that won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2019 came through the ranks at Paradou.
FIFA.com began by asking Uganda’s rising star why he had decided on Paradou. “Like all African players, my dream is to have a career in Europe. I could have chosen another destination, but Paradou AC sell more players to clubs on the Old Continent than any other side in Algeria.
“It’s a great springboard to make a name for yourself abroad. Just in the last two years, the club have sold three players to European sides, and so I’m working hard to be among the next ones to go there.”
Like many English speakers, Okello has had his share of difficulties in a country where Arabic and French are predominantly spoken.
“When I arrived in Algeria, it was difficult for me, as I had to adapt to the style of play and overcome the language barrier,” he said.
“Now things are starting to improve. I’ve learned a few words and studied the language to let me communicate with my team-mates. Initially, I couldn’t express myself and didn’t understand anything.”
Now, I’m in the ideal situation – I’m an integral part of the team, I feel good on the pitch and I can build my self-confidence.”
“The Algerian championship is really very professional, unlike what I’ve experienced before. It allows you to evolve very quickly and can open doors to European football.”
The future also looks promising for Okello’s national team, Uganda. The Cranes may never have qualified for the FIFA World Cup™, but they at least find themselves in an even qualifying group for Qatar 2022 alongside Mali, Kenya and Rwanda.
“Before thinking about qualifying for the World Cup, we have to first negotiate the qualifiers for the Africa Cup,” Okello said.
“So we have to work hard to ensure our participation in the continental championship and only then focus on the World Cup. That said, we’re all dreaming of reaching the finals.”
“Our group opponents are strong. We’ve already faced Mali and Rwanda and know how good they are, so it won’t be easy to get out of this group.
“The good thing for Uganda is that it’s quite an even section. Mali qualified for the last CAN, as did Kenya. Only Rwanda missed out on Egypt 2019. This group gives us a good chance of reaching the World Cup.
“If we qualified for the World Cup, we’d make everyone in Uganda happy. Together we’re going to do all we can to make that dream a reality.
“I’m one of the younger internationals and there are a lot of very good players in the squad. We have a strong team and I’m proud to represent my country. This is a great opportunity for me and I’m lucky to be part of this adventure.
“I wouldn’t say that the team relies solely on me, because we’re a united group. If we work hard and everyone pulls in the same direction, then we’ll achieve our goals.”
We finished by asking Okello who his footballing role models were, and there were no surprises in his answer: “Originally it was Iniesta but now I really like Messi. However, in my opinion, the best player today is Kevin De Bruyne.”
Did you know?
Before joining Paradou, Okello was voted Player of the Year in Uganda for 2019 following a very successful season with Kampala City.