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John Avire: Is it too soon for the Kenya striker to move abroad?

20:50 GMT+3 06/08/2019
John Avire of Sofapaka
The former Sofapaka attacker appears primed to move to Egypt, but is the youngster making a good decision?

Kenya international John Avire appears primed to move to newly-promoted Egyptian side Tanta SC, a move which would represent his first foray into a foreign league.

The move has been mired in controversy, with Sofapaka refusing to officially release the player, instead insisting he's still contracted to them until June 2020.

It is a saga which has seen former Football Kenya Federation CEO Robert Muthomi stepping aside for allegedly engineering the transfer, and it remains to be seen whether Avire will eventually play his football in North Africa.
The former Mount Kenya United player has been on the rise since last year, and featuring for the Emerging Stars as well as the senior national team, Harambee Stars.
At just 22, Avire has already turned out for top teams in the country; Kakamega Homeboyz, Bandari FC and Sofapaka, who had acquired him from the relegated Mount Kenya United, and appears destined for great things.

His exploits while at Egypt during the Africa Cup of Nations, especially against Tanzania, caught the eye of Tanta SC who promptly made contact.

The forward, who had scored seven goals for Sofapaka in the 2018/19 season, quickly jumped on the offer, following in the footsteps of various other Kenyan stars to have leveraged domestic success to secure lucrative deals overseas.

However, moving abroad is no guaranteed success; in 2011; George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo moved to Denmark side Randers FC after stellar performances at Gor Mahia in the previous one and a half years, but barely a year later, he was back in East Africa with Azam FC of Tanzania.

He is currently a free agent, and should serve as a note of caution for Avire.

Edwin Lavatsa is another case study; he moved to North Africa in 2014 to sign for MC Alger after enjoying good performances at K’Ogalo from 2011 to 2013.

He too returned with his tail between his legs, and is now turning out for FKF Shield Cup winners Bandari FC.

Batoto ba Mungu President Elly Kalekwa feels Avire rushed to make a decision, and is concerned he may end up regretting his decision to depart.

“He [Avire] is not a finished product yet, he could have waited for one more season before deciding to leave,” Kalekwa told Goal. “Sometimes, decisions like these come back to haunt players and I hope it will not be the case with Avire.

“However, [Tanta SC] have to finish with us first, failure to do [this] means their new player will not play for them, not soon as they expect,” Kalekwa told Goal.

Former Harambee Stars defender and current coach Sammy 'Pamzo' Omollo thinks otherwise.

“For me, Avire has a perfect platform to build his career," he began. "It is the perfect age for him to go out and gather experience that will help him do better in the future.

“It is a good time for him to try and learn something, the doors have opened at a perfect age and I support him fully.”

Omollo’s sentiments were echoed by new Kisumu All-Stars head coach Henry Omino, who believes chances like those should not be overlooked.

“No one can guarantee that Avire will get the same chance [in the future] as the one he has received right now," Omino told Goal. "Egypt have the facilities needed to help players develop, and [Avire] will get an opportunity to play with the best. 

"I support the move.”

There's no doubt that Avire's move to North Africa at 22, should it happen, is a gamble for the player. However, he has the talent to be a success in Egypt, has momentum on his side and, as Omino points out, no one can guarantee that he'll get another opportunity to secure a transfer to foreign shores.