Kenyan defender Joseph Okumu seals big-money move to French Ligue 1 side Reims

©Stade de Reims.

STARS ABROAD: Kenyan defender Joseph Okumu seals big-money move to French Ligue 1 side Reims

Joel Omotto 18:00 - 22.07.2023

The Harambee Stars defender has signed a four-year contract with his new side after ditching Belgium's KAA Gent

Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu has finally completed his transfer to French side Stade de Reims after two seasons at Belgian club KAA Gent.

Okumu was reported to be close to joining Reims on Friday and both clubs confirmed the deal on Saturday afternoon with the Kenyan defender signing a four-year contract with the Ligue 1 club.

Reims have paid a fee just below €12 million (Ksh1.8 billion) to Gent and secured their man after agreeing personal terms with the centre-back who will become the second Kenyan to play in the French top flight after Dennis Oliech.

“With more than 90 games played in the Gantoise jersey, Joseph has established himself as one of the benchmarks in the Jupiler Pro League as a central defender. Solid in duels, imperial in the air and a good receiver Joseph denotes by his speed,” Reims said of Okumu, while confirming his signing on the club’s website.

“Indeed, he is simply one of the fastest central defenders in Europe, flashed at 36 km/h! An important element of the Buffalos workforce, Okumu is also one of the leaders of the Kenyan national team with whom he participated in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

“The SDR (Stade de Reims) therefore gets its hands on a confirmed defender, with solid experience at the top level. He will bring all his qualities and experience to a strategic position.”

Gent also wished the player the best while lauding him for his outstanding service during his two-year spell in Belgium.

“Okumu has rendered great services to our club. Together with Ngadeu (Ngadjui) and (Jordan) Torunarigha, he formed a very strong trio at the back. Joseph felt ready to take the next step in his career and is happy with his move to Reims. It is now up to us to replace him in a good way," said Gent CEO Michel Louwagie.

Okumu had been the subject of interest from a number of European sides due to his sterling performances for Gent in the last two seasons and was thrust to the rest of the world last season as the Belgian side reached the Europa Conference League quarter-final.

At Reims, Okumu will work under Belgian coach Will Still and play alongside former Gent stars Thomas Foket and Thibault De Smet.

The former Chemelil Sugar defender joined Gent on a four-year deal in June 2021 for €3.5 million after two years at Swedish outfit IF Elfsborg with the club now set to get a significant profit from his sell.

Okumu's football journey began in Kisumu, where he started his career at former Football Kenya Federation Premier League side Chemelil Sugar after completing his high school education at Kakamega High School.

It didn't take long for his talent to be noticed beyond the borders of Kenya. Within just six months, he ventured abroad and joined Free State Stars in South Africa, before later joining AFC Ann Arbor in in the United States in 2018.

His performances caught the attention of scouts, and he subsequently made his move to Real Monarchs before switching to Sweden in August 2019.

Established in 1931, Reims are six-time French champions, although their last title came in 1962, and finished 11th in the French top flight last season.