Nairobi City Stars are set to unleash the Japanese striker next season after impressing them on trials.
Nairobi City Stars have signed Japanese striker Yuto Kusaba who joins the club after a short stint with Embu-based FKF Division Two side FC Zenshin.
Kusaba, popularly known as Mitoma, will reinforce Nicholas Muyoti’s attack as Simba wa Nairobi bid to finish higher up the table after struggling to stay in the top flight in 2022-23 campaign.
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K’Ogalo have been in the market for more firepower and have added the highly-travelled Rwandan attacker to their ranks.
So, who is this Kusaba who is set to become the first Japanese to play in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League?
Kusaba arrived in Kenya four months ago from his native Japan after seeking a chance to play football away due to difficulties in finding a club back home.
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“The FC Zenshin coach is Japanese so I contacted him to see if I could play for his team. He said yes and that is how I came. My parents and my family did not want me to come. Most Japanese do not know about Africa and Kenya so it was a struggle,” Kusaba told Pulse Sports on Thursday.
“When I was a college student, I wanted to become pro in Japan but I could not manage so I decided to look for another country so I chose Kenya,” he added.
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The South Sudanese striker's proven track record, both at the domestic and international levels, adds a layer of expertise to the team.
The striker would seal a short-term deal with Zenshin where he was for four months, scoring eight goals in 11 matches. It was during some of these matches that City Stars scouts spotted him and decided to give him a try.
“Someone told us to invite him for trials. He has been with us for two weeks and we threw him into some friendly and we realised he is too good to stay in Embu,” City Stars CEO Patrick Korir said of their new signing.
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. Humphrey Katasi is set to fill the void, bringing his Golden Glove-winning skills to the team.
“He compliments our attack because he is an out-and-out striker and also plays as a left winger because he has a very good left foot. We struggled from the left and scoring last season and he will help us with that.”
For Kusaba, the Premier League is just the start as he dreams of playing in the Japanese top flight, the J-League in the near future.
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“After Kenya, I want to play in the J-League that’s my dream. I believe I will do well here and achieve that,” said the striker.
But before that, Kasaba wants to ensure he makes history in the Kenyan league by beating the 27-goal haul achieved by last season’s Golden Boot winner Elvis Rupia.
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The AFCON u20 star replaces Peter Lwasa, who left following the expiry of his contract.
“I want to score many goals. Last season the top scorer in KPL had 27 goals and I want more than that, like 28 or 29,” he said.
The forward admits adapting in a new country has been a challenge but he has coped well and even taken to the Kenyan diet.
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The former Gor Mahia left-back has found himself being part of a team that is battling for survival in the Swedish top league.
“Difficult for me and all foreigners but FC Zenshin players and my friends supported me so that I can enjoy my stay in Kenya. We speak mostly in English because is the only language I can talk to them in.”
Korir added: “What we love about him is his uniqueness. He has been playing in muddy pitches and adapted to our culture. He has tasted grassroots football by playing where there is no grass and we feel he is ready because of his mentality.”
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The winds of change swept him away from Ingwe four years ago leading him towards new horizons.
The striker has signed a one-year contract and will likely be unleashed when City Stars open their league campaign at home to Wazito FC on Sunday.