The Kenya women’s national football team head coach, 38-year-old David Ouma, is a man of many achievements. He credits his family and especially his wife Recho Achieng’ as the drivers of his success both in and off the field. ESTHER AKELLO spoke to the pragmatic couple on the ingredients that make their 12-year-old marriage continue to thrive.
There’s a funny story as to how the two of you met. Care to share?
David: I had just arrived back home from a football seminar in Tanzania when I met Recho. She was the first person I saw when I entered the compound where I lived. As I climbed the stairs, still looking at her, I just kept thinking, ‘Wow! She’s really beautiful’.
Recho: (adamantly) He wasn’t just looking; he was staring, which made me uncomfortable. No sooner had he entered his house than I went back into ours. There was no way I was giving him a chance to stare at me again.
David: (smiling) It took me a minute to realise that I had literally fallen in love at first sight! I was mesmerised and I needed to see her again. I rushed outside only to find her gone!
Being a women’s coach, I am sure you’ve never had a shortage of beautiful women to look at or those looking at you!
David: I had so much on my plate such as working with my mother in our family businesses, playing and coaching football, as well as attending architecture classes. I barely had time to notice women! It was so bad my parents kept asking me if something’s the matter! So when Recho elicited those feelings in me, I thought a relationship was worth pursuing…finally.
Recho: (laughing) A few days later, we bumped into each other in the estate. Guess what he asked me? If I would have his babies!
That has to be the worst pick-up line in the history of pick up lines!
David: (laughing) I had no skills in that area whatsoever! All I knew was the kind of person I would settle with had to be swift in thoughts and deeds so I just got to the point. I also framed the question that way to see her response. (turning to Recho) She said yes.
Recho: (laughing) I was so irritated I just wanted to spite him. I didn’t think he would take it seriously. A few days later, he invited me to his house!
You don’t waste any time coach, do you?
David: (laughing) I had no ill motives and nothing happened! I just wanted to know her better and articulate that I was serious about pursuing a relationship.
Recho: It was actually my aunt, who lived in the same compound as David, who encouraged me to go to his place. I was given a stern warning though: David had a lot of women in his life. Most of them were his players but people thought otherwise! Once he explained the situation, I was okay with it.
Did you face any hostility from his female players now that you were the main attraction? Recho: Oh! There was plenty of rebellion. Some girls literally referred to David as their ‘husband’.
David: If I had led someone on, it was unknowingly. It did irk Recho for a while that I had an open door policy.
Recho: I love that David is open to people. Being raised as an orphan, I know only too well that generosity to some people is a matter of life and death. We, however, had to draw boundaries.
What was your reaction when you found out you were dating an under 18, given your 11-year age difference?
David: (laughing) I don’t want to remember that conversation. It made me sweat! Her body size deceived me. I only got to know she was underage when she cautioned me against sending her money because she did not have an identity card. I was horrified!
Recho: (laughing) I was in Vihiga at the time and he was to send me transport so that I could join him in Kisumu where he was visiting his parents. When I told him my age, he hang up the phone and did not call me again until the next day, only to tell me he was back in Nairobi.
Did your families approve of the age difference?
David: I went to her aunt and apologised profusely. I did not want her family to think I was preying on her. Additionally, so many young people looked up to me. I had also told my family that I had met someone.
How was I going to tell them she was underage?
Recho: There were others who thought it was inappropriate. But my aunt was supportive.
David: Her aunt’s reaction wasn’t what I expected. She told me that if I loved Recho then I should stop focussing on her age and instead her character. My father also said the same thing. With blessings from our families, we got married three years later. David, you identify as a football coach, yet you studied architecture. Why the transition?
David: I tried to balance the two for a while. I would go for architecture classes during the day and play football in the evenings or early mornings. However, as my hobby (football) grew complete with a chance to go play abroad, the decision became more obvious.
Recho: Thankfully! He was stretching himself thin. He used to come home at 11pm and start working on projects. He barely had any time for the family. Besides, all the papers made the house dirty. Eventually, we agreed that he thrived more in football hence the transition.
With the challenges afflicting Kenyan football, did the move make sense
David: Of course not. I was a volunteer coach at Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA). I survived by helping my mother with her businesses for about five years. My big break came in 2006 when I travelled with a team from MYSA to participate in street football alongside the then ongoing World Cup competition in Germany sponsored by some NGO’s. Out of
312 teams, we won the tournament. Thereafter, I started receiving coaching gigs with payments although there were times the payments did not follow through. We have survived though.
Recho: We were living in a single-room house at the time and David felt like he was letting us down. I had also given up my singing career to become a fulltime housewife. However, at the end of the day, you have to speak and stand as one in marriage. I was keen not to berate David as the decisions we had made prior to our financial situation were made jointly. How and what you communicate to each other can make or break a couple.
What would you say has been the greatest challenge in your marriage?
David: When people and external voices that do not understand your vision try to influence your marriage. I always made sure Recho was aware of what I was doing or planning to do so that she would never be caught off guard by third-party gossip. We involve each other in everything and discuss risks and challenges. We are very open in our marriage.
Recho: Many are the times that people have come to me accusing David of infidelity or that he’s spending money on other women. He is a community and women’s coach. It follows that women will be in his life. He is very passionate about women’s issues by the way, and
he desires to see them thrive. If I had listened to cheap gossip, this marriage would be over by now.
How do you make sure you avoid toxic communication within your marriage?
David: You have to be conscious. Do not be intentionally hurtful no matter what. We also resolved never to go to bed with any anger issues pending over our heads. It also helps that Recho is vocal about issues affecting her.
Recho: David insists one has to apologise when they are on the wrong. Initially, we’d stay up for hours thrashing out issues. Sometimes it took us days to figure things out! But it now takes us a shorter time as we continue learning and understanding each other more.
Couples should also love one another for their characters not wallets!
Harambee Starlets, the national women’s football team, won the SOYA 2017 Women’s Team of the Year under your stewardship. How has success affected your family?
David: I have received many offers to work abroad but I have turned them down. I love Kenya and I desire to see the local football scene thrive. Recho has been very understanding and supportive of this because I have had to let very many opportunities that could have changed our lives go!
Recho: We discuss all the opportunities David gets and sometimes I even get to say when and where he goes. But even before we discuss the financial benefits, we discuss the implications it will have on the family.
David: Just recently, I had to let go of a lucrative job abroad as a technical director of a soccer academy. We were expecting our third child, Elisha. I had missed out on our first child’s first year because I was working abroad and I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.
You are very passionate about your family. How do you balance it all?
David: We have sacrificed a lot to be available for them and I want them to identify with us as both parents and friends they can talk to. I do not carry work home and family time is family time.
Recho: We strive to go down to their level and relate with them at whatever stage they are in. Even when David is not around, I always make sure he knows what they want and need from him.
How is it raising three boys?
David: I’m proud of my sons – nine-year-old Isaac Juma, Luke Flat Ouma, 5, and two-year-old Elisha Estherad Ouma. I know they have strange middle names but that’s a story for another day! Of utmost importance is that they learn what it means to be responsible men, husbands and fathers and because they take their cue from me, I’m very intentional as to how I relate not just with them, but their mother as well. I try to give them as much time as possible.
Recho: We also try to learn as much as we can on parenting. Our desire is for them to be empowered, God-fearing, independent, open-minded, mindful and able decision makers.
How do you ensure you do not drift apart as a couple?
Recho: David is usually busy so from the word go I knew that he did not need an attention-seeking partner. (Cheekily) He does make time for me though as evidenced by our children. We talk a lot and I give him massages when he’s stressed out or tired. That’s my special treat for him!
David: Our expectations of each other are very clear. It goes without saying that we expect each other to be faithful and put boundaries in place. Her support and trust during my frequent travels motivate me.
Anything special planned for Valentine’s?
Recho: (smiling) Good question!
David: Valentine’s should be everyday! Not just once a year. (Turning to Recho) I strive to show you love everyday, no?
Recho: (smiling) He’s just lucky my birthday is three days after Valentine’s so he gets to hit two birds with one stone!
What would you say makes your marriage tick?
David: For me it would be Recho. She is keen about our family and that gives me peace of mind especially when I travel. She also prays for me. Thanks to her support, I have also been able to educate some of my siblings, who have also lived with us. She is very accommodating and has a big heart.
Recho: Trust, forgiveness, belief in one’s partner and faith in God has also been instrumental in keeping us together.
Published in February 2017