Enjoying a lease of life

Kenya-born Curtis Osano is making most of his chance at BFC

Enjoying a lease of life

Playing in the Football Conference - now the Conference Premier, one of the lowest divisions of club football in England -- is a poisoned chalice. Waiting for a glamour FA Cup tie against one of the top dogs, hoping to play at Wembley in the playoffs or wishing a scout of a higher division club would spot you among the crowd.

Against those opportunities is the one obvious caveat: hoping that the club you currently represent don't go belly-up. But that’s exactly what happened to Curtis Osano, the Kenyan centre-back who is now enjoying a second lease of life at the Bengaluru Football Club.

Having come through the Academy at Reading, Osano was playing at Rushden & Diamonds in 2011 when the club ran into financial difficulties and had to be dissolved.

Osano, then 23, was let go and how did he handle the P45 (the British equivalent of pink slip)? "(Laughs)... The phone wasn't ringing and I din't have a job so I went up to the job centre and got myself a job at a recycling plant," he says nonchalantly.

"It wasn't a fabulous job but the money was coming in and I ended up working there for three weeks before I got a contract with Luton."

Osano, 26, was born in Kenya but moved to England at the age of nine as his father, a colonel in the Army, decided to bring the entire family over. "When I first moved to England it was like a big holiday," he says. "But eventually it was an eye-opening experience and whatever I'm as a person now, is from being both in Kenya as well as in England."

Speaking of England, he opens up and talks about the differences of playing football in the Blighty and India. "It's more difficult here. Because there, everybody talks right across the back four and when someone says 'left back' you instinctively know that someone is over your left shoulder.

"Here, I'm constantly chirping away at the left back (usually Keegan Perreira). But that's how it has got to be. You can't defend alone," he explains.

"But to be fair, the boys are picking up all the time. The first four-to-five games I was literally screaming at Keegan but these days, we know our jobs and know what to do with the different attacks that we face."

Osano's playing style is unhurried, and he is also good on the ball, a trait that doesn't come naturally to a 6’’ plus centre back.

But Osano did not really start at centre-back. "When I started as a 14-year-old, I was in central midfield. But most of my managers have used me right across the back four and since I have got good pace, there have not been many problems.

Plus I enjoy defending!"

Osano is one-half of one of the most dynamic centre-back pairings in the I-League, and when you ask him about the other-half, John Johnson, his eyes light up. "He is very aggressive and puts his face where the ball goes and doesn't really care.

"The partnership is really great and it works. We live together and we talk a lot. It's effortless really." It takes some time to realise that he talks about defending hoof balls and not eating spaghetti with one hand.

What does he think about the man who brought the partnership together in the first place, BFC coach Ashley Westwood? It's quite clear that he respects Westwood a lot. "All thanks to him for the phone call," he begins. "We are not scared of him because we approach him and talk to him. We know what he wants and he wants the same."

It's usually the African footballers who come over to India to play in the League so what made Osano, whose contract with AFC Wimbledon, the club he joined from Luton in 2012, expired last summer? "Ashley called me up with an idea of asking me to play football abroad and to a style of football that I have never played. And it was a chance that I could not let go."

When he is talking about the improvements that BFC have done, he cites his team-mate Siam Hangal as an example. "When he first came in, he was so nervous that he couldn't pass the ball straight. But now when you see him in training, I'm like, 'Wow, who is this guy.'"

Ask Osano about his footballing highpoint and the reply throws you off guard. "Playing at Wembley in a Conference National play-off final against York when I was at Luton was the highpoint. It is any guy's dream to play at Wembley but it was also one of my lowest moments as we lost the final."

When he was taking baby steps at the Reading Academy, it was under the tutelage of current Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, who Osano holds in high regard. "I enjoyed my time with him and he is very positive. He just told you to go and enjoy yourself and as a young player, he asked me to bomb forward from right back all the time. And it's no surprise to see Liverpool doing well."

It is also no surprise to see Osano doing well.

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