Kenya: Jan Koops - the Dutchman Who Found Love in Mumias

17 September 2020

Former AFC Leopards coach Jan Koops is a man on a mission as he takes a leap into in his sunset years.

As the adage goes, East or West, home is best but for the 79-year-old tactician from the Netherlands, he has found another home in Western Kenya where he plans to settle for the rest of his life.

Koops, who is currently living in a modest guest house in Mumias town, says he has no immediate plans of going back to his home country now that he found love in the Kenya.

He is however coy on details on who the lucky lady, citing "personal reasons."

"I am so happy we met and she has been here for me even during the tough times," said Koops.

"My two sons are grownups and working back in the Netherlands. I'm sustaining myself here with the little pension I receive from the Netherlands and Germany governments."

Although he keeps to his room most of the time while watching football matches and reading newspapers to catch up with the latest news, Koops now calls Mumias town his second home.

His girlfriend works abroad but is set to return in December and they plan to relocate to another town in Western Kenya.

"We can settle down either in Kakamega, Busia or Bungoma. I love this part of the country and would like to spend the rest of my life here," said Koops.

"I get many calls from my friends who knew me when I served as the coach at AFC Leopards. They are looking for me and some even come here to talk to me," said Koops.

But the Dutchman says there are things he misses while in Mumias especially the meals he relished while back in the Netherlands.

"I love cheese, lettuce as part of my meals but I can't find them here. I'm slowly trying to cope with the local meals but I'm quite happy to be here," said Koops.

He still harbours the ambition of taking up an advisory role in a local premier league side if he is offered the opportunity.

"Football is my passion and when I came to Kenya my dream was to help one of the top premier league teams to improve their performance. For me, that team was AFC Leopards," Koops, nicknamed Wephukulu by the Ingwe faithful, says with a light chuckle.

He is full of praise for Nick Yakhama, his predecessor at the club, and describes him as one of the best local coaches.

"I have always been in love with Africa, especially Kenya. I always dreamt of traveling to Africa and when the opportunity came in 2011, I was thrilled."

In 2018, the tactician was detained at the Metropolitan Hospital over an unpaid bill of Sh280,000. He walks with a slight limp in his right leg.

"There was time I had malaria and I got admitted to a hospital, in very critical condition. While on my hospital bed, I fell and doctors came to check on me. The doctors gave me an injection and I felt my leg get numb. From them, it has been painful but I'm still going strong," said Koops.

The Dutchman had undergone two operations in Nairobi to treat hernia.

Koops left AFC Leopards after his second stint at the club in 2016. He is credited with turning around the fortunes of Ingwe who were languishing near the relegation zone in 2011 when he took over for his first stint.

Ingwe was struggling at the bottom end of the league when he took over, guiding them to a top-five finish that season and third the following year. Before Koops took over as the coach for, the team had finished in position 12 in 2010.

The Dutchman's influence at AFC Leopards steered the side to fifth in 2011, third in 2012 and second in 2013.

Since 2014, the side has never featured in the top five positions in the league.

Koops has been following closely the political developments in the country and says it's strange that wealthy people are also involved in corruption.

"Kenya is a beautiful country with immense resources that could turn around the livelihoods in the villages. Unfortunately, the rich and influential people in this country are busy engaging in corruption and denying the ordinary Kenyans services."

"In my view, President Uhuru Kenyatta has a great vision of turning Kenya into a great country but the level of corruption is just shocking. Every day, when I buy a newpaper in the morning, the first thing I read about is corruption involving senior people in government and wealthy and influential individuals. This has to stop if this country is to become a great nation," said Koops.

The Dutchman believes the country has talented players who need to be nurtured to become great players.

"Unfortunately, there is very little investment to grow football in this country and to give the young talented players an opportunity to grow."

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