It had not really sunk in until he featured in Belgium’s 5-1 thrashing of Luxembourg in a friendly match in Genk on Monday.
Divock Origi came off the bench after 61 minutes for hat-trick hero Romelu Lukaku and chalked up an assist for the fifth goal. The 19 year old won a penalty, when he drew a foul in the 90th minute, which was converted by Kevin De Bruyne.
That was his long awaited Belgium senior debut. The teenager had of course played for Belgium U15, U16, U17, U19 and U21 before he was surprisingly named in Marc Wilmots’ World Cup squad. His inclusion was however, perhaps due to Christian Benteke’s injury but the youngster has earned his place through sheer hard work and patience. His potential is also not in doubt.
He was hardly 18 when he scored for Lille on his Ligue 1 debut last year. Coming off the bench, Origi scored a late equaliser after just 6 minutes in a 1-1 draw at home to Troyes as he announced his arrival on the big stage. Last season, he scored five goals as Lille finished third behind moneybags PSG and Monaco. (Dennis Oliech’s Ajaccio finished bottom and were relegated.)
Origi will feature in more friendlies before they fly out to Brazil and only then, when they face Algeria, Russia and South Korea at the World Cup, will I resign to the fact he is truly ‘gone’ and will never play for Kenya. Since we lack lethal strikers, I had been silently hoping that the 6ft forward would one day don our national colours, although we don’t have any.
Born to Kenyan parents in Ostend, Belgium, (contrary to what some ignorant sections of Kenyan media would want us to believe; that he is Kenyan-born), Origi was brought up in Belgium and grew up with a Belgian identity and having featured for Belgian national junior teams, was naturally destined to play for them to the top level. That has now become a reality and the sooner we move on, the better.
FKF tried to persuade him to play for Kenya but his father, former Harambee Stars striker Mike Okoth, would have none of it. Okoth played for Kenya at the 1990, 1992 and 2004 African Cup of Nations. He moved to Belgium in 92 and has resided there ever since. Origi was born in 95 and he soon joined his dad’s club Racing Genk.
Although he is eligible for Kenya, the prospect of turning out for a top European national side is immensely irresistible. Hence Origi set his eyes on Belgium, his dad’s adopted country. While his cousin Arnold Origi is in the Comoros Islands for a preliminary African Cup of Nations qualifier, Divock is preparing to play at the World Cup finals with and against the best players in the world. What a contrast! I wouldn’t choose the former either.
The Belgians are being touted as the ‘dark horses.’ Their ‘golden generation’ squad, which finished on top of their qualifying group, is capable of reaching the last 8 or even the last 4, heck, possibly the final in Brazil. It consists of talented young players most of who play for top European clubs.
Three of the four Champions League semi-finalists had at least one Belgian. And so did all the top seven teams in the Premier League last season. Courtois, Mignolet, Kompany, Hazard, Januzaj, Lukaku, Mirallas, Fellaini, Vermaelen, Van Buyten, Vertonghen, Dembele, De Bruyne and Origi, to name just a bunch, is a squad that has a bright and promising future.
Best of luck Divock and all the best Belgium. I will be supporting you at the World Cup. If and when you score a goal, kindly dedicate it to the land of your forefathers.
Origi was signed by Liverpool after the 2016 World Cup where he scored a goal.