It is real although it still hasn’t registered in many Kenyans’ minds. The country’ national team will be making an appearance at the 2019 edition of the African Cup of Nations. The Kenya football team will be returning to the continental showpiece after close to two decades.
That done and dusted, it is now time to think and strategize if they are to do more than just appear to be counted. The current side has lots of talent (every Harambee generation has been talented, honestly. The problem has always been management and organization). That said, every set up has to have a standout player who can make a difference in a tournament like the Cup of Nations.
In 2004 the country had Dennis Oliech; in 2018 they have Michael Olunga. This is not to overlook the brilliance of midfielders like Victor Wanyama and Teddy Akumu or the defensive contributions of Calabar and company. Goals are however the deciding factor at the end of each game; Olunga is the perfect man to serve in that department.
The former Gor Mahia man has faced some criticism over his choice of clubs in the past but this has not prevented him from showing up when called upon. When he moved to Djugardens in Sweden, many viewed that as a stepping stone to Europe’s elite leagues. Mr. Engineer appears to have had other ideas however; his next destination was China where he joiner Guizhou Zhicheng in 2017.
Many Kenya sport fans said that he had joined the side for money at the expense of growing his talent. You really can’t fault him for that though; any Kenya sports player knows the importance of being financially safe when the glory of the hey days is gone. Football is a short career. His loan move and performances at Girona restored some faith to the naysayers, but the player again moved to Kashiwa Reysol in Japan in August 2018. The J-League is not really a mediocre league but people wanted better.
Amid all that movement, Olunga has remained a gem for the national team. He is always happy to honour call-ups and even happier to dispatch goals while at it. He is big, strong and lethal. His contribution in qualification cannot be belittled. He has come against some of the world’s best players so you don’t expect him to be cowed by the magnitude of the AFCON.
Together with Francis Kahata, Olunga can form a partnership like was seen between Olivier Giroud and Antoinne Griezmann as France romped to World Cup glory. Except this partnership will have a scoring Giroud. All that the team needs is a coach who will know when and where to use these precious attackers.