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Was Hey right to drop Oliech?

NAIROBI, Kenya, October 7 – Its been an open secret that Harambee Stars coach Antoine Hey and star striker Dennis Oliech have not got along.OLIECH_CLOSEBut even then, news that the German tactician had decided to drop the striker ahead of Sunday’s crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier away to Tunisia came as a great shock.

True Oliech has been anything but impressive in this round of qualifiers, true his attitude could be better and it’s also true that no individual is greater than a team.

But to drop the only player in your team who poses the wow factor-that X factor that can change games in an instant before such a big match has raised eyebrows.

Especially as Kenya’s other notable European based player Macdonald Mariga has already ruled out of the match with injury.

Kenya is no Brazil which can afford to leave out Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, etc and still turn to Luis Fabiano for goals. Our resources are meagre and mostly we have to do with whatever we can find.

While Oliech has definitely not covered himself in glory in this round of qualifying, he remains our most potent weapon. He may have scored only once in four matches but when the rest of the team has scored two goals amongst themselves, then you get the picture.

In the second of qualifiers, Oliech was unplayable scoring four goals and setting up countless others. But since hey took over, Oliech seems to have fallen out of love with the team.

The desire is not there anymore. Yes he was good against Tunisia in Nairobi and played his heart out against Nigeria in Abuja, but he has lacked that conviction that he had last season.

This has been caused partly by the decision to deploy him almost always as a lone striker – a role in which he is certainly not suited to. If you look at when Oliech has been at his most impressive since 2002, it is when he plays off the main striker or out on the left.

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Former Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi would even deploy him out wide whenever Stars played away from home and the way he tormented Namibia in Windhoek last year is a case in point.

For player who plays in Europe, Oliech has had a tough time dealing with foreign coaches. His relationship with Frenchman Bernard Lama was frosty at best while he has not hidden his discomfort with hey and the way he deploy him.

In stark contrast, he has flourished under local coaches. Jacob Ghost Mulee gave him his debut and he repaid him by single handedly taking Kenya to 2004 Cup of Nations finals.

After a relatively barren spell, Kimanzi got his juices flowing again when he took over the reins in May last year. He was a player transformed leading from the front with goals, assists and even occasional goalkeeping (during Stars 2-0 win over Zimbabwe).

So what where did it all go wrong?

This is not to say that Oliech is without fault.  His glamorous lifestyle off the pitch, and socialite has provided no end fodder of juicy info to feel gossip pages of local dailies and magazines.

But that a half fit or off form Oliech is Kenya’s most potent weapon is also not in doubt.

Kenya will however make to make do without the team’s most influential player over the past decade as they take on the biggest match of the last decade.

Tough task indeed.

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  1. Njeri justin

    October 14, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Am a firm believer in consistency of team selection being the key to success of any football team but the surprise from German doesn't think so.James if you could, please tell us how many players he has deployed over the second phase of 2010 qualifiers,even clubs that play week in week out don't tinker as much
    Again to your point,you don't leave out your most valuable player even if he is half fit and also you don't sub him.Check what chelsea does with Drogba,or Man city with Adebayor coz they can turn the game in a split second.so yeah,Hey was wrong and does anybody think he is an escapist choosing to fly to Germany first after both loses?

  2. jaybee

    October 24, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Sad to say but kimanzi was done in by Raila and FKL.It's not only team selection, but preparation. Stars can't play a friendly even agains't a local team plus the players who train never play.Politics killed the game and i'd never waste a penny to see clumsy football.

  3. Kenneth

    October 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Personally, I believe that Hey is joking around with the national team. It is a pity that he uses tactics that fail. Even if Oliech fails to score someone else in the team should get the opportunity to put the ball in the net. Its high time that half tourist half coach is sacked.

  4. Naomi Wanjiku

    November 15, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Hey is a good coach but in the wrong team what does he know about Kenyan football.I would suggest that he should have read Kenya's football history before he took over the team and know that Oliech has the most goals in that team, he is all Harambee stars have. Its a big mistake to leave him out and if the team goes through without him it will be a miracle which is rare in this generation.

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