NAIROBI, Kenya, October 7 – For a decade Dennis Oliech was the first name in Harambee Stars team sheet but times are lean for the record goal scorer that he has now turned on the charm to woo new head coach, Bobby Williamson into extending his international career.
Oliech, 29, turned up uninvited for training with the squad Tuesday despite the fact he is not in Williamson’s plans when Stars travel to play 2015 Afcon hosts Morocco in an international friendly next week.
The AJ Ajaccio striker needs the national team; the same side he made a habit of running roughshod in his heyday when a succession of coaches had to put up with his indiscipline; more than it needs him after failing to secure a move to remain in French top flight, Ligue 1, when his Ajaccio went down at the end of last season or a transfer to any other elite European league with his stock falling.
Tales of the forward credited with 34 goals in 63 games abandoning the Stars camp to make merry are well documented so pulses raced when he was spotted dutifully going through Tuesday’s training at Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium as Williamson gathered the Morocco-bound squad for the first time.
Oliech who was not included in the 31-man squad released last week, arrived in the country on Monday from France for what he termed as ‘personal issues’, having missed Ajaccio’s barren draw against Niort on Friday.
His presence prompted Williamson to declare he would not shut the Stars door for Oliech after the forward was criticised for aiming to the skies in August at his last appearance during the return leg of their second round qualifier against tiny Lesotho who bundled Kenya out of next year’s Nations Cup 1-0 on aggregate after forcing a barren stalemate.
“Oliech is in the country to take care of business and he requested me if he could train with us and keep his fitness levels up and I had no problem because he has been a great player for this country and may still be a great player in the future, who knows?
“I want to identify talent and a formidable squad for the Cecafa Senior Challenge and under -23 tournaments so that’s the reason why he (Oliech) was not called but he deserves a place in the national team. It doesn’t matter the age; if he is performing at a high level, scoring goals and wants to play for his country then we will give him that opportunity,” the Scottish boss stressed.
Williamson’s predecessor, Adel Amrouche, famously stripped Oliech of the captaincy and dropped him from the squad altogether twice for disciplinary issues and his return during the Lesotho match was reportedly done at the behest of Football Kenya Federation boss, Sam Nyamweya as opposed to the Belgian tactician.
The team that is set to depart Friday for Morocco will miss strikers, Allan Wanga (El-Merreikh) and Jesse Were (Tusker FC) but Williamson was not concerned by their unavailability saying it would give other young players chance to prove themselves.
Wanga’s Sudanese side have a crucial domestic Cup final against league leaders Al Hilal next Friday, just four days after the match.
Were, who was in Williamson’s first team that lost 1-0 to Egypt is ruled out with a knock he picked during their league 1-0 win over Mathare United on Saturday.
“It’s a blow for because he is a good striker. But his absence will not affect the team because it will give other players opportunity to shine, so we are yet to decide who will replace him.
“The boys are training hard and are all fine for the competition but its only 19 who will travel. The reason why there are a lot of players is because it gives me a chance to select the best and from what I have seen, we have a lot of talented players and it gives us an indication how strong we will be,” the former Uganda Cranes tactician explained.
New call-up Nelson Simwa from Super League side West Sugar could not hide his joy for his debut in the national team, saying he will prove critics wrong if given a chance.
“I feel encouraged and it’s a privilege to be called to the national team and if given chance I will prove to them it was not just a call-up.
“I’m gaining experience training with the likes of Oliech because I’m still learning. I believe in myself and I know I will make it given opportunity. My aim is to score a goal in every match I play if not, I provide an assist,” Simwa a former Western Stima forward told Capital Sport.
Williamson said he is a promising player though he was not sure if he would make the travelling party.
“Nelson may not travel but we will see how he does in the next few days, he is coming from a lower league which is difficult because they don’t play high standard games. But he seems to be a nice guy we will see how it goes,” the boss declared.
The three foreign based players led by captain who plies his trade with English Premier League side Southampton, Victor Wanyama, Norway based custodian Arnold Origi and winger Ayub Timbe who plays in Belgium, will link up with the team in Morocco.
Commenting on Wanyama’s award of the English Premier League African Player of the Month of September, Williamson underscored, “Wanyama is a top player he played in Scotland for a few years so I’m very much aware on what he can offer and his attitudes, so hopefully he will be available because I have been told he has confirmed but I don’t believe until I see him.”