NAIROBI, November 2 – Gor Mahia talisman, Michael Ogada Olunga, or if you prefer, ‘Engineer’, is still sore about missing that penalty against Zambian titans, Power Dynamos, in a pre-season friendly that sparked his barnstorming season where he ended as a celebrated crowd darling of the Green Army.
The 21 year-old engineering student at Nairobi’s Technical University of Kenya powered K’Ogalo to wrap a third successive title and go the entire league season unbeaten with 19 goals, only bettered by SportPesa Premier League Golden Boot Jesse Were with 22.
Olunga, the powerfully built and lanky goal-scoring machine; weathered unforgiving criticism from the fans at the start of the campaign to become their cult hero with a ruthlessness eye for goal as the season progressed to its historic climax.
After a lean spell at fellow titans, Tusker FC, Olunga was flogged to Thika United on loan before as fate would have it, he was signed to K’Ogalo to take the slot vacated by another celebrated marksman, Ugandan Dan Sserunkuma, their top scorer in the championship-winning seasons of 2013 and 14.
Despite the obvious difference in frame, Sserunkuma was a diminutive ‘fox in the box’ as opposed to his tall replacement, Olunga found the ‘little’ boots left by the departed Ugandan international too big for him to fill as he endured a wretched start to his Gor career.
Against Dynamos on his K’Ogalo debut, Olunga recalls how his dream move unravelled at an instant.
“My most terrible moments were during the pre-season when I missed a penalty against Power Dynamos in front of fans who ruled me out. I felt demoralised but took the criticism as a challenge and a wakeup call.
“It made me work extra hard to not only prove them wrong but also cement my place in the starting line up. My highlight of the season was today when I’m being crowned a champion unbeaten,” the Harambee Stars striker, told.
Olunga, set the ball rolling when he scored twice in his Premier League debut and went on firing in the goals that saw him earn a call-up in the Under-20 and senior national sides teams where he is remembered with his famous hat-trick against Botswana that took Stars to the brink of vying for a final round of Rio 2016 Olympics qualifying after a 4-4 aggregate tie saw Kenya eliminated on away goals.
In September, he gave an entire nation the audacity to believe when he opened the scoring after 13 minutes before Harambee Stars crumbled later in the first half to surrender 2-1 to 2012 champions Zambia in an AFCON qualifier.
The former Tusker FC forward was courted by early South African Premier Soccer League side Bidvest Wits before the move fell through in the second half of the season in a testament of his bludgeoning reputation in a league televised live across the continent on SuperSport.
The ‘Engineer’ took his goal-scoring tool box to the regional Cecafa Kagame Cup club competition where he became an overnight sensation in Tanzania by plundering in five.
Gor however, fell at the final hurdle to moneyed home side, Azam FC 2-0 but he was forced to deny widespread reports of a switch to the Vodacom Premier League with the country’s top sides- Simba SC and Yanga – allegedly sparking off a bidding war for his signature.
“I thank God for everything he has done to me, the technical bench and my fans. They have all been supportive because we played as a team. It was not individual effort so I congratulate everyone in Gor fraternity.
“It means a lot winning the league unbeaten because its history and just like the class of 1976 is recognised, in the near future if another team wins it unbeaten, they will say there was a striker called Michael Olunga in 2015 who helped Gor win the league without losing a match,” The Liberty Academy graduate underscored.
After missing out the Golden Boot, Olunga is content finishing runners-up after giving Were, 26, a fight to the last as he signed off fittingly- with the last strike of the campaign for K’Ogalo in a 2-0 win over Muhoroni Youth- who met their nadir after breezing through the second leg of the campaign unbeaten.
Were, who was also taken for trials by Bidvest without success just like Olunga, sunk a brace as Tusker thumped frail giants and bitter K’Ogalo archrivals, AFC Leopards, 3-1 on final day to sign-off a humiliating season for Ingwe.
However, Gor’s dangerman did not waste time in delivering an early warning to go for the top scorer’s accolade next season if he extends his contract that comes to an end in December.
“I’m content with the number of goals I have scored and a striker; my target is to score. We are all in competition and it has shown Jesse (Were) is a good striker. It’s good for the national team because if we have quality, performances wil improve, so I congratulate him.
“Last year I was third best goal scorer, this year second so who knows if I play in the Kenyan Premier League next season, I will go for the top position. For now I’m contracted with Gor when the season ends we will see how it goes,” Olunga who only missed two league games asserted.
After making it to the podium finish in the past two seasons, coming second in 2013 and third last year, Were broke the Kenyan Premier League era goal-scoring record of 21 held by Allan Wanga in a campaign he memorably netted a hat-trick of trebles in successive games in the infancy of the second leg.
“I’m happy score two more goals on the last day. My target was 20 so this is a plus. I have been working for it so this season I perfected it. I’m now focusing on the next game against Gor,” Were whose contract also comes to end in December added.