NAIROBI, November 9 – Michael ‘Engineer’ Olunga made history Wednesday night as the first player in the domestic top flight to walk away with a Sh1m (USD9,792) cash prize after being crowned the 2015 Footballer of the Year.
Having fired three-peat champions, Gor Mahia to the league title unbeaten after a lean start to his first year at K’Ogalo, local football loyalty gathered at the black-tie gala in Nairobi to bow down to their new king.
“I’m so humbled and honoured to win this award. It means my work is appreciated and I believe it will motivate me to work even harder next season if I will still be at Gor.
“It has been a fantastic season for me both in the club and national team so I thank everyone who made it possible for me more so my team mates,” the alumni of Upper Hill High School who was besides himself with emotion offered.
Olunga, has carried his lethal goal-poaching form to national team Harambee Stars in a season he has been on everyone’s lips.
The 21-year-old Geospatial Engineering student at Technical University of Kenya has plundered in 36 goals for club and country this season, a phenomenal haul that has catapulted him to the venerated status of the next big thing in Kenyan football.
Along the way, individual accolades have been added to his mantelpiece that has to be remodeled to accommodate the huge television having won the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) title, KPL Top 8 and DSTV Super Cup thus far having also bagged the Golden Boot at the Cecafa Senior Club Championships where Gor lost in the final.
Olunga was rewarded for his sterling performances with the award all nominees craved for on the night at a fete that rewarded those who excelled in the season past.
Olunga who was second runner-up in the race for the Golden Boot last year while at Thika United literary blew up this term, turning from a clumsy and often criticised forward to a household name.
During the voting for the top accolade, he was 21 ahead of Golden Boot winner Jesse Were of Tusker FC who got 13 and his club-mate Karim Nizigiyimana who polled eight.
The former Liberty Sports Academy player has enjoyed a remarkable rise to stardom after joining Gor at the beginning of the season from Thika.
In addition to the Sh1m FOYA crown, Olunga also took home Sh300,000 for finishing second in the Golden Boot behind Were and Sh50,000 and two 42-inch smart television sets after also winning the SJAK/SportPesa Player of the Month for November.
That represented his largest pay-day thus far of Sh1.35m (USD13,218.92).
Having netted 22 goals to surpass Allan Wanga’s record of 21 in the KPL era, Were received Sh500, 000 (USD 4,895.89) and Ulinzi Stars midfielder; John Mark Makwata, taking home Sh200,000 (USD 1,958.36) for rounding the top three goal-poachers with 14.
Gor and Harambee Stars shot-stopper, Boniface Oluoch wrote history as the first custodian to claim the Golden Gloves for a record third time after beating Muhoroni Youth’s Faruk Shikalo and Jairus Adira of Chemelil Sugar who won it last year.
“I’m so happy to win the third goalkeeper award, it’s by God’s grace and I thank my team mate and the coach for giving me a chance. I can say I made a good decision joining Gor from Tusker.
“My best moment was winning the league unbeaten but my worst is when I conceded a 55-yard goal when playing KCB under floodlights,” the Harambee Stars keeper underscored.
Oluoch, who won it in 2011 and 12 when his former employers Tusker FC, won back-to-back KPL titles, kept 19 clean sheets this season and received Sh500, 000 for his safe hands.
Shikalo, 19, joined Muhoroni in mid season also from Tusker and went on to keep nine shutouts in their astounding second half of the campaign and he received Sh300, 000 while Adira who rejoined his Chemelil side in June from Sony Sugar was voted third to pocket Sh200, 000. He also kept nine clean sheets.
The Best Goalkeeper award was arrived at after the panel of selectors drawn from football writers in various media houses, divided the number of clean sheets by number of matches played to get the goals against average.
In that regard, Oluoch managed an average of 0.40, followed by Shikalo 0.82 and Adira’s 0.84.
As expected, Gor’s Burundian right-back, Nizigiyimana was named the best defender after chalking 17 assists ahead of club-mate center half, Musa Mohammed and third placed Geoffrey Kokoyo of Ulinzi Stars.
Nizigiyimana, who won Sh300, 000 collected 27 points, one more than Mohammed who received Sh200, 000 in a tight vote whilst Kokoyo the 2010 winner, settled for Sh100, 000.
The big surprise of the night was in the Midfield Player of the Year category where Mathare United youthful midfielder Eric Johanna beat Gor’s Khalid Aucho to be crowned the best general of the middle of the park for Sh.300, 000.
Despite missing the decisive penalty that cost Harambee Stars a chance to extend their Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup defence, Johanna, 21, has been Mathare’s brightest spark this season, scoring seven and collected 30 points in another cliff-hanger, one more than Aucho who walked away with Sh200, 000.
AFC Leopards’ Bernard Mang’oli came third for the fallen titans who had a wretched season to reward his individual endeavour for the cash-strapped club on 22 and a cash prize Sh100,000 (USD 979.179).
The New Young Player award was closely contested and was decided on a tie breaker after Muhoroni Youth forward, George Mandela and Nairobi City Stars striker, Gambian Ebrimmah Saneh got 24 points inch.
Mandela (21-years-) who scored seven goals to help Muhoroni finish a remarkable sixth in SPL, claimed it to take home Sh200, 000 while Sanneh who netted 11 for the Kawangware based side received Sh75, 000.
Mathare United’s Alphonse Ndonye was third to bag Sh50, 000.
Having guided Gor to extend their record to 15 domestic titles, KPL Top 8 and DSTV Super Cup, Scotsman Frank Nuttall was the undisputed Coach of the Year ahead of Ulinzi Stars’ Robert Matano and Bandari’s Twahir Muhiddin.
Nuttall, who has only lost one league match (3-2 to Sofapaka in 2014) since replacing Stars head coach, Bobby Williamson in September last year, garnered 31 points, 12 more than Matano who guided the Soldiers to second whist soft spoken Muhiddin was third after leading the Dockers to fourth.
The K’Ogalo tactician was awarded with Sh300, 000 with Matano getting Sh175, 000 and Muhiddin who guided his side for a first ever GOtv Shield final, appreciated with Sh50, 000 after getting 16 points.
On top of the cash prizes, all the winners received at 42-inch smart TV from LG Electronics.
The Fair Play Player, Fair Play Team, New referee, New assistant referee and Team Manager of the Year categories were selected by the KPL secretariat.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Olunga (Gor Mahia)
GOLDEN BOOT: WINNER; Jesse Were (Tusker FC), RUNNER-UP; Michael Olunga (Gor Mahia), THIRD; John Mark Makwata (Ulinzi Stars)
GOAL KEEPER OF THE YEAR: WINNER; Boniface Oluoch (Gor Mahia), RUNNER-UP; Faruk Shikhalo (Muhoroni Youth), THIRD; Jairus Adira (Chemelil Sugar).
DEFENDER OFTHE YEAR: WINNER; Karim Nizigiyimana (Gor Mahia), RUNNER-UP; Musa Mohammed (Gor Mahia), THIRD; Geoffrey Kokoyo (Ulinzi Stars).
MIDFIELDER OF THE YEAR: WINNER; Eric Johanna (Mathare United), RUNNER-UP, Khalid Aucho (Gor Mahia), THIRD; Bernard Mang’oli (AFC Leopards).
NEW YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR: WINNER; George Mandela (Muhoroni Youth), RUNNER-UP; Ebrima Sanneh (Nairobi City Stars), THIRD; Alphonse Ndonye (Mathare United).
COACH OF THE YEAR: WINNER; Frank Nuttall (Gor Mahia), RUNNER-UP; Robert Matano (Ulinzi stars), THIRD; Twahir Muhiddin (Bandari).
FAIR PLAY PLAYER: WINNER; John Baraza (Sofapaka) RUNNER-UP; Vincent Nyaberi (Thika United), THIRD; Alfred Onyango (Sony Sugar).
FAIR PLAY TEAM OF THE YEAR: WINNER; Western Stima. RUNNER-UP; Mathare United. THIRD; Sony Sugar.
TEAM MANAGER OF YEAR: WINNER; Moses Nyalik (Western Stima), RUNNER-UP; Jolawi Abondo (Gor Mahia) and David Mwangi (Ulinzi Stars),THIRD; Nevile Pudo(City Stars).
NEW CENTRE REFEREE; WINNER; Raymond Onyango, RUNNER-UP; Judith Muhonja, THIRD; Michael Iluve
NEW ASSISTANT REFEREE: WINNER; Stephen Adeya, RUNNER-UP; Judy Wamaro, THIRD; Beth Wambui.