NAIROBI, December 11 – “Bahati ya mwenzio usiilalie mlango wazi,” is a Swahili proverb meaning don’t ride on someone else’s luck.
That is the message 2015’s finest, Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars forward, Michael Olunga sounded to those who have prophesied he will fall under the spell of the ‘Footballer of the Year (FOYA) curse’.
In previous years, all his predecessors except veteran forward, John Baraza of Sofapaka who won it in 2009; have ended up on the scrap heap unable to make further career progress locally or abroad.
But 21-year-old, Olunga who is on his third season in the top flight after having stints at Tusker FC and Thika United, seems on first impressions to posses the X-factor that could draw nectar from the poisoned chalice that is winning the highest honour.
He has plundered in 38 goals for club and country this season with the last goal coming on gala day on Wednesday when he netted the opener in their 5-3 loss on penalties to second tier side, Nakumatt FC at the GOTv Shield semi-final after they tied 1-1 in regulation.
“Everyone has his own luck in his own way. It’s all about hard work and having lows is part of football because it has happened in England and Spain. We have seen the likes Eden Hazard of Chelsea become the best players last season but this hasn’t gone their way.
“It’s normal for a player but I will continue working hard, praying to God every day and I’m sure if I continue working hard, I will also reach there one day. My goal is to play in either England or Spain,” Olunga, who dedicated the award that came along with Sh1m to his mother, Mrs. Alice Akoth Ogada declared.
The Geospatial Engineering student at Technical University of Kenya said every player is different and it will be unjust to compare him with previous winners that saw 2014’s best, Sofapaka midfielder, Ekaliani Ndolo become the latest victim of the curse.
“I’ve set the bar high and I’m going to raise it even higher next season so that whenever a striker comes, I want him to score 60 goals in a season and I believe it’s not difficult. I want to be the best that the country has ever produced.
“I’m looking forward to have a good time with the national team because it will propel me to the next level so whenever given a chance, I will do it with all my heart,” the former Liberty Academy striker described.
Unlike like his predecessors, Francis Ouma (2008-Mathare United), George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo (2010-Gor), Kevin Kimani (2011-Mathare) and Dan Sserunkuma (2012-Gor) who dumped the domestic league to seek greener pastures in Europe, Olunga is cautious about leaving the country.
-Education is key-
He avers his education will play a big role in his decision come January when his contract with Gor elapses.
K’Ogalo have offered him a new deal but Olunga, who went for trials at South Africa’s Premier Soccer League side Bidvest Wits in August but failed to break into the side, outlined his agent will advise him accordingly.
“It’s a very difficult situation especially when you try to make a decision to leave your country to go to another club. In our career there are two things that we look upon. There are some deals that are good in terms of monetary value but some are good in terms of exposure.
“If it’s all about money we have teams in Tanzania who offer good money but are not good for exposure. As a young player I look upon to play in big leagues in EPL and La Liga in the next coming five years so I have to look critically to the challenge I’ll face next year not only considering money as an issue but also visibility,” the Golden Boot runner-up with 19 goals declared.
“Clubs from Morocco, Sweden, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Algeria have contacted me but the final decision will be made in January. My education will play a big role in my move because I’m not playing football alone.
“I value my education a lot since it’s something that has brought me this far. As a player if you are educated you will be respected by fellow players and team management though it’s not easy to juggle both school and playing but through God, I’ve managed,” he added.
The Upper Hill School alumnus has risen to stardom through the ranks that saw him finish runner-up as New Young Player in 2013 on his KPL debut at Tusker FC before coming third top scorer last season while at Thika United.
“This season has been a revelation to me because since I started playing in KPL, this is the only season that I’ve scored through my head and scored a brace, a hat-trick and four goals in a match.
“It’s really exceptional, scoring 19 goals while wearing jersey number 19, netting nine whist donning number 9 at Thika and in my last match I found my 38th goal in the 38th minute so who knows what the tally will be next maybe I’ll score the 60th goal in the 60th minute,” the Real Madrid fan who admires, Colombian striker, James Rodriguez, explained.
Olunga who took home a total of Sh1.3m after scooping the Most Valuable Player and Sh300, 000 for Golden Boot runner-up said he plans to invest in education as well as giving back to the society.
“I’ll give God thanks and I can’t forget my colleagues who have been with me throughout. I will also give out charity and whatever will remain I will invest in my education and other things.”