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Extra sessions, endurance training helped me adapt in Sweden – Olunga

Michael Olunga celebrates after scoring a goal for his Swedish club IF Djugardens. PHOTO/Courtesy
Michael Olunga celebrates after scoring a goal for his Swedish club IF Djugardens. PHOTO/Courtesy

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 14 – Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga has revealed a personal initiative to go through extra sessions, endurance training and increased gym work helped him adapt to his first season with Swedish side IF Djugardens.

The former Thika United, Tusker and Gor Mahia forward notched 12 goals in his debut season despite struggling during the start of the campaign.

“I always believed I have something to offer. I worked hard even when things were not right and it was a motivation because I knew there was no shortcut to success. I did extra training sessions, went to the gym, increased endurance training and once I started scoring, it became easy because the pressure was reduced,” Olunga who also scored 19-league goals for Gor Mahia last season told Capital Sport.

The striker who has also been impressive for the national team scoring 10 times in 12 appearances in national colours has also revealed fans’ expectation back at home pushed him to work harder.

“I knew so many Kenyans and young players looked up to me and I did not want to disappoint and show them there’s room for giving up.

I worked hard for them. I knew I had to put Kenya on the European map,” Olunga added.

The 22-year old started life slow in Sweden and in a previous interview told Capital Sport the new environment plus a different league coupled with language barrier stunted his growth.

However, once he got accustomed to a tougher, faster and more physical Swedish top tier, there was no way back for him.

He went on to endear himself to the Djugardens faithful and on the last day of the season where he scored twice and assisted two as the club won 5-2 over GIF Sundsvall, the fans chanted his name.

Michael Olunga takes a shot at goal during a past IF Djugardens match. PHOTO/Courtesy
Michael Olunga takes a shot at goal during a past IF Djugardens match. PHOTO/Courtesy

Olunga admits he was almost reduced to tears.

“It is motivating when you know the fans appreciate then you also want to give them something to smile about. It spurred me on when I heard them chant my name and going on to score two goals and give two assists is not easy in top level European competition,”

“They have been supportive and I don’t take for granted them singing my name. I want to give them more reasons to smile next season,” the forward added.

But it is not as certain he will be with the Swedish club which finished seventh in the league next season.

Olunga has attracted the attention of a number of European clubs, but he maintains he will remain grounded but will tweak his eye if a bigger challenge comes his way.

“My job is basically inside the pitch. I leave the club and agents to handle what’s outside. I am happy at Djugardens because they gave me a platform. I still have a three-year contract with them and whether or not I will be there is up to my agents. If a bigger challenge comes, then why not?” Olunga posed.

He adds; “I love challenges because that is what builds a player. When I left Gor I went to Sweden for a challenge. I felt it was time to leave and go for something bigger. I believe if you take big risks, the results are bigger.”

If he remains in Sweden for another season, Olunga has already set a bar for himself and he believes he has gathered enough experience to go for bigger accolades.

Among the items that top his agenda is bagging the Swedish golden boot, pushing the side to European football and probably earning the best player gong.

“This season, I wanted to challenge for the golden boot but it was a bit late when I picked up. Next season, I have to go for bigger things. I have set the bar high and many people will be looking at me. I have to be innovative next season. Variety is the spice of life and I have to get new way of doing things,” Olunga offered.

“I will be going for top prize if not the top scorer then the best player of the season.”