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Olunga urges more players to take up school

Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga during Kenya’s friendly match against Madagascar in Paris on June 7, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

PARIS, France, Jun 12 – Japan-based Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga has challenged players, both current and upcoming to invest heavily in education especially in view of life after their active football years.

Olunga, an A- finisher from the Upper Hill High School and an Engineering student believes that the best way players can equip themselves to survive freely when football is no longer their only source of livelihood is by ensuring they get education.

“I believe it is all about mentality. You train for two hours, but what do you do with the rest of the day. You can take online courses, go to campus… it’s not a must you go to school for eight hours a day. Everyone is usually tired after training, but you can always make that small sacrifice,” Olunga says, Speaking to Capital Sport in Marcoussis, Paris, where the team is currently putting up a training camp ahead of the African Cup of Nations.

He adds; “There is always life after football and that is what motivated me to work hard in school because one day, your career will be over and you need to have knowledge of something extra apart from football,”

Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga juggles the ball during a training session at the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis, Paris on June 9, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“Sometimes, if you don’t make it in the top level it is challenging because the income we get from our Kenyan clubs not so big that you can do something sustainable to you for the rest of your life. You can do just a small course but at the end of your career it will help you big,”

“I encourage more footballers, if you get an opportunity to study even if it’s two hours a day take it. This is what will help you in future. Maybe at this point as a top footballer you don’t see its need but football is a short career. There is a future tomorrow,” further added Olunga, christened ‘The engineer’.

The 24-year old finished his High School education in 2013 attaiing a high mean grade of A- before enrolling at the Technical University of Kenya where he took up an engineering course.

He continued a bit when he moved to Sweden playing for Djugardens but in between career changes that took him to China, Spain and finally Japan, he put his course on hold but plans to continue once he settles down in Japan.

The star striker is in his first full season with Reysol having joined them midway through last season where they were unfortunately relegated from the J-League and now play in the second tier.

Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga celebrating with Kashiwa Reysol fans after a win in a previous game

Olunga has been an instant hit in Japan and he says he is enjoying his stay there, with the fans already head over heels in love with him even composing songs in his praise.

One song that has been of particular impact is ‘Jambo Mika’, a rendition of the famous song ‘Jambo Bwana’, originally released by legendary band ‘Them Mushrooms’ in 1982.

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“When they sing you have to work hard and that’s motivation to have like 20,000 people supporting you and singing for you. They have left their work, they have left their homes just to be there and support you. You are obligated to do your best and that’s a motivation for me,”

“I want my song to be sang at every game and for that to happen, I have to score goals. If I don’t score, they don’t sing. Play Kenyan music!” Olunga further jokes.

“When I came in, I wasn’t scoring and the fans were not singing. It happened in Sweden as well and China. But when you start performing, they start appreciating you like it has happened now. They go out there looking for songs themselves. I didn’t tell them about Jambo Mika, I just heard them singing. So I have to score and give them a headache to look for more songs,” the lanky forward noted.

He adds; “It feels great always when you go to a foreign country and the fans appreciate what you do and give you motivation as a player. This just goes to show that there is a lot of talent in Kenya and we can go out there and show the world what we can do.”

Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga progresses forward during a friendly match against Madagascar in Paris on June 7, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Olunga has been brilliant on and off the pitch and is expected to lead the line for Stars at the Cup of Nations which kicks off in June 21 in Cairo. Kenya is pooled wit Algeria, Senegal and Tanzania and will kick off their campaign against the North Africans on June 23.

He believes that Kenya has what it takes to achieve its target of getting to the knockout phases of the competition in a group that has neighbors Tanzania as well as Algeria and tournament favorites Senegal.

“It was my dream to play at AFCON. The last time Kenya was at this tournament I was nine years old and at then, I didn’t even have dreams of being a professional footballer. It feels really great to be part of this historic team that has taken Kenya back to the AFCON after 15 years. It does not end here, we have to give our level best,”

“We are playing against the best countries in the continent and facing some of the biggest players. We will be interacting with the likes of Salah (Mohammed) and Mane (Sadio) who have won the Champions League and it’s a good experience,”

“None of us in the team has played in the Cup of Nations but I believe with unity and solidarity as a team we will achieve higher. It is this same unity that helped us qualify and we should maintain it heading to Cairo. Everyone is focused and we are ready to give our best,” Olunga affirmed.

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