Last season, Gor Mahia was literally unstoppable in their pursuit for a third consecutive Kenyan Premier League title.
In a collective of stars that came inches away from bringing Kenyan football continental glory (losing 2-0 to Tanzania’s Azam FC in the Cecafa finals), it is hard to handpick a single player that shone the most.
After his switch to Djurgårdens IF of Sweden, Gor’s struggles to recreate their swagger this season without Michael Olunga suggest that, certainly, he was the cream of the crop.
Those close to the towering forward know him as a humble, meek, interactive and religious man; but is there more?
In a Skype Interview with Citizen Digital, Olunga took time to talk about his footballing prowess, his dating life, Christian faith and his new life in Sweden.
Who is Michael Olunga?
“Born in 1994, I was raised by a humble family in Lakisama estate, Nairobi. I attended Babadogo Primary School, graduated to Upper Hill Secondary School.”
So when did his relationship with football begin?
“While I played a bit of football in primary school, it is at Upper Hill that I started to feel I had a special place on the football pitch – especially after I was snapped up into the school team by the school’s football coach,” reveals Olunga.
He delightfully recalls scooping the Nairobi County Schools’ Association MVP award for finishing top scorer at the event and his overall outstanding football skills and technique.
Can you briefly describe your career path?
“After completing my KCSE education I joined the Technical University of Kenya where I played for the school team. During this time I also played for Tusker FC during the 2013 Kenyan Premier League under 19 tournament where my professional career began,” says the 21-year-old.
“I graduated to Thika’s senior team, was later loaned to Thika United in 2014 where I secured a transfer to Gor Mahia FC (for Ksh200, 000),” Olunga narrated.
This year the former Gor Mahia ace moved to Sweden, successfully underwent trials before completing his transfer to Stockholm-based side Djurgårdens IF for an estimated Ksh4 million.
How do you balance between your studies and football?
“I take my education very seriously and even though my football career is a priority, I hardly skip classes for any reason,” Olunga states earnestly.
And having scored an impressive A- in his KCSE examinations and admitted to TUK’s Geospatial Engineering degree program, Olunga equally thrives academically.
His close friends at TUK reveal the ‘Engineer’ only used to miss classes during Gor’s morning training sessions and even then he would make follow-ups to find out what he missed and to copy notes.
Olunga says he is looking to continue his studies abroad and is currently awaiting a personal number before he can enroll for a University in Sweden.
Choosing an exam over dinner with ‘Baba’ Raila Odinga
They say one only knows their true priorities when one is forced to make a decision between two equally important choices.
When faced with a dilemma that involved dining with top political leader and ardent Gor Mahia supporter, Raila Odinga, or sitting for an exam – Olunga chose the latter.
“During one time when the Gor Mahia team had a dinner party with CORD leader Raila Odinga, it also happened that we had a CAT exam that evening. You can guess what he chose to do, he just had to sit for the CAT first,” says Lutah, his classmate.
Oliver Otieno, also a classmate shares Lutah’s sentiments saying he can count the number of times Olunga skipped school activities.
Missing Kenyan food
“Man! It’s freezing cold over here. I have never experienced this kind of a climate and for the first one week I have to thank my teammates for supporting me. They gave me warmer clothing and basically helped me adjust to the life here,” Olunga explains.
Aside from the sunny weather, what else does he miss about home?
“I miss Kenyan food. I only get to eat hamburgers, fries and such around here but I know I will get used to them in a while,” he says laughing.
Has he found a new social circle?
“Right now I can’t say I have much of social life here as I am still getting acquainted with the team and settling in. But the people are very friendly and supportive.”
People say you’re very religious, can you tell us something about your faith?
“What can I say? Without God I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I believe that it’s by God’s will that I am able to do everything that I do. All the goals I score are either a dedication to God, my family, friends or the fans,” says the Catholic faithful.
Thus far, he attributes his success to God.
“Whether I feel I am succeeding or failing, I know for sure that God is always by my side.”
Finally, are you seeing someone special?
“Were you always going to ask that?” he grins.
When he finally gets around to answering the question, his response is brief: “Yes I am, but please don’t ask me who she is. She is Kenyan.”
Even his closest friends say Olunga has always preferred to keep his dating life private and likes it that way. He is not a flashy guy, but he loves his queen.
Learning a foreign tongue
When he’s not playing or training, you can find Olunga listening to Swedish audio files and watching learner guides.
By learning this new tongue he hopes to bridge the communication gap between his teammates, coaching staff and himself.
“I would like to thank my fans back in Kenya, my coach and my family for always showing me their support,” he concludes.
Interesting facts about Olunga you didn’t know
Olunga boasts a powerful left foot as his stronger of the two, but writes using his right hand.
Olunga has no favorite English club and although he would love to play for Arsenal, his dream is to play for Spanish giants Real Madrid.
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