There is always joy and excitement among Kenyans when a local footballer goes to play professional football in Europe and the rest of the world.
Over the past two decades, Dennis Oliech, Musa Otieno, McDonald Mariga and until recently Victor Wanyama have not only become international headline stars, but have also become role models for a new generation.
Today’s new generation is currently led by Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga who sets the bar high for Kenyan players playing overseas with consistent goals that have won him accolades.
The Nairobian takes a look at how current players in Kenya’s current international setup are faring as the 2022 sporting calendar begins to ramp up:
Michael Olunga (Al-Duhail-Qatar)
Michael Olunga has been Kenya’s key man in charge of the Harambee Star attack for several years.
The 27-year-old has already played all over the world. Locally he began his rise at Tusker (2013), Thika United (2014) and Gor Mahia (2015) where he scored 31 goals combined.
In 2016 he moved to Europe where he played for Swedish side Djurgårdens IF for one season before moving to Asia to play for Chinese side Guizhou Zhicheng in 2017.
Olunga made history as the first Kenyan player to play in the Spanish La Liga league in 2017 playing for a year where he also scored a famous hat trick for the Catalonia-based club.
The Harambee Stars captain returned to Asia in 2018, but this time to play for Kashiwa Reysol in Japan. It was in Japan that he exploded with 58 scored in two seasons.
On November 24, 2019, he scored eight goals for Kashiwa in a 13–1 victory over Kyoto Sanga. Olunga ended the season with 27 league goals as Kashiwa ended the J2 season as champions and won promotion to the First Division.
Olunga finished top scorer in the 2020 Japanese J1 League with 28 goals, winning the Golden Boot and the 2020 J-League MVP. He is the first African player to win the J-League MVP title.
In January 2021, Olunga joined Qatar Stars League champions Al-Duhail on a three-season deal for a reported transfer fee of €6 million.
On Tuesday, Olunga added another feat to his growing cabinet of individual accolades after being celebrated after winning the 2021 Asian Champions League Golden Boot.
Olunga currently leads the 2021-22 Qatar Stars League (QSL) goalscoring charts with 13 league goals this season.
Olunga remains Kenya’s most prized attacking gem in international friendlies and tournaments and many are looking forward to the striker’s performance for Kenya in 2022.
Clarke Oduor (Barnsley-England)
The young left-back started his career in England at a young age, rising through the ranks at Leeds United before signing for Barnsley last year.
He has become a regular in the club’s first team and is gaining valuable experience in the Championship as he seeks to develop his career and potentially a move to the Premier League.
The 21-year-old has just one cap for Kenya but has a bright future ahead of him and will be pleased with his Oakwell debut this season, with Barnsley sitting mid-table despite being among favorites for relegation.
Victor Wanyama (CF Montreal-USA)
Captain Victor Wanyama has had an absolutely fantastic career having played for Celtic, Southampton and Tottenham before joining the Montreal Impact.
The Impact really benefited from his experience and his strength in midfield, but it was still a mixed season for the MLS team.
Wanyama is always present in the heart of midfield for the team and plays alongside Bojan Krkic, who also had an established career in the Premier League.
Last November, the former Harambee Stars captain helped CF Montreal win the Voyageurs Cup by beating Toronto FC 1-0 in the Canadian Championship final on Sunday.
This victory allowed Montreal to celebrate its first Canadian championship title at Stade Saputo since 2014.
The former Tottenham Hotspurs star played for 90 minutes to help his side finish the season with a trophy at Stade Saputo and book a place in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League.
Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma (AIK, Sweden)
Erick Ouma is a Kenyan international footballer who plays for Swedish club AIK. Mainly left-back, he can also be deployed to all other positions on the left side.
Born in Nairobi, Ouma signed a six-month contract with Gor Mahia in January 2016, before renewing it until the end of the year during the summer.
Ouma left Gor Mahia at the end of his contract, then signed a six-month contract with Georgian club Kolkheti Poti in January 2017.
In February 2018 he joined Albanian club KS Kastrioti, and in September 2018 he was playing for Swedish club Vasalund, for whom he made 22 appearances, scoring two goals. He then joined AIK for the 2020 season. Last year, Ouma started attracting scouts from the English Premier League and if he continues with his current form, he will definitely move on to the most famous football league. of the world.
Ouma made his international debut for Kenya in 2016. He was a member of the squad at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Richard Odada (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia)
Harambee Stars new defensive midfielder Richard Odada has been in the news since making his national team debut last year in September when Kenya hosted Uganda in the World Cup qualifiers. group E world.
Odada currently plays for FC Metellac in the Serbian top flight, having been loaned out by Red Star Belgrade to find precious playing time.
Odada spent time with Belgrade’s U19 side before being promoted to the senior ranks. He also trained with Juventus.
Joseph Stanley Okumu (KAA Ghent, Belgium)
Joseph Stanley Okumu (born 26 May 1997) is a Kenyan professional footballer who plays as a defender for Belgian club Ghent and the Kenya national team.
Okumu played club football for Chemelil Sugar, Free State Stars and moved overseas in 2018 to play for AFC Ann Arbor in the United States. At AFC Ann Arbor, he made 8 league appearances in the 2018 season.
On August 16, 2018, Okumu signed for USL Championship team Real Monarchs. On 28 August 2019, Okumu was transferred to Swedish side Allsvenskan IF Elfsborg for an undisclosed fee.
Former Chemelil Sugar centre-back had an impressive season with Elfsborg which drew reported interest, mainly from Lorient and Reims in France, as well as Rangers FC and Celtic from Scotland.
He signed for Belgian club Ghent on June 21, 2021.
Ismael Gonzalez (Real Murcia, Spain)
Harambee Stars midfielder Ismael Gonzalez was transferred to Real Murcia, the Spanish fourth division team, last August.
The star, born to a Kenyan father and a Spanish mother, played six games as Las Palmas finished ninth last season in the second division. Gonzalez previously played for Las Palmas II, Cacereno, Granada II and Fuenlabrada before joining Las Palmas.
Despite not being called up to the national team recently, especially under Jacob “Ghost” Mulee, Gonzalez was part of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations contingent that took part in the 32nd edition in Egypt.
Erick Kapaito (Arba Minch-Ethiopia)
After four seasons and 53 Premier League goals with Kariobangi Sharks, Erick Kapaito left the club for newly promoted Ethiopian side Arba Minch FC last September.
Last season, Kapaito beat the other players in the league to walk away with the golden boot and crowned him with the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
Kapaito started playing football during his childhood at Maili Tisa FC in Namanga where he grew up.
He would join Kiluani High School but due to his talent as a footballer, he would later join Laiser Hill on a scholarship.
A keen admirer of former Harambee Stars striker Allan Wanga, Kapaito will join Eastleigh Youth FC who played in the Nairobi County League in 2015 before signing for Talanta FC in the National Super League in 2017.
Kariobangi’s Sharks would come next for Kapaito after scoring 17 NSL goals, signing with the Sharks in 2018, the same season he was voted MVP and won the Golden Boot award.
In the same year, Kapaito made his debut for Harambee Stars, a party he would like to achieve every year with his set goal of helping Kenya qualify for the World Cup.