By Prudence Minayo
Michael Olunga is a talented footballer whose exploits on the field has earned him a place among the best strikers Kenyan has ever produced. He had a passion for the game from a very young age and has now been able to turn that passion into a career. After achieving great success in Kenya, he has also gone to conquer the international arena. The free-scoring footballer has played for Sweden, China, Japan and is currently based in Qatar. The striker’s prowess in the field has made him a household name in the country and in the Japan top flight J1 League. In 2015, he won the Kenya Premier League best player.
Apart from his football career, he was also an engineering student at Technical University of Kenya. He gets his inspiration from the Bible and also admires football legend Robin Van Persie. At one point, he hopes to play for his favorite team Real Madrid. Olunga advices up coming players to trust in the process by being disciplined.
“There are many good players but you need to stay disciplined and focused and the right opportunity will come at the right time, sooner or later,” he advised.
Michael Olunga Ogada was born on 26th March 1996.
The talented footballer attended Baba dogo Primary School before joining Upper Hill Secondary School. He scored an impressive A- in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and joined Technical University of Kenya (TUK) to pursue a degree in Geospatial Engineering.
In a previous interview posted on the TUK website, he stressed the importance of his education. Despite being one of the best footballers in the country, he still insisted that it was very important for him to complete his education and that he plays football and also takes time for his studies.
“It is challenging to combine both academics and football everything should be given its tine, so I work hard and also play a lot,” he said.
“I would like to finish my engineering course and become an engineer by profession and at the same time play for the top leagues in the world like the English Premier League and Spain,” he added.
From a very young age, he loved playing football and at the age of 8, he would play with other pupils. Michael was brought up in Lakisama, Nairobi and came from a humble background.
The football star was born to Joseph Ogada Olunga and Alice Ogada. He lost his father at the young age of 7. Growing up, he loved emulating his older brother who had gone through a difficult education system. He would also play football with other kids while barefoot and they would sometimes suffer injuries. This motivated him to work hard.
“ My mum is a very strong woman, who did her very best to raise my siblings and me as a widow once my dad passed away. She did her best to be there for us and provide for all of us,” he told the Standard via a zoom interview.
The engineer-as he was fondly known when he played for Gor Mahia- also added that at first it was very hard for his mother to accept his football career. It took some time and convincing on his part for her to finally give in.
While still a student at Upper Hill Secondary, he started playing for Liberty Sports Academy. He helped his school reach the nationals and became the top scorer earning himself the most important player in Nairobi title. He scored 32 goals in the 2012 season.
On December 2012, he joined Kenya Premier League team Tusker on a one year loan from Liberty Sports Academy. He was then loaned to Thika United for a year before joining Gor Mahia for the 2015 season. He finished the season as the club’s top scorer.
On March 2015, he scored his first goal for Harambee Stars in a friendly match against South Sudan which ended in a 2-0 win.
On February 2016, he joined the Swedish team Djurgardens on a four year contract. He scored his first two goals in August in a win against IFK Goteborg and was named man of the match. Towards the end of the month, he scored the winning goal in a match against Gefle. In the last 12 matches of the Allsvenskan, he scored 12 goals and came number 5 in the Allsvenskan top scorer table. He also got the Newcomer of the Year nomination in Swedish football.
Early 2017, he joined a Chinese team and was loaned to La Liga side Girona FC for a year on September. On his debut match for Girona FC against Las Palmas, he scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 win, making him the first Kenyan player to score a hat-trick in La Liga.
On August 2018, he joined Kashiwa Reysol, a Japanese team. On September, he scored 8 goals in the team’s 13-1 victory against Kyoto Sanga. He finished the season with 27 league goals and his team finished the season as champions winning promotion to first division.
On July 2020, he scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 victory against Vegalta Sendai.
On October 2020, he continued his goal scoring streak when he scored a brace in Kashiwa Reysol’s 4-3 win against Vissel Kobe. He score two of the four goals.
He has since joined Qatari outfit Al-Duhail where he continues to net goals with abandon. Olunga is also the new Harambee Stars Captain.
In a Zoom interview with The Standard, he said he was seeing someone whose name has been given as Grace. The two have known each other for years and in 2005 they were neighbours. He further added that she visits him in Japan sometimes though the Covid-19 restrictions have made it impossible.
“ I understand that long distance relationships (are tough) but as long as you have good understanding, and mutual agreements, it will work,” he said.