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The Rise of Micheal Olunga: The Kenyan Forward Making Records in La Liga


When Micheal Olunga scored a hat-trick over the weekend, to the footballing world, the towering forward was a somewhat new name, but in the heart of Kenyan fans, he’s a fan favorite that has been banging in goals for the national team at will.

The footballing engineer as he’s commonly referred to at home has scored three in his last two games for the Harambe stars, and he doesn’t look like he’s going to stop anytime soon.

For a man whose journey has not been an ordinary one, Olunga has overcome many criticisms to reach where he is. Today we look at the incredible rise of the 23-year-old and his rather unorthodox journey from Kenya’s Tusker United to La-Liga newcomers Girona.

Olunga announced himself on the national scene in 2012 when he scored seven goals as his team won 8-0. After the heroic performance, he soon joined Tusker United on loan before jumping to Thika United in 2014 for another season-long loan.



His breakout season, however, came a year later in 2015 after joining Kenyan heavyweights Gor Mahia on a permanent transfer. He finished the season as the club’s top scorer with 19 goals after helping them go unbeaten for the entire campaign. He was voted Kenya Premier League MVP that season and soon earned a regular spot with the Kenyan National team.

In 2016, after announcing himself to the world, Olunga decided to move on from the Kenyan Premier League. He ignored interest from Egypt, South Africa, and Russia to the surprise of many, choosing to join Swedish top-flight side IF Djurgardens FC.

Alone in a new country, with temperatures of around 10℃, Olunga found it hard to adjust to life in Sweden. He took time to find his scoring touch but once he did, he found the back of the net 12 times in the final 12 games of the season winning the hearts of Djurgardens fans.

By the end of the 2016 season, Olunga had become a household name in Sweden and was, in fact, a contender for the Allsvenskan Newcomer of the year but also decided to move on. He once again turned down offers from Belgium, Russia and La Liga sides for a move to China.

His move from Swedish top flight Djurgardens to the Chinese Super League side Gizhou Zicheng upset most of his fans who were claiming money motivated it. Many couldn’t understand why a 23-year-old with such a promising career would leave Sweden, refuse Russia, and Belgium for a move to China.

In the eyes of most pundits, China was at the time a sort of retirement ground for those beyond their peak, but Olunga who enjoys a good challenge decided China was the better option to increase his experience.


[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “Chinese football is growing, and I thought it was another platform for me to showcase my talent and so I took on the challenge.”

“When I left Tusker to go to Thika, I took a huge pay cut. Yet I attracted interest from Gor Mahia. It’s not all about the money, sometimes it’s about sacrifices,” he told reporters explaining why money wasn’t the motivating factor behind his move. [/perfectpullquote]


Fast forward to 2017, after a few months in China, Olunga joined La Liga newcomers Girona on a season-long loan move. He hit the ground running with two goals in his first game as they beat CF Ripoll 8-0 in a friendly.

Little did he know, the two would only mark the start of a memorable season. He made his debut against Sevilla in September becoming the second Kenyan player after McDonald Malinga to play in the Spanish Primera Division.

Used sparingly ever since Olunga who was on the bench for most of the season made history when he got a chance on his fifth appearance.

Coming on halfway into the game against Las Palmas, the forward scored a hat-trick making him the first Kenyan to achieve the feat in the Spanish La Liga.

The former Thika United player will now be hoping this performance convinced Pablo Manhin that he deserves a more prominent role when they travel to Atletico Madrid next weekend.


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