For the better part of the week, a section of Kenyans has been trolling former prolific Harambee Stars striker Dennis Oliech. This is after a photo showing a seemingly aged and unkempt Oliech appeared online. Most seemed to take Oliech’s disheveled look to be sign of him falling into the gutters.
While it is human to point out other people’s faults, it would be prudent to do so in context of what Oliech has achieved for the sport and country in general.
Kenya’s football across the oceans was virtually unheard of until Dennis Oliech signed up for then French Ligue 1 side FC Nantes. At that time the country was euphoric over one of its sons flying the country flag high in European elite football.
Oliech’s move to Nantes and subsequent years in AJ Auxerre and Ajaccio opened up opportunities for other local-based football stars to up their game as they sought international fame. His move also saw international scouts turn their eye on Kenya as they sought similar players.
At one point of his illustrious career, the oil-rich Qatari government offered a 19-year old Oliech Ksh 0.2 billion to switch nationality. This was a significant sum given the striker’s humble background. It is the kind of money that would change the lives of his entire extended family forever.
Many Kenyan sportsmen and women have switched nationality to Arabic, European and American states in for better financial reward and living conditions.
This is a personal decision and no one has the right to criticize them in light of how little we appreciate our heroes. Nonetheless, Oliech turned down the offer and stayed true to flag and country.
Talking of poor treatment extended to our sports heroes, it is worth recalling the numerous rows Oliech, and other foreign-based footballers, had with the national team management over unpaid traveling allowances and other bonuses.
Several times he used his own money to finance flights to play for the national side. At one point he is said to have paid return tickets for 32 Harambee Stars players. This in itself was a sacrifice most of his critics would not have made.
On a more personal level, Oliech played a great role in elevating his family from poverty. He lifted his mother from a roadside fishmonger to a proud owner of the famous Mama Oliech Fish Restaurant. Reportedly Oliech also spent millions in medical bills for his mother’s cancer treatment.
For these and more charitable acts, it is only fair to remember the star for his goodness rather than a momentary peek into what ravages of aging and dwindling fortunes can do.