Michael Olunga explains why it is difficult for Kenyan players to break into the English Premier League

Wanyama remains the only Kenyan to have played in the Premier League || Courtesy

Michael Olunga explains why it is difficult for Kenyan players to break into the English Premier League

Mark Kinyanjui 08:00 - 25.06.2024

Victor Wanyama is the only Kenyan to have played in the English Premier League for Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, and Olunga has now explained why it is difficult for fellow countrymen to play there.

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga has shed light on the significant challenges Kenyan footballers encounter in their quest to play in the English Premier League (EPL). 

Despite Olunga's impressive goal-scoring records in various international leagues since starting his professional career in 2016, he has yet to fulfill his dream of playing in the EPL.

Olunga has excelled in several leagues, including a stellar performance for Swedish side Djurgården after a slow start, and a decent spell in Spain with Girona. 

His goal-scoring prowess truly shone in Japan with Kashiwa Reysol and continued in Qatar with Al Duhail. However, his EPL aspirations, including a well-known plea to former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in 2015 and a rumored 2023 move to Everton, remain unfulfilled.

Speaking on Hot 96, Olunga discussed the barriers preventing Kenyan players from breaking into the EPL, a feat only achieved by Victor Wanyama, who played for Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur.

“It is a dream for every Kenyan to play there. Congratulations to Victor Wanyama, the first ever Kenyan and our pioneer to play there, but there are a lot of restrictions that make it impossible for us to play there,” Olunga explained.

He highlighted the FIFA ranking requirement for national teams: “You have to be playing for a national team that is in the top 75 in the world. We are 108th or something, and I don’t remember the last time we were there. 

“That is a barrier and that is where the progression of the national team comes in. Getting a work permit is also difficult. There are barriers that hinder players from wanting to go there. Playing in Germany, France, and Spain is much easier, but in England specifically, there are restrictions.”

Olunga referenced the failed move of former Harambee Stars midfielder McDonald Mariga to Manchester City in 2009 as a classic example.

 Despite intervention attempts by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Mariga had to join Inter Milan instead in 2010, where he won the treble under Jose Mourinho.

“Remember when McDonald Mariga was about to join Manchester City, and the former Prime Minister Hon. Odinga even tried to intervene but it was quite impossible because they have rules that govern how players enter the EPL. It is not impossible, but the route Kenyan players have to take to get there is very challenging.”

Olunga's insights highlight the systemic barriers faced by Kenyan players, emphasizing the need for improvements in the national team's standing and changes in EPL entry regulations to facilitate more opportunities for talented players from Kenya.

 Despite these challenges, Olunga's success in various leagues underscores his exceptional talent and determination.

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