Michael Olunga reveals one factor that has kept him going any time he gets abuse over his performances

Michael Olunga reveals one factor that has kept him going any time he gets abuse over his performances

Mark Kinyanjui 08:04 - 22.06.2024

Olunga has revealed the importance of staying mentally strong in adverse moments, revealing how he deals with abuse, including during his time playing for La Liga outfit Girona when he was subjected to racism.

In the high-stakes world of professional football, mental resilience is as crucial as physical prowess. Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga has shared his insights on the importance of mental fortitude to thrive at the highest levels of the sport, especially in the face of various forms of abuse.

Olunga, no stranger to criticism, faced significant backlash last year when he went six international games without scoring.

 The fans' frustration was palpable, particularly after he missed several clear opportunities that could have altered the outcomes of key matches.

 This period of intense scrutiny was just one chapter in Olunga's career, which has also included instances of racial abuse, most notably during his time with Girona in Spain's 2016/2017 season.

Currently on holiday in Kenya, Olunga is recharging for another season at Al Duhail, where he has been a key player since 2021 after transferring from Japanese club Kashiwa Reysol. Speaking as a guest on Hot 96 FM, Olunga candidly discussed the challenges he has faced since turning professional.

“There is racism. Some (encounters) are bad and others not so bad,” Olunga said. “For me, I have only encountered it in Spain while I was playing in Girona. There was a game we lost and it put me in trouble, especially on Twitter, where people were posting monkey chants.”

Olunga reflected on the hostility faced by foreign players, noting, “We go there as foreigners. It is like we are taking what is theirs, and no one can be happy with taking your things in your motherland. You have to be strong mentally.”

He emphasized that while the public often sees the glamorous side of football—scoring goals, earning significant money, and enjoying fame—there is a less visible aspect that demands mental strength. “You have to be strong mentally where you can bounce back,” Olunga explained.

This mental resilience was put to the test recently when the Kenyan national team had to recover from a disappointing 1-1 draw with Burundi during the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. 

Despite being expected to win, Kenya's performance fell short, leading to frustration. However, Olunga and his teammates had to quickly shift their focus to their next match against the African champions, Ivory Coast, just four days later.

“When we played Burundi, the game was disappointing, yes, but we took a draw. In three days, we were to play the African champions. We needed to bounce back as soon as possible and leave the frustration behind us,” Olunga recounted.

Addressing upcoming footballers, Olunga advised them to develop thick skins to handle such pressures.

 He shared how he had to face powerhouse teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona shortly after being criticized for goalless performances. 

“You will get racist chants or comments, but in three days, you will be facing Barcelona or Real Madrid. You can’t keep living in the past. It is subtle sometimes, but it’s there, especially for black players.”

Michael Olunga’s journey underscores the importance of mental toughness in professional sports. 

His experiences highlight the resilience required to overcome both on-field challenges and off-field abuses, providing valuable lessons for aspiring athletes navigating the complexities of modern football. 

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