Football is arguably the most supported sport in Africa including Kenya. The nation has produced great stars like Victor Wanyama, Dennis Oliech, Michael Olunga, Brian Mandela, McDonald Mariga just to mention a few. But the question remains, is Harambee Stars still flying high the Kenyan flag like it did ten years ago? A resounding no. Only the football governing body FKF knows what ails the team.
Nowadays, when Harambee Stars play and lose a match especially to small teams like Lesotho or Burkinabe, it always reminds me of sensational striker Dennis Oliech 'the Menace'. He used to terrorise defenders and goalkeepers back then and was a feared opponent. The last time Kenya featured in Africa’s biggest soccer bonanza 11 years ago, Oliech made his mark in African football pages and was voted among the ten most promising players in the world alongside Wayne Rooney. Who can forget when Oliech rose to the occasion, scoring the all important goal against Cape Verde with a thunderbolt strike that left the keeper gasping for breath?
Fast forward to present day and the celebrated striker, the darling of Kenyan soccer fans, is no where to be seen. Oliech the Menace popularly referred to as Wuod Mary (Mary's son) is slowly sinking into oblivion. He started off with a move to France in 2003 joining French Ligue 1 club, FC Nantes after a brief stay in Qatar. Unfortunately the club was relegated and Oliech later joined Auxerre. The struggling team did not sit well with the striker who proceeded to move to AC Ajaccio. Lady luck was not on his side as the club was also relegated. Life was becoming tough for him especially without a club to play for in Europe. Oliech moved to one of UAE's oldest clubs, Al Nasr SC in 2015 where according to a source within the family, “he barely lasted six months.”
All while this was happening, Oliech captained Harambee Stars for quite sometime but was stripped of the position by former coach Adel Amrouche, who cited indiscipline. He was replaced by Southampton midfielder and current captain Victor Wanyama.
The 32 year-old striker whose lavish lifestyle made him the talk of town, is today living a very different life. Financial problems seem to be his biggest ailment with Kenyans referring to him as a 'no body'.
At the height of his career, Oliech was a generous homebody often footing bills for his large entourage where ever they went. It was rumoured that he was taking home a whooping Sh 150 million annually while playing for Auxerre and Sh 92 million at AC Ajaccio. He made a lot of real estate investments, supported his family and generally ensured that even his extended family were not left out. This has turned out to be a thorn in his flesh as there are currently family feuds over property that has resulted in court cases.
While it is not exactly known when things begun to go downhill, what is sure is that Oliech is facing a myriad of challenges. He has reportedlly sold off some properties and leased out others including his house at Cedar Valley, Lavington, leading credence to increasingly loud 'reports' that his financial situation isn’t as healthy as it once was. Here is a man whose social media pages were littered with pictures of him and his friends imbibing high end liquors, driving expensive cars and literally living up the good life. His nightlife was extravagant, blowing up tens of thousands of shillings in one sitting.
He made seemingly wise decisions, investing in a few businesses including Veron Fashion, a boutique in Hurlingham that used to sell mens and ladies wear and lingerie all imported from France but the business did not pick up as expected leaving Oliech with a lot of dead stock.
While his hangers-on enjoyed the trappings that came with being Oliech's 'friends', the current situation is a far cry from what they were accustomed to. The Moet and Chandon, Henessey and other expensive brands that were downed by the bottle, have been replaced by 'ka-quarters' of ordinary brands reminiscent of campus days when funds were low but the thirst was real. And to cap it off, bundles of moguka/miraa are readily available.
They usually say that when trouble hits, it hits hard. Apart from the cash crunch, Oliech's groupies or is it socialites have also downgraded. While, the hottest ladies outdid themselves following him around (mostly at his expense), now it seems just anyone can be his 'friend'. He seems to have settled for football lasses if his profile pictures are anything to go by. Furthermore, his Chrysler car that used to draw many onlookers has been replaced by a white Toyota vehicle which has seen clearly better days, as Oliech’s preferred mode of transport.
So why wouldnt the famed striker turn to his other income sources to cushion him from hard times? Well his other business, Fishborne Entertainment, infamous for bringing in reggae sensation RDX, yes of the 'bend over' hit single, is not doing well also. Oliech's frequent trips to Jamaica's capital Kingston, are also unheard of nowadays.
So, what happened to the Ujaluo ni gharama (Loosely translated that being a Luo is an expensive lifestyle) phrase?
The former star is currently staying in a three bedroom rental apartment in Highland Garden on Kileleshwa's Siaya Road with his "spanner boys". He has been spotted of late making several trips to a popular bar along Lang'ata Rd where he is always seen sipping on 18 year old whiskies in the company of ratchet football groupies. An annoymous source hints that the money for booze comes from his new 'gold business' which is not doing too bad.
However, as a parting shot, one of Oliech's 'hangers on' who did not want to be named, revealed to us that "the Menace" is broke and might soon become another Odumbe.
"Siku hizi Dess (as his "boys" refer to him) hana kakitu, kazi ni kuchana miraa na moguka pale Dago. Wale socialites walikuwa wanamdai sai hawaonekani. Cheki Facebook cover photo yake, hao ndo madem ahang out nayo". he concludes.
(These days Dess is broke, he spends his days chewing miraa and moguka in Dagoretti. Even the socialites who used to hang around him are no where to be seen. Look at his facebook photo profile and see the calibre of women he is hanging out with).