Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga has given a reason why he snubbed deals from Europe for Asia.
Olunga’s move to Qatari side Al-Duhail caused an uproar earlier in the year but even before that, some fans had questioned why he left Laliga side Girona for the Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol.
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Speaking on Bonga na Jalas show last week, the Harambee Stars striker said the urge to move to Japan was necessitated by his desire to play regularly so as to increase his market value.
“I know a lot has been said about my move to Asia but that’s what tabloids do. I arrived at Girona because I didn’t have much playing time at my club then (Guizhou Zhicheng). I had offers across Europe and was slated to join a French side when my club had allowed me to leave on loan and even booked a flight for France but I remember saying in one of the awards ceremony in the Kenyan Premier League that I wanted to play in Laliga. When a chance presented itself through Girona, I wasn’t going to turn it down,” Olunga said.
The striker remembered vividly how it was a dream to play in one of the best leagues in the world and admitted that he was in awe when he played against players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with their game in the Bernabeu being surreal.
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“I arrived at Girona as the third choice striker for the club but worked my way up until I became the second choice. I didn’t get the much-needed playing time but I can’t complain because the person (Cristian Stuani) who was given the task of getting us goals was scoring week in week out and replacing him was never going to be easy. I think he finished among the best five scorers that season in Laliga.
“I remember when we went to Camp Nou and how they played football. It was total football and you enjoyed it. At the Bernabeu, we conceded six goals and I came on late but Cristiano Ronaldo caused havoc. In his trademark celebration, the crown went in sync with him and it’s something you admire even as an opponent. It was a dream come true to play in Laliga but I had to leave at the end of the season because I needed to play,” he added.
On leaving China for Japan, Olunga says his value had decreased due to lack of playing time, and had to leave the Chinese side for Japan as they had promised him that he was to play 75% of their games.
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“The reason why I left China for Japan was the same reasons I left China for Spain. At Zhicheng, they had a new coach who had come with his own set of foreigners and since we had exceeded the number, I was forced to look for another team and Kashiwa gave me that route.
“I fell in love with Kashiwa and I did my best for them because I felt the love every time I heard them sing in Swahili chanting my name. I felt I owed them every time I stepped in the field of play and we achieved great things together,” he opined.
Asked about life in his new surroundings, Olunga admits that he has not found it hard to adapt in Qatar because there is a good population of Kenyans and it’s nearer to home than Japan.
“I don’t think adapting to the Qatar environment has been hard because there are a lot of Kenyans here who I can speak with freely unlike Japan where I rarely talked with people because of their language. Apart from the hot weather, everything is fine and I know things will be better next season,” Olunga concludes.
The striker insisted that he isn’t giving up n returning to Europe just yet but admitted that his concentration right now was to do well for his club.