Throughout the years, Harambee Stars has seen many greats come and go, without a doubt every era has had its “greatest player”. However probably in the 21st Century, there was only one undisputed greatest of all, his name is well known amongst football fanatics and many recognize him as the legend and the man who made Harambee Stars relevant and gave them the reputation they have today, but how well do you really know his career? I am sure many of you older fans know him and maybe some of you younger generation might have heard his name before. This is the incredible story of Dennis Oliech “The Menace”, the man who “made Harambee Stars.”

Let’s turn the clock and go all the way back to when Oliech was born. He was born in Mathare in Nairobi, on February 2, 1985. The game was already in his blood- his brothers (Ken and Andrew) were professional football players, that being said, they weren’t your typical professional football players as they played for small clubs in small leagues and didn’t get paid that “much”.

His pathway to football success was way back when he was in class seven at Jamhuri Primary School. He got a letter of approach from the “great” Kakamega High School, famously known as the Green Commandos to join the institution once he was through with his primary studies. This was because of how talented he was- football-wise. This was very remarkable since joining such kind of illustrious institutions needed a great score in one’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).

Once he was done with his Primary School studies, he joined Kakamega High School. During his first day in school, he was thrown into a friendly football match where the stadium was filled beyond its capacity. Ladies and gentlemen, Oliech netted six goals which left the whole stadium in amazement. You know it’s like when you play FIFA on easy mode. Because that was fascinating.

However, his time at Green Commandos was short-lived. He fled to Kamukunji high school when he was in form two.

In 1998- 2002, Oliech started his Youth career at Mathare United. Getting into the first eleven was tricky for the young Dennis Oliech. By then Mathare United was one of the powerhouses in the Kenyan top-flight league. Coach Francis Kimanzi, Titus Mulama, Simeon Mulama, and Vincent Otieno were among the first eleven players. If you know any of the above, then you might understand why Oliech found it tough to make it to the starting eleven. He however used to impress once he got in as a substitute managing to score 14 goals throughout his time at Mathare United.

In 2002, a fifteen-year-old would be called up for his first international cap during a friendly match against Nigeria where Kenya lost 3-0. Then, months later, at the 2002 CECAFA Cup where he led Harambee Stars to clinch their fifth title after defeating hosts Tanzania 3-2, by scoring the all-important winning goal. He emerged as the top scorer having netted five goals. He was only fifteen years old which showed he was way ahead of his age.

He turned professional in 2003 when he played for Al- Arabi in Qatar. Getting a chance to play abroad as a Kenyan, meant a big deal and a reflection of how talented he was. Through his two years spell at Qatar, he managed to feature 47 times despite stiff competition from seasoned attackers like Sefan Effenberg and the legendary Gabriel Batistuta. He netted 27 times which was quite impressive. His time was great to the extent he was lured by Qatar to change his citizenship at a fee of 200 million Kshs. He however declined the offer.

The following year (2004), he helped Harambee Stars to qualify for AFCON by scoring three goals during the qualifiers. He netted the most important goal in his career after he scored a screamer at the death against Cape Verde Islands to secure the AFCON qualification. Later at AFCON, he netted a goal in their 3-0 win over Burkina Faso.

The rest of his international career was nothing special. Later on March 24, 2016, announced his retirement from international football having netted 34 goals from 76 appearances- second all-time top scorer.

On the other hand, his career pathway was ascending every day- he was listed at nineteen by the Guardian newspaper as one of the World’s most promising young players in a list that included future stars such as Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie.

In 2005, Ligue 1 side, Nantes, bought Oliech at a fee of 3.7 million Euros on a four-year-contract. However, his debut at the club was not smooth as quite expected. A change in culture, language, playing style, and injuries slowed his life at the French club. It took him a year and three months to make his debut. Three weeks later, he scored his first goal in the round of 16 in the Coupe de France to send them to the quarter-final in a 1-0 win over Dijon. Throughout his four-year stay at the club, his goal-scoring form wasn’t good. During an interview at the Churchill Show, he revealed that his spell at Nantes was the worst due to the language barrier and a change in the playing style. He scored only four goals after making 32 appearances. Abysmal by his standards.

After Nantes was relegated in 2007, during that year’s summer window, Oliech’s stints at Auxerre, Ajaccio, Dubai CSC, and Gor Mahia were below average. Here are his goals tally in each of the clubs he played at.

2002–2003Mathare United(14)
2015Dubai CSC10(4)
2019Gor Mahia19(5)
International career

It is undeniable that Dennis Oliech’s spell with Harambee Stars was simply magical. There is something about him that transcended just scoring goals, not only did he provide goals but making those decoy runs that bore goals. He was a true magician who gave us unforgettable moments and inspired countless young Kenyan players.


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