Kenya: Qatar Will Be Your Professional Graveyard 'Engineer' Olunga, Do Not Go There for Now

13 January 2021
opinion

Come on Michael Olunga! Do not move to the Qatari premier league. Not right now in your career.

Last year in this very column I argued that you were fit to play in Europe after a storming performance in the J1 League, Japan's top club competition.

You went on to win the league's Golden Boot and were voted the competition's Most Valuable Player this month. Then news started trickling in last week that Qatar Star League side Al Duhail had tabled a multi-million dollars bid for your services.

That you had accepted the deal and were negotiating personal terms, like doubling your annual Sh85 million salary. In fact, you were spotted in Doha this week.

If you move to the Middle East now, you can as well end any ambition of ever returning to Europe, which, by talent, following and influence, is truly the Mecca of club football in the world. Qatar will be your professional graveyard.

For starters, even though Qatar has invested a lot in football in recent years particularly since controversially winning that bid to host the 2022 World Cup, shifting from the J1 League to Stars League is a mighty step-down.

It is akin to an achieving governor who has the potential of becoming a president telling people he is going for an MCA seat because the pay is better.

Japan have participated in six Fifa World Cups compared to none for Qatar.

Japan have won the Asian Cup -- the equivalent of the Africa Cup of Nations -- a record four times while Qatar won only their first title in 2019 when they hosted the continental showpiece.

In the modern era of the Asian Champions League, Japanese clubs have won the continental diadem five times while you would be hard pressed to remember a Qatari club participating.

I will also tell you that many big names that move to Qatar, or the Middle East for that matter, are spent forces looking for a soft landing. Many have already made their fame and fortune in Europe and really have nothing more to prove.

Here are some examples. Barcelona and Spain legend Xavi joined Qatari club Al Sadd in 2015 aged 35 years.

By the time he was heading east he had featured for Catalan giants Barcelona 767 times over a 24-year period, scoring 85 goals and winning 25 trophies including eight La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns. I have not even mentioned his key roles in Spain's triumph at the Euro 2008 and 2012 and the 2010 World Cup.

Xavi's former teammate at Barcelona, Sergio Garcia, left Spain in 2015, aged 31, to join Qatari outfit Al-Rayan. After a decade with Barcelona he moved to Zaragoza, Betis and Espanyol in that order. He was part of Spain's victorious Euro 2008 squad.

Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic moved to Qatari side Al Duhail from Juventus in 2019 aged 33. He had already made his fortune playing in the top league and clubs of Europe including German giants Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid of Spain and Italy's Juventus.

He became the first Croatian to score in the final of the 2013 Uefa Champions League helping Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 to crown a super season of treble titles won - the others being the Bundesliga and German Cup.

Now look at Asamoah Gyan's career.

The Ghanaian striker is a product of Liberty Professionals, just as you are, and joined Serie A side Udinese in 2003 as a promising 19-year-old. His goal poaching talent attracted the interest of French Ligue One side Stade Rennais who bought him in 2008, but most Kenyans became aware of his top quality at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations and when he moved to English Premier League side Sunderland in 2010.

He started off well scoring magnificent goals only to inexplicably move to Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates a season later while just 25.

He never fulfilled his potential that would have rivalled Didier Drogba's exploits in the Premiership, switching clubs eight times from UAE to China, to Turkey to India to Ghana where he is currently playing for Legon Cities.

Oliech, who had a successful career in Qatar with Al Arabi, where he in fact launched his passage to Europe, has advised you to go to the Qatari league and take the money.

However, he has also cautioned you to be very careful should you go there. The environment is totally different and I do not just mean the climate.

I could mention other not so pleasant things, but since I have ambitions to cover the 2022 World Cup in that country, I do not want to jeopardise my chances of securing a visa.

You are 26, approaching the peak of your power. Return to Europe and fly as high as you can, then go to Qatar for your swansong.

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