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Top 5 Kenyan Footballers of All-Time

Kenya's football legends: Joe Kadenge (left), Austin Oduor (Centre), and Mahmoud Abass (right)
Kenya's football legends: Joe Kadenge (left), Austin Oduor (Centre), and Mahmoud Abass (right)
Simon Kamau

During their prime, Dennis Oliech and Joe Kadenge were regarded as the finest Kenyan footballers of all time to have graced the pitch in local, European and International football. Other players have also been considered as greats from Kenya but in this article, we will look at the players who were best in their positions. Their contribution to the clubs they played in and the National Team was exceptional and they all had successful spells for the National Team. They helped the country qualify for several competitions prior to the arrival of Oliech, who helped the country win the 2002 Cecafa Championship and Victor Wanyama helping the Country qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt with a 3-0 win over Ethiopia.

Mahmoud Abass (Goalkeeper)

When he started his footballing career, he was mentored by the great Kenyan goalkeeper, Siang’ a, and this led to the debate of deciding who was the best between the two. Abass had something special and a great talent which helped him help the country win matches even during their darkest times. He will always be remembered as the finest goalkeeper Kenya has ever produced at all footballing levels. He was always included in the Harambe Stars squad and helped AFC leopards win a three-peat in the Cecafa. He possessed great reflexes that allowed him to save penalties from all sides and angles of the goal post.

Bobby Ogola (Defender)

Bobby Ogola was nicknamed the Six Million Dollar Man after he was the lead character in a 1980s TV series. He wore the legendary number 4 jersey for the Kenyan national team and turned coach after playing for Gor Mahia, further helping them clinch numerous titles. His performance for the national team was exceptional and he always made it receive a call-up. Injuries and age were the only two things that would prevent him from playing. He faces competition from the most successful Kenyan captain Austin Oduor.

Victor Wanyama (Midfielder)

After a controversial fixture between Harambe stars and Uganda Cranes for a spot in the Gabon/Equatorial Guinea Africa Cup of Nations, pundits, fans and the press were amazed by the incredible performance by Victor Wanyama a youngster at that time. The current National team captain, took over the reign from Dennis Oliech and is currently playing for English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspurs. He was part of the final squad for Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League Final 2018-2019. He is considered as the most influential midfielders the country has ever produced. Wanyama has played for 4 European sides, Beerschot in Belgium, Celtic in Scotland, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspurs in England. During his spell in Beerschot, he played 56 games scoring 2 goals, and in 2011 he moved to Celtic where he played 61 games scoring 10 goals and won the Scottish Premier League twice in 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. He also helped the team win the Scottish cup in 2013 before moving to Southampton in 2013. The Premier League side signed him from Celtic for a fee of £12.5 million and making him the first Kenyan to play in the English Premier League. Before moving to Tottenham, he Played 85 games and scored 4 goals. It was in 2016, that Tottenham decided to sign him for £11 million and from them to now he has been featured in 69 games and scored 6 goals across all competitions.

Victor Wanyama vies for the ball against Barcelona Talisman Lionel Messi in a UCL fixture
Victor Wanyama vies for the ball against Barcelona Talisman Lionel Messi in a UCL fixture

Joe Kadenge (Winger)

“Kadenge na Mpira”-the famous Kenyan footballing chant that was always heard on the pitch was inspired by Joe Kadenge. He was arguably the best footballer the country has ever produced. His pure talent had an endearing influence on many Kenyans. After playing for the Abaluhya FC in 1968, he also coached Tiriki FC before joining Maragoli FC in 1975 as a player. After 2 years, he coached Maragoli FC which was the first Kenyan team to tour Netherland in Europe for a match. He also coached the national team in 2002 and won the Cecafa with them.

Dennis Oliech (Striker)

After an incredible 80s peak, Kenyan football went to an all-time low and there was only one way to bring the country back to glory, only one man could do it. As referred by many Kenyans, The Menace, Dennis was a beast at his peak with lightning pace, physique, and great positioning. He helped the country qualify for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations after scoring a stunner during stoppage time win against Cape Verde. Other than his great performance for his club, he also captained the national team and scored 34 goals for the country. He played for Al-Arabi in Qatar between 2003-2005 scoring 12 goals in 17 appearances and was featured in The Guardian as one of the most promising young footballing talents alongside Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. In 2005 January, he moved to the French side Nantes, completing a $3.7 million move that saw him score 4 goals in 32 appearances during his 3 years spell with the club before moving to Auxerre in 2007. In Auxerre, he featured in 165 matches scoring a total of 25 goals. During his spell with the club, he had 2 bad seasons-2008-09 and 2009-10, scoring only 7 goals for them. However, in 2013, he went for a new challenge in Ajaccio where he scored on his debut helping his team finish the match with a draw. Overall, he would go on to score 8 goals in 50 appearances for the club. Currently you can find him playing for Kenyan side Giants Gor Mahia on a two-year deal.

Oliech in a match for Gor Mahia
Oliech in a match for Gor Mahia

Edited by shekhar

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