The Kenyan onlines -football related and otherwise- have been going berserk over a photograph of Harambee Stars legend Dennis Oliech for the better part of this week. The said photo shows 2004 Afcon hero Oliech pictured alongside then Stars’ coach Jacob Ghost Mulee.
The reason many people have taken issue with it is that Dennis looks totally different from how he used to some years back. Many argue that he looks unkempt, malnourished and even disturbed. Honestly, I also don’t think he looks like ‘The Menace’ anymore. That the pic was taken at showbiz event Koroga Festival does not help matters either, both in attracting gossip blogs and furthering the tale that the once graceful star has squandered his fortune.
Amid all the bashing, one fact has stood out: Denno’s contribution to the game in this country is unquestionable. Lets all toast to that!
Those who purport to know the former Nantes, Auxerre and Ajaccio man have come out strongly to defend ‘Kajole.’ Their arguments hinge either on his contributions to the game or on things he has done away from the limelight that are not highlighted every other day in the media.
An excerpt from THIS post I did in 2016 reads:
If Denno dies at Blankets and Wine, If Denno dies in a skirt, if Denno dies without glory, he will have that one precious medal on his chest: He did his mama proud.
And that’s all that matters.
Yet, in all the furor, I think the cloud comes with a silver lining. Or two.
I’m not sure I should repeat the ‘no negative publicity’ line right now, but the importance of relevance cannot be overstated. Whether they are doing well or sinking, it is always important for stars to remain in the limelight. When in the public eye, the ridicule can always shake them out of the slumber if they begin slackening. The pressure to stay afloat pushes them to not give up. If not, publicity means they are always within the watch of a well-wisher who could help them back on board.
Dennoh has thrived on controversy for a long while since the end of his glory days. But the main point is he has thrived. Even when he was going through ‘scandals,’ he got some sunset-or honorary- call-ups to the national team. He even landed himself a role with Betway inside that period. Not so bad huh?
Think of all the stars who shone for the country, but are forgotten as soon as they retire from the trade. Do you even remember the likes of Steve Tikolo, Maurice Odumbe and the Obuya brothers who once put Kenya on the cricket world map? Of course not, not when you were just forgetting about Conjestina Achieng a few moons after her retreat to the background. Sometimes back I saw one of the cricket heroes on TV talking about his struggle with alcoholism, and it was just sad to watch.
Lessons for current players
In his foreword for the seventh issue of Soka Magazine, Jeff Kinyanjui wrote:
“While [Chemelil Sugar’s Hillary] Echesa is doing well, former Kenyan international Noah Ayuko is languishing in poverty and struggling to get off alcohol in Kakamega. This is a story I honestly did not enjoy assigning but we have to tell the[se] stories and only hope the current generation of footballers can pick lessons.”
I have also followed Samuel Gacharira trying to bring back to the fore some Mathare United stars who faded off before the technological gift of digitization.
I say these efforts are necessary not just for lessons to the current crop of players, but for the highlighted stars in equal measure. I bet before Soka’s follow up, the best active memory many Kenyans had of Ayuko was that line from Juliani’s song, ‘Kaa goalkeeper wa Harambee stars, Noah….hayuko!’
We also have to applaud the lessons that the generations coming after the pioneers have taken from their predecessors’ struggles. From the sidelines, it is safe to say that the Victor Wanyama generation appears to be soaking in professional football better than the Oliech-Mariga generation. The latter ones know the systems better- use of managers, career paths, handling fame, name it.
There’s a line inside seven minutes of the Movie Ted that goes: ‘No matter how big a splash you make in this world, whether you’re….Justin bieber…or a talking teddy bear….eventually no one gives a $h8T’
It is a hard lesson the current crop of players in all disciplines has to take. Sad that the active age of sporting prime coincides with the folly-filled stage of youth. As for the veterans, hog the publicity when it comes, mate! Whether negative or positive, you will somehow survive on it.
Go Denno go! (okay, that has a little of the 2004 nostalgia)