I’m neither broke nor retired—Oliech

Dennis Oliech Photo: Courtesy

Dennis Oliech is still a phenomenon. The former Harambee Stars captain might not be terrorizing defenders in Europe or attracting controversy off the pitch in Kenya, but he still attracts big bucks even when not playing professional soccer.

Dennis ‘The Menace’ has been on sabbatical due to a knee injury, a situation which has led his fans to speculate whether he has retired, is broke or both.

“I can’t talk about retirement. I just decided to take a break after picking a knee injury and went for first operation,” Oliech told The Nairobian in an exclusive interview. “I’m yet to go for a second one. I am 32 now and I think I still have four years to play football; it is not the end of the road but at the moment I am concentrating on Betway.”

Oliech is the brand ambassador for betting firm, Betway, which signed him shortly after returning home after the career threatening injury. This year, Betway extended his contract for another ear and the figures are sumptuous. The new deal which Oliech signed last month is said to be around Sh25 million although Oliech is coy about revealing the actual amount.

“The new deal is an improvement of the one I had signed last year. In fact, I am happy and satisfied with it. The best part the deal is that I get to interact with fans and also do my bit in promoting Kenyan football. The amount pegged on the deal is not important but the recognition for my contribution for my country is great as I promote Betway brand,” explains Oliech who argues that “More companies should engage current and former players as their ambassadors to earn something at the end of the day.”

Oliech is known for keeping to his closely knit family and childhood buddies besides attracting female celebrities and beauties who swoon around him. But Kenya’s most lethal striker remains single and ready to mingle. “I am still single, and searching. I believe I soon get someone to settle down with but at the moment I have two sons, Miguel, who is in Kenya and Joseph, who is in France. Miguel is a very good footballer and I believe Joseph too will be. I love them so much,” he says, nodding.

After spending slightly over a decade terrorising defences in manicured Ligue One stadiums in France and during UEFA Champions League matches, Oliech today is at home where his career flourished, in the dusty pitches in Dagoretti. In fact, Oliech recently led his estate team Mwat FC in lifting the Dagoretti Cup this January. The icing on the cake was when he scored the lone goal in the final against Barcelona at Riruta Stadium.

The killer strike was something reminiscent of the one he scored against Cape Verde in 2003, securing Kenya’s last appearance at the African Cup of Nations in Tunisia the following year. “It is always a good experience playing with the locals,” he explains.

“Though the fields are not up to the standard. However, it is good for socializing and getting fit. Remember that I did not play in the local league for long before I went to Qatar then Europe so it’s interesting and I enjoy it.”

Despite beating all odds for lucrative career, Oliech has always put family first. In 2014 he transferred his mother, Mary Oliech, to France for treatment and now says “My mum is recovering well; she is on medication and we thank God for her. I was lucky to be in a position to take her to hospital in Europe and I will always be thankful for that.”

Adds Oliech: “My family comes first; it has been my pillar through my career and I am very thankful for the support I have had. If I start talking about my family it can be endless. And for paying for my mother’s medical, I don’t hold it as a big deal; that is among my primary responsibilities for the family and I gladly did it.”

In 215, Togolese star Emmanuel Adebayor’s famously posted online outbursts over his family and how it was crippling his finances, a scenario that dogs most African players. Oliech has gone through the motions as well, but does not regret supporting his siblings to achieve the best.

Oliech family is a footballing dynasty with brothers Kevin Oliech (Mathare and Tusker striker) and Ken Oliech (former Gor Mahia captain) plying trade in local league while Andrew ‘Apache’ Oyombe is a pro in Sweden although not at the high levels scaled by Oliech. The ball for the family’s fortunes in soccer was set rolling by his elder brother, the late Steve Okumu who had stints with Gor Mahia and in the USA.

Dennis hopes that his two sons Miguel (10) and Joseph (three) will emulate him since an apple doesn’t fall tow far from the tree.