Dennis Oliech challenges Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat on Benson Omala selection
“I joined Harambee Stars when Mike Okoth was the lead striker. Let Benson Omala be given a chance to fight for his place with Michael Olunga. He is the top striker in the country at the moment,”
These were the words of former Kenyan forward Dennis ‘The Menace’ Oliech in regard to the controversial snub of Gor Mahia forward Benson Omala from the national team set-up.
In an exclusive interview with Nairobi News, Oliech appeared to critic Stars coach Engin Firat for leaving out Omala, 22, from the recent team that played out to an impressive 2-2 draw with Russia in Turkey.
Oliech who featured for top clubs in Qatar, France, and Dubai while in his prime, argued that football has no ripe age, and as long as Omala is banging in the goals, then he deserves a chance in the team.
Firat, 53, has consistently snubbed Omala, who has bagged six goals in six matches for his club in the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League.
Besides the game against Russia in which forward Masoud Jumwa was among those that impressed, Firat also left out Omala in both the 2-1 win over Qatar in Doha and the shocking 1-0 loss at home to South Sudan in September 2023.
Oliech, 38, who also turned out for Gor Mahia, suggested that Olunga, the team’s most potent attacker of his generation, needed help ahead of both the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers and 2025 Africa Nations Cup qualification matches expected to commence in November 2023.
“Omala is a disciplined player. Gor can’t entertain an undisciplined player who doesn’t train. I was 17 years old and Mike Okoth was a top striker. Omala is a young player just like I was and should be allowed to fight for a place with Olunga. We need Omala as quickly as possible,” he added.
Oliech represented Kenya 68 times and is second on the national team’s all-time scorer charts with 35 goals.
At some point during the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, a teenage Oliech led the line for Kenya alongside Okoth, a top player who was based in Belgium’s top flight at the time.
Okoth is dad to Nottingham Forest striker Divock Origi.
Oliech was speaking at the sidelines of the Dare to Dream Festival 2023 briefing at Ngong Hotel in Nairobi.
The festival which will be held on October 21, 2023, at Riruta Stadium, in Nairobi, will provide a platform for talented youths in various sports to be nurtured and awarded sponsorships.
After the win against Russia, Firat suggested Omala ‘was being pushed by the media to play for the national team’.
Without the player, Firat, while praising youngster Rooney Onyango, who incidentally is Omala’s club mate, for his impressive show in the game, said he is one player who is not being pushed by the media but is just concentrating on his career.
“A time will reach Olunga will retire and we don’t have a striker. Omala did well last year, he has continued this year and he is the best striker. People don’t just like the truth,” added Oliech.
Apart from Oliech, Omala’s father Peter Oluoch last week bashed Firat for snubbing his son and claimed jealousy from a top Harambee Stars striker, whom he did not name, was the reason his son was not receiving a call-up to the national team.
Nairobi News could not independently verify the claims.
Omala has however steered clear of the controversy and has been spotted training in the gym ahead of the return of the league matches on October 21, 2023, after a two week international break.