Oliech: Why players free-kick from retirement

By Bethuel Oduo: Friday, January 11th 2019 at 12:10 GMT +3 | Football
Gor Mahia striker Dennis Oliech in action [Courtesy]

Kenyans were shocked when former star Dennis Oliech free-kicked himself from retirement to sign for Gor Mahia. 

Oliech was 24 when Harambee Stars last played at the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 2004. That was 14 years ago. Do the math.

Soccer speaking Oliech should be training as a coach instead of playing soccer, but his is not the first time a player is coming from retirement since a comeback is only possible when a player maintains manageable fitness.

Some have been dogged by serious injuries due to their advanced age and lack of proper medical attention after retirement. Let us see which other retirees will be inspired to join Oliech from the abyss and boredom of retirement.

Luring players from retirement was perfected in the USA when it realized it was in soccer slumberland in the 1970s. To play catch up, sports administrators contacted huge corporates for assistance, like Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia.

Good thinking it was but there was a small hitch. They had to buy great soccer stars to be their revival ambassadors. Brazilian Pele’s name was on top of their must-buy list. However, he was from Latin America, the home of Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola’s bitter rivals in the international soft drinks market. Coke had somehow been unable to penetrate the Latino market.  Trust Americans, they waited for their opportune moment and pounced.

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Pele and other great stars like Franz Beckenbauer and Johann Cruyff had just ‘retired’ from active international duty. The former last played in the 1970 FIFA World cup in Mexico and the latter at the (West) Germany hosted edition of 1974.

Through a team known as New York Cosmos they unleashed the dollars and lured Pele, then 37, from Santos FC in Brazil and Beckenbaeur, 32, from Bayern Munich. As this was happening other ‘retirees’ like Portuguese’s Eusebio at 34, joined Las Vegas Quicksilver and Johann Cruyff 31, left Ajax Amsterdam for Los Angeles Aztecs. From Africa, they attracted a young 22-year-old star Jomo Sono from Orlando Pirates to New York Cosmos. Just so you know that was how Jomo came to name his Soweto based team Jomo Cosmos. America was now ready for the soccer world.

Pele was a revelation and through his country’s links to Pepsi he became their ambassador ending up with a Kenyan tour in 1976 as their brand ambassador. The USA has ever since been a retirement destination for several stars like Wayne Rooney, Lothar Matheus and David Beckham.

The USA also introduced soccer scholarships to lure talent from Kenya. The Kenyan troupe was led by Sammy ‘Kempes’ Owino and Nahashon ‘Lule’ Oluoch. The biggest exodus was seen when the so-called ‘Fabisch boys’ left in droves lured by the opportunity for education first and soccer later mentality. Tom Odhiambo, Allan Odhiambo, Eric ‘Cantona’ Ochieng, Vincent Kwarula, Simeon Mulama, Eric Ongao and many others followed suit.

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