What you need to know:
- He took 15 days to score his first goal in Japan which came against Nagasaki in Kashiwa’s 5-1 win on August 25.
- The Kenyan international ended that season with three goals from 10 matches as Kashiwa got axed from top flight after completing the season in the relegation zone.
Kenyan international Michael Olunga has sent out a touching farewell message to Kashiwa Reysol fans after leaving the Japanese top-tier side for Qatari Stars League holders Al-Duhail.
In his message posted on Kashiwa Reysol’s website and Twitter a few hours before making his debut for Al-Duhail on Tuesday, the 2020 J1 League Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner said he hopes to return to the Chiba Prefecture-based side someday.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all fans of Kashiwa Reysol for their support. I really enjoyed my time at a wonderful club called Reysol. I hope that this club can develop even more in future, and I hope that it will be successful in the upcoming season. I hope I will be able to play in this beautiful club again someday in the future. I wish you success. Thank you!”
Olunga, who will turn 27 on March 27, joined Kashiwa on August 10, 2018 after two disappointing seasons at Chinese side Guizhou Zhicheng Hengfeng, which also included a loan move at Spanisha La Liga side Girona.
He took 15 days to score his first goal in Japan which came against Nagasaki in Kashiwa’s 5-1 win on August 25.
The Kenyan international ended that season with three goals from 10 matches as Kashiwa got axed from top flight after completing the season in the relegation zone.
Olunga marked his first full season with Reysol in 2019 with 27 goals. He also provided nine assists in J2 League as coach Nelsinho’s side punched its ticket to the top league.
He proved he was not a one-season man after he improved his goals tally to 28 league goals in 2020 as Kashiwa marked its return to the big stage with a seventh-place finish.
Olunga left Japan a hero after emerging J1 League Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner in his first full season in top flight league. He was also voted in 2020 J1 League Best XI. Olunga holds the record for the most goals scored in one match in Japan after netting eight times in 2019 J2 League in Kashiwa’s 13-1 win against Kyoto Sanga on the last day of the season.
He is the third African player to emerge the top scorer in Japan after Cameroonian Patrick M’Boma and Nigerian Peter Utaka. The two strikers from West Africans netted 25 goals and 19 for Gamba Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima respectively.
Olunga is the first African to become the J1 League Player the Year and only the second person from Kashiwa Reysol to get the award after Brazilian Leandro Domingues in 2011.
Other clubs Olunga has played for in his career are Tusker, Thika United and Gor Mahia (Kenya), Djurgarden (Sweden), Guizhou Zhicheng Hengfeng (China) and Girona (Spain).
Olunga, who started his career at Liberty Sports Academy, is not the first player from Kenya to play in Qatar’s top league. Dennis ‘the Menace’ Oliech turned out for Al-Arabi from 2003-2005.