Despite never qualifying for the World Cup yet, there is no doubt that there has been heaps of raw football talent in Kenya over the decades.
The Kenya national men’s football team, popularly known as the Harambee Stars, have received worldwide recognition from a number of names who went on to have professional careers in Europe.
The likes of MacDonald Mariga, who won the UEFA Champions League under Jose Mourinho during his time at Inter Milan and his younger brother and former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama.
Wanyama became the first Kenyan player to grace the English Premier League and is currently the national team captain.
Another first for Kenya was Michael Olunga, also known as the engineer, he became the first Kenyan player to score a hat-trick in La Liga, as his former side Girona FC thrashed Las Palmas 6-0 in 2018.
Just like every good team in sports, there were those who paved the way for the players that are there today and here we look at the all-time Kenya XI.
Goalkeeper: MAHMOUD ABBASS
During Kenya’s dominance of the East African region in the 1980’s, Abbass was the one between the sticks and is regarded as the best stopper to don the national colours.
Nicknamed ‘Kenya One’, he won 3 CECAFA titles during his time with his quick reflexes and penalty-saving heroics ensuring he will forever be a fan favorite.
“Only Arnold Origi as been able to come close to being a top quality goalkeeper over the years,” Abbas is quoted saying during a past interview.
Right Back: MUSA OTIENO
Regarded as one of the best captains Kenya has ever had, Otieno was a force to reckon with at the heart of the defense during his illustrious career.
He made 105 caps and was instrumental as Kenya finished third in their group during the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.
At club level, he enjoyed success at AFC Leopards and Tusker FC locally, before going on to make over 300 appearances for South African club Santos.
Center Back: JOHN BOBBY OGOLLA
The Gor Mahia FC legend was a huge and sturdy defender with his physique contributing to most of his prowess in overpowering attackers.
The ‘six million dollar man’, as he was nick named, was pivotal as Kenya won three successive CECAFA trophies between 1981 and 1983.
Center Back: MUSA MOHAMMED
The ex Gor skipper has made 34 appearances for the national team but I believe there is still more to come from him.
Mohammed captained Kenya as they won the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and won four Kenya Premier League titles with Gor before seeking greener pastures in the Zambian Premier League.
Left Back: PETER OTIENO BASSANGA
Another Gor player makes the all-time Harambee Stars XI and there is no doubt that the speedy and creative defender is one of the greatest to ever grace Kenyan football.
Aside from his club accolades, Bassanga was irreplaceable during the 80’s glory years as Kenya won three straight CECAFA titles.
Midfielder: VICTOR WANYAMA
Aside from his 10 English top flight goals for both Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, Wanyama was also the first Kenyan to score in the Champions League in 2012 as his side Celtics battled to beat FC Barcelona.
Now the national team’s captain, he has represented Kenya at the Africa Cup of Nations and continues to play club football at Montreal Impact under the tutelage of legend Thierry Henry.
There is still plenty to come from this man.
Midfielder: JAMAL MOHAMED
Though his career was filled with controversy, ‘Malo’ as he was commonly referred to as, remains one of the most gifted footballers to ever come from Kenya.
His close control, passing prowess and his ability to instantly change a game was second to none and it’s a shame that he only played 36 times for the national team.
Afterwards, he moved to the middle east where he played for three teams in the Oman National League.
Midfielder: TITUS MULAMA
Mulama now coaches over 70 boys as he strives to pave a career path for them in football after hanging up his boots six years ago.
But during his hey days, the electrifying midfielder was known to torment opponents on the flanks and add that flare and creativity to the team. He made 59 appearances for Kenya and scored five times.
“He is one of the best and most driven players I have ever coached,” former Harambee Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee is quoted saying.
Forward: MIKE OKOTH
The 52-year old had an illustrious career which saw him score 28 goals for the national team in 120 appearances, and is regarded by many as the greatest striker Kenya has ever had.
Okoth also scored over 80 goals across seven different clubs in Europe from 1992, acting as a pioneer for his countrymen who all dream to play in international leagues.
Forward: DENNIS OLIECH
‘Dennis The Menace’ is a name that no football fan in Kenya will ever forget. The former Nantes striker made his debut for the national team at 17 and the rest was history.
He remains Kenya’s all-time leading goalscorer with 34 goals in 72 appearances.
After years in Europe and Qatar, Oliech returned to join giants Gor Mahia FC, where he won the league as well as helped them reach the CAF Champions League quarters for the first time in their history, scoring 5 goals for Gor in the process.
Forward: MICHAEL OLUNGA
After winning the league title with Gor Mahia in 2015 and being named the MVP, Olunga left for greener pastures abroad and has not looked back since.
At only 26, the lanky forward has already scored 18 goals for his country in 40 appearances, meaning he could potentially break Oliech’s goal record.
He currently plays in the Japanese J1 League for Keshiwa Reysol FC, where he continues to display his goal scoring capabilities with 42 goals in just over 50 appearances.