Kenyan international Michael Olunga has revealed how Kashiwa Reysol fans made a song for him which motivates him to do even better when playing in league matches.
The towering Olunga moved top Japan’s top league from China to sign for Reysol and despite the team being relegated a season ago, he remained to help them gain promotion for the current season.
The former Gor Mahia striker has now revealed how the famous Swahili song ‘Hakuna Matata ’ has helped him to bond well with the fans of Reysol.
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“My chant at Reysol is based off Boney M.’s 'Jambo-Hakuna Matata ', a famous Swahili song,” Olunga told Fifa.com. “They normally sing it for foreigners when they arrive in Kenya as a welcoming song. They sing to foreigners telling them Kenya is a peaceful land. Hakuna Matata means there are no problems.
“When the fans made a chant for me they probably googled famous songs in Swahili and found this one! I heard them singing it in one game and I liked it because it portrays my culture. Being sung in Swahili it makes me want to give more to the team because I feel the culture. This is why I love the chant.”
And while Olunga grinds during his personal training each and every day, he knows one day he will be reunited with his supporters and they will be able to sing together again.
Olunga, who grew up watching and admiring fellow left-footer Robin Van Persie, celebrated his 26th birthday during the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic and has admitted how difficult it was for him to settle in Sweden, where he moved to play for Djurgårdens IF.
“The first six months in Sweden were not so easy, coming from Africa to Sweden during the winter with the temperatures and overall culture shock – the tempo of the game was quite high,” Olunga continued.
“There were a lot of factors that weren’t working to my favour. These are situations you can find yourself in as a player. You try and adapt as quickly as possible because it’s a competition and sports are limited – only 11 can play. The experience there made me stronger.”
That tough experience informed his approach to moving to Japan, and his hard work, keenness to embrace Japanese culture and on-pitch success have turned him into a cult hero among the Kashiwa Reysol faithful.
Olunga's adaptation to Japan has been aided by his willingness to interact with his team-mates and coaches and learn as much as he can about the culture. He has taken to Japanese food as well. His favourite dish is Unagi (Japanese freshwater eel).