Harambee Stars’ first shining light, McDonald Mariga, has revealed the role he played in making one of the greatest ever players to come out of Kenya.
Mariga, who has been blighted by persistent injuries, has seen his status as Kenya’s biggest footballer taken away from him. He, however, says he is all too happy to play second fiddle to his younger brother.
Speaking to espnfc.com, the former Inter Milan player revealed he was the one who brought Wanyama to Europe as a 14-year-old. He was also responsible for orchestrating his first big move – to Celtic in 2011.
“Our family are so close. My mum and dad made us close,” Mariga tells ESPN FC about their family. They are the middle two of four footballing brothers of which their father was a former footballer.
“Growing up, they [parents] said, ‘You have to help your brothers’. We would play football together and maybe at school, you would finish first but you’d have to wait for Victor to come home together — things like that.”
“Sometimes you were playing and you would see someone kick your brother, you feel bad and go to stop it. Even now, we speak every night on Skype. Maybe we don’t talk on the day of the game so he can concentrate, but we send messages like, ‘Hey, have a good game’. But after the games, we always talk. We discuss how it was — everything. When I don’t have a game, I always watch Victor’s.”
The journey all started when Mariga got his big break and joined Swedish third division club Enkopings, aged 17. With his immediate success on the pitch, bigger clubs came knocking and he was loaned to first division side Helsingborgs. He soon made the move a permanent one but began to grow homesick.
McDonald Mariga revealed that that was when he approached the club’s chairman and told him about Victor. The chairman agreed to have Victor come and join the second team, which would somewhat cure Mariga’s homesickness.
“I wanted Victor to stay with me because I was alone. He helped me a lot. I had my brother and we were going to training together and coming back home together and talking. Before it was very difficult for me because I was alone and it was very cold in Sweden. But with Victor being there, I was very happy. Everything was going smoothly. He did well and everything was just simple and easy.”
A few years later, the pair had to separate with the older of the two heading to Italy after failing to secure a transfer to England. The powerful midfielder signed for Inter Milan where he went on to win a historic treble under Jose Mourinho.
During that same time, Wanyama garnered a huge reputation playing for Beerschot in Belgium’s first division. He went on to move to Celtic, which his elder brother almost joined a few years ago then Southampton and Spurs.
A lot has happened since that time between the boys from Muthurwa with Wanyama steady growing into stature with Tottenham, and chasing a Premier League title. McDonald Mariga, on the other hand, is lavishing at the bottom of Italy’s Serie B with Latina, who owe him more than five months wages but insists he is his kid brother’s biggest fan.