Dogged by persistent injuries which have considerably slowed him down in recent times, former Kenyan international midfielder McDonald Mariga is all too happy to bask in the glory of the meteoric rise of his little brother Victor Wanyama.
In an interview published on espnfc.com, Mariga on Tuesday spoke about the special relationship that he has always had with Wanyama and the significant role he played in mentoring the Tottenham Hotspur holding midfielder.
Ironically, while Mariga’s career has clearly nosedived into the lower echelons of Italian football, Wanyama is enjoying arguably the best football of his career with Tottenham who are locked in a two-horse race with Chelsea for the English Premier League crown.
But all that doesn’t matter to Mariga, who seems to be content with being one of the persons Wanyama owes it all.
From playing the over protective big brother during their formative years as school goers, to providing shelter in the faraway and awfully chilly Scandinavia, to brokering deals in the paid ranks for his little brother, Mariga’s persona has had a profound effect in the trajectory of Wanyama’s sterling career.
“Our family are so close. My mum and dad made us close,” Mariga said in the interview with ESPN FC. “Growing up, they 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,” Mariga further revealed in a subtle hint of just how much of his brother’s keeper he has always been.
Its more than a decade since Mariga first took Wanyama under his wings and while Mariga is fast approaching his sunset days, Wanyama is presently at the peak of his powers in an illustrious footballing career that has seen him playing for some of the biggest clubs in Belgium (Germinal Beerschot), Scotland (Celtic) and England (Southampton and Tottenham).
A lot of water has passed under the bridge over this period and Wanyama has tseday grown in stature to become title chasing Spurs’ most consistent performer this season.
And having recognized his younger sibling’s talent from a young age, it appears Mariga remains to be Wanyama’s biggest fan.
“Victor could have been the best player of us (brothers) – I thought that when he was small,” he said. “When you’re little, you don’t have a mind for tactics. You just play for play. You want to dribble past everyone. He was like that,” he said.