I would like to introduce a player on the rise for Southampton FC. Underrated and undervalued by many, Victor Wanyama from Kenya has been an integral figure for the Saints since he joined in the summer of 2013.
He’s a typical #5: dictating play, setting the tempo, taking the ball off the backline to start the attacks, and shielding the back four. From his 6ft 2in massive body comes a powerful work rate and defensive asset. He’s a roaming destroyer, capable of playing box-to-box trying to win back possession. He’s also a composed play dictator, linking defense and attack. It’s no surprise he’s being targeted by numerous top clubs in Europe and Southampton is desperately trying to keep him.
In all, Kenya produced one of the best #5’s in the modern football.
It was the summer of 1991 when Wanyama was born in Nairobi. He spent his early teenage years playing for prestigious youth academy clubs, Nairobi City Stars and AFC Leopards. At age 16, he moved to Sweden for Helsingborgs I.F., where he joined his talented brother McDonald Mariga. That year, he made a successful first-team international debut against Nigeria and continued to make a positive impact for the Kenya national team. But, he struggled to settle in Sweden. The young teenager couldn’t adjust to the new environment and it was clearly affecting his performance on the pitch. Although his time in Sweden was a failure, he was already on the move for a next challenge with Beerschot in Belgium. Thriving for both for club and country, Wanyama began to establish himself as a rising youngster which made it possible for him to move to Celtic in Scotland. He was a regular member of the team that won two Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Cup in his first two years at Celtic. The turning point in his career came when he and his teammates achieved the famous victory over the mighty Barcelona during the 2012 Champions League group stage. Listen to what the pundits had to say about Wanyama’s performance.
Wanyama ended the campaign as the 2013 Clydesdale Bank Young Player of the Year and with a reputation as one of the most exciting young midfielders in Britain. He left to join the Saints that summer and the current Kenyan captain is in the spotlight this January transfer window.
There have been notable Kenyan players who moved to Europe, but no one has truly emulated Wanyama’s success at the top. A pioneer, he has undoubtedly opened up paths for more Kenyan players to move abroad early and exemplify his success. The question lies here: can Kenyan football take Wanyama’s rise as an opportunity to grow their football? The player is only 24 and he is still climbing. The Kenyan captain has already proved his nation that his hard work and dedication to his craft are two of the biggest impacts on Kenyan football. I hope this lifts the nation and takes its football to new levels. Oh, it would be my dream to see my beloved Kenya in the World Cup one day. Only time will tell. Until then, keep an eye on him if you’ve never seen him play in the EPL.