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Fatherhood is like football, Wanyama’s father declares

COUNTIES
By Mercy Adhiambo | June 17th 2018
Noah Wanyama

On Thursday evening, when curtains were drawn for the first tournament of the 21st World Cup match, Noah Wanyama’s gaze was fixed on his television screen.

In the euphoria of the game, he would rise and walk closer to the screen when the team he was supporting edged to the goal post.

Football is his world. He says the game has taught him life lessons, including fatherhood.

It is a bond he shares with his seven children. A language they all speak. All of them, including his daughters, have played football at some point.

He set the footprints when he joined AFC leopards in the 1960s.

His mother had died, and he needed a distraction. He threw himself in, playing barefoot as a student in Samia, Busia County where he was born. In no time, his talent was shining, and AFC identified him. He later rose to become the team’s coach.

When he had his first child, McDonald Mariga in 1981, he was conflicted on how to balance fatherhood and football. Being a coach meant spending more time in the field and less at home. He decided to take his children to the field with him.

“I started going with Mariga for practice at City Stadium when he was only nine. He would carry my bag, and wipe my shoes; and I would help him make polythene balls to play with,” he says.

The pitch

As he got more children, he promised not to shortchange them by prioritising football, and abandoning his role as a father. He recalls the many days he would have his four sons - Mariga, Victor, Thomas and Sylvester walk in a single file ahead of him as they headed to the pitch.

“If someone had told me that I was raising stars, I would have laughed. Their clothes were torn, their mother would sew patches on them – life was tough,” he says.

His son Victor Wanyama plays as a midfielder for premier league club Tottenham Hotspur and is also captain of Kenya’s national team, Harambee stars.

Mariga plays for Spanish Club Real Oviedo. Victor and Thomas both play for the Kenyan Premier League. Mercy was named most valuable basketball player in the league, while Volnet and Cynthia have also won trophies in professional basketball and netball respectively.

“I did not force them to play. I showed them that if they want to get into sports, I will support them,” he says.  

He admits that he might have been too strict on his children. Like when he demanded that none of them should try boxing.

“I heard about that boxer whose ear was bitten off, and I said, that is not what I want for my children,” he says.

Cynthia laughs when she recalls the ‘hide and seek’ games they had when his father would come fuming, looking for her on hearing she was seen boxing.

Mercy says their father reinforced the idea that he would not tolerate groupies.

“He would quiz our friends, ask about their background and insist on knowing everything about them before allowing us to hang out with them,” she says.

Wanyama cracks a smile, lowers his voice and says he did it to protect them.

He was bringing them up in Muthurwa slums, and he had witnessed many children sliding through the cracks of drugs and gangs.

“Even now, they cannot come home drunk. They respect me as their father. They know the lines, even when they become champions,” he says.

He concludes that fatherhood is like football; you get in knowing you must win. Your children are the ultimate cup, and even though you lose some matches, you still love the game with all you have.  

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