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Inspired by Mariga, Wanyama seeks UCL glory

Harambee Stars and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama celebrates a goal during a past English Premier League match.

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 – An old African saying goes, lightning does not strike twice at the same place; but for the expansive Noah Wanyama family, this might just be any other saying because in their narrative, the centuries-old adage is just but a complete opposite.

On May 22, 2010, Victor Wanyama took a front row seat at the Santiago Bernabeu, 13-time European champions Real Madrid’s football cathedral, and watched in glee as his elder brother Macdonald Mariga became the first ever East African to wear a Champions League winner’s medal around his neck.

Mariga’s Inter Milan side coached by Jose Mourinho beat Bayern Munich 2-0 courtesy of a brace by the baby-faced Argentine assassin Diego Millito.

Then, he was just your ordinary 22 year old turning out for Belgian side Germinal Berschot looking to start up his career and follow in the footsteps of his elder brother.

Nine years, 10 days later, as if fate was looking from high up above, Wanyama will be lining up 13.3km from where his brother won the UCL in 2010, playing in his own European final for the Lily Whites that are Tottenham Hotspur when they face Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, in a UEFA Champions League final.

“I remember that game very well and while watching, I told myself that one day, I would also want to play and win a Champions League final. I didn’t know how or when but I knew deep down within me, that I had that dream,” Wanyama told Capital Sport.

Harambee Stars and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama with his elder brother MacDonald Mariga when they visited Deputy President William Ruto at his office in 2018

The Kenyan captain has revealed that his elder brother has been an inspiration to him and has been a shoulder to lean on during the tough injury spell.

“He has been there for me throughout this period and especially now that we are in the Champions League final. He has been telling me how it feels to be there and he really wants me to win and get a second medal in the family,” Wanyama, who will have members of his family, including Mariga at the Wanda Metropolitano for the final said.

“He has such strong character and that is one thing I have picked from him. I hope to make him, my team and my country proud,” Wanyama further noted.

Most will argue that he might have probably done better than his trail-blazing brother. While he was often used as a second half substitute by Mourinho, Wanyama has been the contrast, like a pillar to Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs since returning from injury.

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Harambee Stars and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama celebrates after his side’s victory against Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League quarter finals

Against Manchester City in the quarter finals, Wanyama worked like a fired up workhorse, doubling up his shift when midfield partner Moussa Sissoko limped out injured and Spurs’ squad thinned by injuries.

He also started in the momentous semi-final victory over Ajax and only came off at halftime after picking up a hip injury. He reflects back in the season and believes, getting to the UCL final has wiped off the tears of enduring an injury ravaged season that saw him miss a huge chunk of Spurs games.

“It has been a very tough season for me to be honest. Coming in and out of injury has slowed down my progress this season, but I choose to be positive and look at the bright side of it. I have come back strong and I am playing and that is the best thing for me. Also, playing in a European final is every player’s dream. It has been my dream always,” the midfielder said.

With Harry Winks and Eric Dier back from injury and Sissoko picking up fitness, Pochettino has plenty of options in the middle of the pack, but one thing is for certain, Wanyama will play a role in the tie.

Harambee Stars and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama alongside teammate Moussa Sissoko during a training session at Hotspur Way in London

“We have a very good coach who inspires us and as a team, I think we have such a strong team full of character,” said the midfielder.

Coming up against Liverpool who are playing their second European final will be a massive task for the North Londoners. But having scored against The Reds at their own backyard infront of the Kop, Wanyama has belief wrapped around his shoulders.

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