Fans throw weight behind Victor Wanyama as he battles injury

Sunday December 17 2017

Victor Wanyama

Chelsea’s midfielder Willian (left) vies with Tottenham Hotspur’s midfielder Victor Wanyama during a past English Premier League football match at Wembley Stadium in London. PHOTO | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS | AFP 

By DAVID KWALIMWA
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The football world is rallying behind Kenyan star Victor Wanyama as he battles the biggest setback of his decade-long soccer career, having been forced out of competitive action since July.

This development has, understandably, led to growing concern among the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder’s close associates, family and ardent supporters around the world.

Some of them have publicly expressed concern that this setback could ultimately impact on his performance on the pitch.

Last week, dozens of football fans marched through the streets of Machakos in a procession aimed at showing solidarity with the sidelined 26-year-old.

The majority of these supporters donned the English Premier League player’s replica jerseys, while others wore white T-shirts bearing his nickname Big Vic and image.

HUGE BANNER

They also displayed a huge banner bearing the words: “Wanyama, get well soon.”

“We know these are tough times for him. He is our brother and the greatest ambassador of Kenya. We are praying for him to recover completely and get back to the pitch,” one of the fans leading the procession told the Nation.

Touched by this support, Wanyama posted pictures of the procession on his social media pages and thanked the fans.

He wrote: “Thanks for the support Tottenham fan club in Kenya, I promise to come back better and stronger very soon.”

The player has flown his brother Harry and sisters Mercy and Cynthia, alongside Chris, a family friend, to his recently acquired London home this past week in a move that further highlights his need for more support.

TRAINING

Wanyama, who doubles up as the Harambee Stars captain, played for Belgium club Beerschort before joining Scottish giants Celtic, where he made  his name in the world of football.

He twisted his left knee after landing awkwardly while training during his club’s pre-season tour of the United States in July.

Since then, the player has only featured in two of the club’s 17 Premier League games this season, including that 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea at Wembley in August where he, uncharacteristically, was at fault for the second goal his club conceded in the final moments of the game.

Encouragingly, the player has received widespread support from his Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino, who brought him to England while in charge of Southampton in 2013, plus famed former French football star Thierry Henry, whose two-day visit to Nairobi ended on Friday evening.

CONTRIBUTION

Henry, who won the Fifa World Cup and European Championship with France in 1998 and 2000 respectively, is now working as an assistant coach of the Belgium national team and a TV pundit in England.

The Frenchman said: “Unfortunately, he (Wanyama) is not a striker. (So) for players in his position, it requires his absence for you to evaluate and appreciate his contribution. He is like (former French midfielder) Claude (Makekele), (current Chelsea midfielder) Ng’olo Kante. They contribute so much but rarely grab (media) headlines.

“His reading of the game, his strength, his drive and his power are all superb. And he is adding a few goals now. He’s just an amazing player.”

Incidentally, knee injuries are among the most feared in the world of sport, according to Dennis Masinde, a medical student at the University of Nairobi.

Masinde said this is because the knee is a complex joint of the body, and is made up of several components, making it vulnerable to a variety of injuries.

The knee is the largest joint in the body, consisting of bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.

FLEXIBILITY

That particular joint’s flexibility and movement is key for any athlete, considering the pressure applied during exercises such as running, landing after a jump, or tackling (exercises which Wanyama is mostly involved in while on the pitch) in view of his role as a defensive-minded midfielder.

“Wanyama seems lucky. He hasn’t required any surgery to heal. It means neither the cartilage nor ligaments were badly damaged,” said Masinde.

“You just have to massage it and apply some considerable pressure through gym exercises.”

Incidentally, Wanyama’s elder brother Macdonald Mariga Wanyama damaged cruciate ligaments of his left knee while playing for Italian club Parma some five years ago.

He wished his brother quick recovery.

SURGERIES

Mariga said: “He is a strong lad, you know. He will come back stronger because he is working very hard in his rehabilitation.”

Unlike his sibling, Mariga, who also plays as a midfielder, required several surgeries in Italy and the US to rectify the damage. Crucially, analysts point out that the 32-year-old, who currently plies his trade at Spanish second tier club Real Oviedo, never quite recovered from this setback.

Meanwhile, this six-month spell on the sidelines has also left a hole in Wanyama’s pocket.

Return date unclear

Arguably the country’s best paid sports personality, Wanyama is understood to have missed out on about 30 per cent of his reported Sh22 million monthly salary during that period, payments that would otherwise have been remitted as match winning bonuses and training allowances.

The player’s return date, according to Pochettino, remains unclear.

At the same time, Wanyama seems likely to sit out of a congested festive season for Spurs, with the London club set to tackle Manchester City, Burnley Southampton and Swansea in the next fortnight.

Tottenham currently are ranked fourth on the English Premier standings at the halfway point of the current league campaign. They trail table toppers Manchester City by 18 points, and have a minimal chance of winning the league this season.

New Harambee Stars coach Paul Put is hoping the player will be fit to face Ghana in Nairobi in a crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier next March.