Celebrating Victor Wanyama: Kenya's pioneer Premier League Star

Tuesday August 10 2021
TANGAZO PIC

Kenya has generally struggled to produce football stars of international acclaim, but while Victor Wanyama was at Tottenham Hotspur, they had a genuine global star.

Wanyama has since made the switch to the relatively lower key MLS in the United States, but not before he set the Premier League alight with his performances with Spurs.

Wanyama's spell at Spurs was brief and often interrupted by injuries, but when he was fit and firing, he was a massive presence in central midfield.

Along with the silky Belgian, Moussa Dembele, Wanyama was part of a formidable central midfield duo, laying the platform for more attacking players like Christian Eriksson to express themselves further up the pitch.

His finest moment in a Tottenham shirt was arguably that incredible long-range screamer against Liverpool at White Hart Lane, but he put on many more quality performances for the North London outfit.

The 6ft 2in Kenya was aggressive and strong in the tackle, but he also had plenty of guile on the ball, and was a pivotal piece in Mauricio Pochettino's high-pressing, quick passing attacking style during his first couple of seasons at the club.

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Pochettino had already coached Wanyama at Southampton, and the pair were reunited in North London when Spurs paid £11 million for the player in the summer of 2016.

Wanyama became an instant mainstay in the Tottenham first team, making 35 Premier League starts in his first season and helping the club to a runner-up finish in the standings.

After a debut campaign that held so much promise, Wanyama's fortunes dwindled in subsequent seasons as the injuries began to set in.

In the three seasons that followed, the Harambee Star played just 33 more league matches for Tottenham before departing for the MLS in March 2020.

In total, the Kenyan featured 97 times for Spurs in all competitions, finding the net on seven occasions. He was part of the squad that got a Champions League second-place medal in 2019.

Apart from his contributions on the field, Wanyama opened up a brand new fan base for Spurs. When he represented Southampton, he became the first Kenyan to play in the Premier League, and naturally attracted plenty of Kenyan fans to St. Mary's.

Unsurprisingly, most of his compatriots shifted base to North London when their man made his move to Spurs in 2016.

Spurs did return the favour and won a lot of matches, but unfortunately, the club did not claim any titles during Wanyama's time at the club.

That remains one of the player's biggest regrets.

“It’s sad,” Wanyama told MLSsoccer.com. “I felt sorry leaving like that, I’m sorry to the fans and myself after having a top team, performing at our best, but not winning anything. It’s just a shame. It’s painful to have left with nothing.”

In his three full seasons at Spurs, Tottenham finished second, third and fourth in the Premier League, while they lost the Champions League final to Liverpool in 2019.

Those were the days when Spurs had a genuine shot at silverware, and Kenyan football fans truly believed that they could soon be celebrating a home-grown Premier League champion.

Many Kenyans went as far as backing Wanyama and Spurs on betting websites in Kenya. Such was the hope and belief they had in the team.

Maybe if Wanyama had had better luck with injuries, Spurs might have got over the line in at least one of those competitions.

Looking back at that first season- Spurs final season at the Lane- and the consistent quality he delivered, Tottenham fans can be forgiven for feeling a little short-changed that they did not get to see more of the Kenyan in full flow.

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