The last two weeks have been bedecked by political noise – lot’s of it.
Interestingly, the political brouhaha has mainly been directed at the person of MacDonald Mariga and Kibra in general where a fierce political duel is gathering.
At the centre of it is football star, the Muthrwa bred Macdonald Mariga Wanyama, East Africa’s first ever footballer to win the coveted big eared Uefa Champions League title in 2010 under Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan.
Vying on a Jubilee ticket, ‘Big Mac’ as he is fondly known in football confines hopes to beat ODM’s Bernard Otieno Okoth alias Imran, and Eliud Owalo of ANC, in the race to replace Ken Okoth who died in July this year after a protracted battle with cancer.
But there is a problem. His candidature has brought with it its fair share of drama. From being picked as a Jubilee flag bearer to the eventual invalidation of his candidature by the IEBC to his subsequent appeal, it has been calamity after calamity for the media-shy footballer, each twist and turn seemingly unearthing the skeletons in his closet.
At first it was the Jubilee candidates whom he beat to the ticket gnashing their teeth of how unfair the process had been. To them democracy had been sacrificed at the altar of a Mariga candidature.
Never Cared to Vote
Secondly, the invalidation of his candidature by IEBC pending the outcome of the appeal he’s lodged has unearthed key things: One of them is that Mariga, despite being a Kenyan, has never cared to vote, not in past elections, not in the plebiscite if his own admission that he registered as voter in Kariokor in August 2019 is anything to go by.
‘Big Mac’ could have been domiciled in Europe for the better part of his professional career. But let’s face it, Mariga, thanks to his football talent, is a man of means and could easily afford a charted plane if he so wished just to come to Kenya to exercise his democratic right to vote.
First, he is an adult.
Secondly, I believe unless proven otherwise he’s of sound mind and failing to vote in past polls and plebiscites could mean only one thing: there’s a disconnect between him and the country of his birth, the land he professes his undying love for and which he’s represented with distinction while donning the national colours of Harambee Stars.
Thirdly, in thrusting his hat in the political ring, Mariga did say that he’s driven by the desire to give back to the society, to the Kibra people.
If this is the motivation then it has failed to sell if the reactions of Kenyans on social media is be used as a case study.
By scaling the football ladder to its top echelons, Mariga has first been a role model to many youths who looks up to him.
What he should have done during this period is to start a MacDoanld Mariga Football Foundation, a platform to mould and nurture the next generation of stars, but nada, he cared little to do this.
With his resources, influence and network built in Europe; this foundation could by now be churning out the next Marigas, Olieches, Wanyamas, Drogbas, Origis etcetera.
Again from his experience Mariga is adept to the ills that have perennially dogged Kenyan football more-so the administration goofs. The rot is deep and sinks to the high heavens, and having played the game, he must have felt the weight of it at one time or the other.
Quite, Comfortable Life
He however failed to speak out against these ills, not once! In retrospect, he chose the quiet, comfortable life of Spain and Italy.
Unlike Dennis Oliech or Sameul Eto’o or Didier Drogba who were ever willing to take the bull by the horns, Mariga chose silence, silence when promising talents were mistreated by rogue administrations. Silence when the governments of the day delayed players’ allowances and so forth.
Based on these, Mariga should look no further. This is why Kenyans on social media are not buying into his call of giving back to the society.
As a top footballer in Italy, he earned wages running into millions weekly and one wonders how well he’ll now transform Kibra let alone give back to the community with a gross pay of Sh1 million assuming he surmounts the legal bottle necks and prevails in the election.
But all said and done, like every Kenyan he has the inalienable constitutional right to run for a public office so long as he meets all the provisions of the law.
In the same vein, it is no crime for a footballer or a son of peasant to aim high.
Liberia, for instance, have a former footballer George Weah for a President and it’s up to Mariga to turn the chapter.
It’s never too late but as things stand for now, he’s not only scored an own goal but also soiled the football reputation he worked so hard to build over two decades.
-The author is the RMS Sports Editor for Radio and Digital
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