INTERVIEW Celtic’s versatile Kenyan could be the coolest player at Hampden
T would seem that the Scottish Communities League Cup has not exactly gripped the people of Kenya, writes Michael Grant. If the Wanyama family is indicative of the national mood then even those who have a connection to it aren’t exactly beside themselves with enthusiasm about tomorrow’s Celtic versus Kilmarnock final at Hampden. “I’m excited, but not very excited,” said the laconic and likeable Victor, the 20year-old who has made an impressive contribution to the Celtic midfield and defence in his debut season.
Wanyama can win the first trophy and medal of his senior career in Glasgow tomorrow but his parents won’t be there to see it if he does. His older brother, Mcdonald Mariga, plays for Parma having been loaned to them by Inter Milan. Parma are at home to AC Milan today and mum and dad Wanyama will be at that one rather than making their way to Scotland. “My mum and dad are already in Italy with my brother, so my sister and my cousin will be coming over to the cup final,” he said. “And I think the game will be shown live in Kenya.”
There’s no point wondering about whether Wanyama is remotely bothered about his folks’ preferring his brother’s game rather than his own: he doesn’t seem easily bothered by anything. Celtic’s powerful Kenyan is blessed with an unflappable temperament. Even this cup final is unlikely to quicken his pulse. Not until the final whistle has gone on a Celtic win, at least. “We have to finish the job come Sunday and then the excitement will come from there. We are close to taking the trophy but only after the game on Sunday can we be happy. It will be a very big game to me but I will not be nervous. I will just take it as any other league game.”
Wanyama has already made 34 appearances this season and made himself enormously valuable to manager Neil Lennon, who spent £900,000 to bring him from the Belgian club Germinal Beerschot. Giving him a four-year contract was a declaration of faith in his potential which so far has been vindicated by his consistently solid performances.
It now looks incongruous that his debut came in one of Celtic’s poorest results of the season, the 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone at Parkhead in August. Wanyama has enjoyed his time in Scotland so far, but that day was wounding. “For me the real low point was the St Johnstone game at home. It was very difficult for me. I kept on asking myself too many questions but you just have to keep your chin up and keep going.
“I didn’t have any doubt about coming here. But I asked myself ‘how can it be like this on my debut – a big team losing at home’. The gaffer helped me by telling me to forget it and keep on going. He had a general talk and it was a good one, and from there it picked up.”