Saturday, 20 March 2010


For years North Africa had been dominating the soccer scene in Africa, this has been preceded by the massive resurgence of West Africa football not to discount Southern Africa which has always exported players to the powerful leagues in Europe. Is it East Africa’s turn? For a nation better known for its long and middle distance athletics prowess, McDonald Mariga has made history. He became the first Kenyan and to be more precise, to show the magnitude of its importance, the first East African to play in the Champions league.

The Buzz it’s creating not only in Nairobi but within East Africa is incredible. When Mariga walked into the pitch on Tuesday March 16th for Inter FC against Chelsea, for seven minutes, the whole nation stood to watch their son. Mariga started his playing career at Ulinzi Stars before moving first to Tusker FC and then to Pipeline FC whilst still at school.

Mariga was a member of the Kamukunji High School 'Golden Boys', which also included Kenyan striker Dennis Oliech (Auxerre, France), that won two consecutive National Championships in 2002 & 2003.The central midfielder went to Sweden in 2005 to play for third Division side Enköpings SK. After only one season at ESK, he signed for Helsingborgs IF before the 2006 season.

His success at Olympia was immediate. Following initial interest from Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, Mariga looked set to sign for the Premier League team, but work permit issues held up the deal which was supposed to have cost around €2.7million. Mariga played 35 times for Parma in the Serie B during the 2008-2009 season scoring three times to help them back to Serie A for the 2009-2010 season. On 1 February 2010, the last day of the transfer window, Mariga moved to Internazionale in a co-ownership deal, after a predicted move to Manchester City fell through.

Watch out for other East African players making progress, Kenyan striker Dennis Oliech (Auxerre, France) and Uganda David Obua (Rangers, Scotland).

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