NAIROBI, Kenya, March 23 – It is 6:30am and the alarm at Victor Wanyama’s room blazes off in anger, as if to warn him of the impending long day that awaits him.
The smooth, cold and spine-tingling spring wind whistles across his leafy neighborhood preparing him for an impending tough workout day at his club’s training base in Enfield, United Kingdom.
The Tottenham Hotspur midfield powerhouse has just resumed training with the first team after a short spell on the sidelines following a knock on the side of his knee that kept him out for two matches.
With the injuries piling on the squad and team-mate Moussa Dembele set to miss action till late March, Wanyama knows he has to up his fitness because his club needs him now more than ever.
“It is tough here and the demands are so high. You cannot afford to sleep and constantly, you must prove to be better. Especially being a foreign player, you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you are better than the locals,” Wanyama said as we begin our early morning chat at his residence in Barnet, North London.
Wanyama’s lifestyle is one donned in simplicity.
He wakes up, makes his own breakfast, and then sets off to his club’s training base in Enfield.
And you would think his breakfast should be a buffet of assorted exotic food and drinks. But no. You are wrong. His early morning meal is a simple cup of green tea sweetened with honey, accompanied by groundnuts and sometimes a piece of bread or biscuits.
“You really have to watch what you eat because you must take care of your body. That’s your tool. That’s your asset. I don’t take sugar or too much juice. This green tea is good enough for me. Milk is a once in a while thing. I could go for months without it,” Wanyama explains.
After his quick fix of breakfast, the Harambee Stars captain sets off for training where he will have another platter of breakfast with teammates before the day’s activities kick-off.
In his array of travel options are just two vehicles. Unlike some of the stars in the English Premier League, going extra is not anything of Wanyama’s portion.
“You know, there’s life after football. You cannot spend all your money on flashy cars and a flashy lifestyle forgetting that football is a very short career. You have to think of tomorrow. Just ensure you live comfortably and get what you need,” the midfielder further states.
The sessions at Enfield are rigorous. He explains they start off with a gym session for warm-up before heading to the field for tactical and physical training.
“I think we are the fittest team in the Premier League. Our training is no joke,” Wanyama jokes as he gets back to the house at about 2pm. He does not worry much about lunch as the club also provides an after-training meal for the players.
No sooner does he get back to his house than he slumps to rest, clearly exhausted from the training session. His first order of business before shutting his eyes for a quick nap is treating his healing knee, wrapping a pack of ice around it for about 20 minutes.
He was unfortunate to pick up a knock on his other knee playing against West Ham, just after recovering from injury to his other knee. But thankfully he is okay and has been drafted into the team that travels to Crystal Palace, a game they later won 1-0.
He reflects on the period in which he nursed injury, including missing a huge part of pre-season and says it was the most trying time of his career.
Wanyama was sidelined for four months last season and the development is another blow for the White Hart Lane club’s engine room.
“It is not easy when you are injured because you always want to be out there doing what you love. I can say that was the most trying part of my career and sometimes you feel very lonely. Being out for over three months is so tough,” Wanyama says.
He adds; “But now, I am, happy to be back. My injury is completely healed and I am enjoying my football again. Now it is just a matter of building fitness and getting back to the top. It is not easy but I am ready to work for it.”
Wanyama made it to the starting team at Palace and clocked his third 90-minute appearance of the season, and only his first in the league. The other two were in the Emirates Cup.
Though coming through harsh weather conditions in West London, he was pleased to have played an entire match and the team coming out victorious.
Selhurst Park is also a ground close to his heart as this was where he scored his first ever Spurs goal.
“That was a very tough match. The cold and the rain especially! Unforgiving. But I am happy to have played a full league match. It has been so long and I feel great,” Wanyama said as he got back from the short trip to Selhurst Park.
While some of his team-mates might decide to go out and celebrate the win, Wanyama is chilled in his house. He only craved to watch some bit of boxing, homeboy Tony Bellew taking on Oleksander Usyk, a bout that the former lost.
“I am chilled out most of the time. If I am not in training I am just here watching series (though I don’t enjoy them most of the time haha), reading or playing Play Station with my friends. I enjoy watching football documentaries,” says the soft spoken Wanyama.
Music is his biggest companion. Whether he is resting, taking breakfast or driving in his car. With the Siri app on his iPhone, he blazes music all the time even as he sifts through a bucket of groundnuts.
His favorite music has to be Bongo!
The midfielder, revered for his role at Spurs especially for the season they came close to clinching the title is quite a reserved person and has a close knit circle of friends who keep him company when he is not at the club working his legs out.
“I love my friends because they are always here for me and we enjoy a good laugh. We play PS together (And I beat them all the time), eat together and it is really great,” he notes.
Wanyama has spent close to eight years in the United Kingdom, three of them at Celtic in Scotland, a further three with Southampton and he is now on his third with Spurs.
He reflects on his journey, one he says has been a result of pure hard work.
“At some point I didn’t think I would make it as a footballer, but my elder brother Mariga (MacDonald) always encouraged me. I went once to Europe and didn’t make it but then, I got my big breakthrough when I moved to Beerschot,” says the soft-spoken combative midfielder.
“In Kenya I played for Country Bus in the beginning and we used to be given 50 shillings for Lunch. I also played for City Stars like two games then AFC Leopards as well but at one time my father was very angry when he discovered I had played for them without a contract,” Wanyama jokes, bursting out in laughter.
“But it’s been a long journey, and the results have been worth it.” He adds.
Across the Hallways and rooms in his house, photos of his best days are adorned all over including the famous header he scored against Barcelona while at Celtic in a Champions League tie, the first time he skippered Southampton and a few others of him celebrating goals in a Spurs shirt.
“I can say I am happy with how things have turned out in my career and I am thankful. My family has been there for me and they are the reason I am here today,” added Wanyama who went on to pay homage to the advice given especially by elder brother Mariga.
On whether or not he will leave Spurs when his current spell expires, the midfielder does not give much out.
“At the moment, I am a Spurs player and enjoying my football here. We will decide that when the time comes,” he says.
Wanyama’s current target is to help his Spurs side finish the season strongly and perhaps fight for the EPL title and in July, turn his attention to the African Cup of Nations where Kenya are only waiting on word from CAF before confirming their place.
“We are focused on the Cup of Nations as a team because we know it will be a huge stage for the players. It has been a long time since we played and we want to go there not just to participate but compete as well,” the midfielder who scored one of the three goals in the 3-0 win over Ethiopia last month said.
He hopes the Cup of Nations will open doors for more Kenyan players to make boss moves abroad.
His advice for upcoming players?
“Discipline is everything. You can work hard but without discipline, you cannot succeed. The two go hand in hand. Opportunities always come but people don’t make use of them because they don’t want to work,” he says.
“Self belief is always key. Above all you have to believe in yourself and your ability,” adds the midfielder.
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