Wanyama can trace his Celtic roots all the way back to Nairobi

FROM growing up close to Nairobi's giant slum city, quitting Swedish football because he could not live without his brother, and starring in the Belgian game, Victor Wanyama had quite a life-story to tell before he pitched up at Celtic's Lennoxtown training complex this week.

He is just 20, but in his first few days he has left a positive impression on Celtic teammates and manager Neil Lennon. He spoke well in his first interview with the Scottish sports media yesterday too, which made Lennon smile. "He must have said more to you in the last ten minutes than he's said to me all week!"

He is a quiet, thoughtful character, but according to Lennon one with genuine talent, comfortable on the ball and capable in central defence and midfield. Wanyama followed his brother McDonald Mariga from Kenyan football to Helsingborgs as a 15-year-old, but when his brother left for Parma - he is now with Inter Milan and could line up against his brother for the first time in Dublin next week - Wanyama returned to Nairobi.

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"I was too young to live on my own," he said, before recalling how his brother was told to stay at Helsingborgs instead of going to Parma, and think instead about joining Celtic, by none other than the club's Swedish legend Henrik Larsson.

Wanyama was picked up by Belgian club Germinal Beerschot and appeared on Lennon's radar last year, and he revealed that Celtic had proved more persuasive than Aston Villa because "I want to win some trophies with this great club." He knows his history, as they say, having read about the 1967 European Cup triumph, and so requested the No 67 shirt. "I don't want to compare myself to the heroes of '67," he was quick to state, "But it's just to show a tribute to those heroes."

Wanyama grew up aware of Celtic and his move further develops a terrific link created by award-winning Scots film-maker Jamie Doran. The Celtic supporter filmed in Africa's violent slums and during a time of bloody civil unrest discovered football to be a great uniting love amongst Kenyans.

He encouraged some among the 1.2 million inhabitants of the Kibera slum to model a team on Glasgow Celtic. The team began playing with players barefoot and wearing Celtic strips from the 1990s, but, driven on by Doran and local men John Oyoo and Bernard Ngira, Kibera Celtic entered the second division and now play in front of crowds of over 3,000.

Wanyama said: "I grew up playing football on the streets as a young boy where I came from. I was not in the ghetto but I lived nearby, and I didn't wear the (Celtic] strip because I played for FC Leopards.

"But there are many fans of Celtic because of Kibera Celtic. In Kenya we don't have too many players but now it is getting better and many players are going outside the country and other players are looking at us.

"I think I'm a model to other players in Kenya. People in Kenya are very happy (at Wanyama joining Celtic]. Every football fan in my country has been hoping one player from our country will go and play football in the UK, and now they are really happy."

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