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Kenya: ‘Life and Death’ Quest to Find Mariga’s Real Age

by kenya-tribune

Football star MacDonald Mariga started his third week as he has in his short political career — distracting from one controversy by plunging headlong into another.

His opponents in the Kibra Constituency by-election have questioned the validity of his age.

One of the key disputes is his identification number 29801496 which, going by the methodology the Department of Registration of Persons uses to issue ID numbers, does not tally with his stated age of 32 years.

Before he received his clearance to be the flag-bearer, Sunday Nation has learnt that the Jubilee Party questioned the authenticity of the footballer’s ID card during his interview in the party primaries.

The controversy over his age has gone on for several years.

Five years ago, a TV reporter who tried to inquire about his age was almost stabbed while another journalist received death threats.


Other than his ID, various respectable sports websites have given contradictory information on when the football star was born.

Footballtop.com lists that he was born on April 4, 1984, making him to be 35 years old, while Soccerbase.com indicates his date of birth as April 4, 1987 (32 years).

In a previous interview, his father Nicholas Wanyama, said his year of birth as 1981. He has since given contradictory information on the same.

But the controversies about his candidature were not unexpected, either.

It first started with a section of the Jubilee Party leadership pronouncing that the party would not field a candidate during the by-election in respect of the “handshake” between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

After a list was circulated revealing that he was among the hopefuls for the Jubilee Party ticket, the party’s Secretary-General Raphael Tuju denounced it.


In a turnaround, the party’s NEB cleared his name and nominated him as their candidate for the Kibra by-election, an act which led to the rest of the hopefuls disputing his nomination. They claimed that party functionaries had rigged him in.

Then, last Wednesday, the shocker came after the IEBC disqualified him from the race on grounds that his name could not be found in the 2017 voters register. He has since filed an appeal.

Logically speaking, Mr Mariga and the Jubilee Party are out of the Kibra Constituency by-election race.

Mr Mariga was hoping to be among the footballers who have left the playing fields of football for that of politics, notable among them the legendary Milan and Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko, who scored goals for fun throughout his playing career, 1994 World Cup winner Romario and former PSG, AC Milan and Monaco striker George Weah, who is now the President in Liberia.


Mariga was the trailblazer in Kenyan football after he became the first Kenyan to play in Italy, Spain, in the Champions League and almost played at the English Premier League were it not for a work permit glitch.

He won the competition with Inter Milan in 2010, although as an unused substitute in the finals against Bayern Munich but featured in the legendary semi-final against Barcelona.

At the height of his career in January 2010, Mariga was set to sign for English Premier League champions Manchester City, but the deal fell through after he failed to obtain a work permit before the transfer deadline, which stalled the move.

The footballer-now-turned politician made his debut for national team Harambee Stars when he was still a secondary school student.

While still a student, he played for Ulinzi, Tusker and Kenya Pipeline football clubs before he sat for his KCSE exams.


He signed with Swedish club Enköpings SK in 2005 and then Helsingborg, Parma and, in February 2010, Mr Mariga joined Inter Milan for a transfer fee of five million pounds.

At Inter Milan, he became the first Kenyan to feature for the UEFA Champions League.

At the beginning of the 2011/12 season, he was loaned to Real Sociedad from Spanish top division and then moved on loan to Parma for a short spell and then Real Oviedo.

Though unmarried, the footballer has a daughter who is now aged eight years.