Nairobi — Lucas Onyango, the father of Manchester City’s academy player Aymen, has not ruled out the prospect of his upcoming superstar son playing for the national football team Harambee Stars in future.
The nine-year-old Aymen hit international headlines early last month when he signed up for the English Premier League defending champions, an announcement made by both the club and his father on Twitter.
Lucas is a former Kenya rugby sevens winger who has represented the country in various international competitions.
He seems to not only have passed his sporting genes to Aymen but also to his elder son, Yakubu, who has more precisely followed his father’s footsteps by playing rugby.
Though both of them were born and raised in the United Kingdom, their dad is hopeful they will one day play for their motherland Kenya.
“I knew the Manchester City deal could happen one day. I put it there in public because I wanted to share the good news with my country Kenya… that there are talents out here,” Lucas says.
The dream to see his sons wear the colours of their motherland, Lucas insists that Kenyan federations should embrace professionalism in the running of sports if they are to cast their nets wider and net in as many talents as possible.
“Regardless of where they are, these boys are Kenyans. They can play for our national teams; Aymen can play for Harambee Stars and Yakubu for the Kenya 7s, if they get themselves in order… it’s all about choices. Federations should get their houses in order because there is a lot of talent out here who are willing to representing the country. They are sons of the soils and it will be good if they could go back home to represent their country,” he explains.
As far as football is concerned, Kenya has birthed several world-class talents over the years who have unfortunately declared allegiance to other countries for who they have turned out at various international competitions.
A case in point is AC Milan striker Divock Origi who played for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, wisely opting against the option to follow in the footsteps of his father Mike Okoth, who was lethal forward for Harambee Stars during his playing days.
-Where did it all start? –
When Onyango moved to the United Kingdom after the 2002 Commonwealth Games hosted in Manchester, he did not know that his son Aymen would sign for one of the most successful football clubs in the world in recent years.
The former national rugby sevens star had envisioned his own flesh and blood embracing the oval ball and charting the same career path.
However, the nine-year-old’s mum had other ideas.
“The journey with Aymen started with his mum to be honest, I wanted him to play rugby as usual since him and his brother always played rugby when they were babies. One day, the mum came and asked me why don’t I let them play football, I said its okay but as long as he is training on Monday and the other (rugby) on Sunday so that is how it started because he was always kicking a ball since he was young,” Lucas narrates.
In a strange twist of fate, the burly Lucas was swept away by the new football wave taking over in his household and was soon joining his family in attending matches.
“So, I started taking them for training and before I knew it, they started falling in love with the game. I have always been a Chelsea supporter because when I moved to London after the Commonwealth Games, I fell in love with Chelsea because when you live in London it’s either you are a Chelsea or Arsenal fan, I used to be a big fan of Drogba,” he explains.
-How did he join Manchester City? –
Aymen is a go-getter and had to put in a lot of hard work for the deal to materialize, having been at Liverpool and Manchester United academies before falling in love with The Cityzens.
“The academies every year they have to step up and it is a lot of hard work that is put in. For him (Aymen), it is all about working hard…he is one person who is not scared of hard work. I have seen him come from rugby to football when he was five years,” Lucas says.
He adds: “This journey started three years ago, it’s only that he signed the deal the other day. So, we said let the world know because it motivates other kids back home in Kenya. Manchester City is the best academy to be honest, we have been at Manchester, Liverpool, and every academy has its positives and negatives, but it is where the child felt comfortable and Aymen was comfortable at City.”
He says that the training programme and facilities at City provide the best conditions for coaches to get the best out of their players.
“At Manchester City, they get the best training, they have played against Arsenal, Chelsea, and other teams and they beat all of them. Manchester City Academy has a good set up, the kids are taken good care of, they are taken to big matches when the senior team plays so that they get the opportunity to watch players who were in the academy,” he explains.
Aymen’s role model is Manchester City’s midfielder Phil Foden:
“He loves Foden because he is a local boy; he used to live next to where my warehouse was, he sees himself going through that. Yakubu has always been giving his brother a lot of support in whatever he does. He has been a lover of rugby…he used to come watch me train and play rugby, Aymen would have wished to watch me play,” the father says.
-Why did Lucas Onyango move out of Kenya? –
Lucas Onyango was part of the Kenya Sevens team that represented the country at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, which was the second edition in which it was competed since its introduction at the Kuala Lumpur Games in 1998.
Although Kenya bowed out in the bowl semi-final after losing 41-10 to Tonga, the Manchester games provided an opportunity for Onyango to sign for Manchester R.F.C. before moving to rugby league club Widnes Vikings in 2005.
“I left home because the opportunities were not there.We came for the Commonwealth Games… we knew we were good enough but the environment was not conducive to succeed. For my sons to be born in the United Kingdom is a big milestone. I have taken them to Kisumu, they have been to Nairobi, Eastlands, they know the hood, they know how hard it is to make it and that motivates them to work hard,” 41-year-old Onyango states.