NAIROBI, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) — Former Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama Monday announced his stunning retirement from international football in a decision that will rock Kenya’s ambitions to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Wanyama, 30, who now plies his trade at America’s Major League Soccer side CF Montreal (formerly Montreal Impact), made the announcement in a statement. The decision comes three weeks after he was controversially dropped as the national team captain, a role he had held since 2013.
“It has been an honor to represent my country and I think the time has come for me to pass the mantle to the young ones. I will always be a (part) of the National Team and their biggest supporter,” Wanyama said.
Wanyama, the first and only Kenyan to play in the English Premier League for Southampton and later Tottenham, was excluded from the Harambee Stars squad that played in the country’s opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Uganda and Rwanda.
Jacob Mulee, who left the position of Stars head coach a week ago announced on September 3 that Qatar-based striker, Michael Olunga, as the new captain after their 0-0 draw against Uganda in their opening World Cup qualifier in Nairobi.
“When I came in for our games against Comoros and Togo, he was not in the team. That is when I decided there must be a change of guard. Olunga is officially the team captain,” said Mulee who has since been replaced by Turkish national Engin Firat.
Wanyama, who made his national team debut in 2007 whilst still a teenager, has openly clashed with the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) over a number of issues in the national team.
The midfielder was at loggerheads with the national governing body over what he deemed to be the huge influence top officials exerted on squad selection and the unprofessional manner the team was managed.
In his quit notice, Wanyama who first played in Europe for Beershot in Belgium before joining Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic hinted at the feud between him and the federation.
“I hope to return one day to help the federation off the field but until then, I will be cheering you from the sidelines,” the midfielder said.
Wanyama led Kenya for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Egypt where they failed to advance from the group stages after losing to eventual champions Algeria and beaten finalists Senegal in a tough pool.
Stars did manage to beat neighbors and East African rivals Tanzania 3-2 to record their only second win at the AFCON following their 3-0 success over Burkina Faso at Tunisia 2004.