Former Kenya Under-20 defender Michael Wandera discusses his six-year stay in Sweden and why he doesn’t regret leaving AFC Leopards.
HOW ARE YOU COPING WITH WITH ALL THE INCONVENIENCE FROM CORONAVIRUS?
With our league suspended and most training facilities closed, I have no option but to train on my own at home. The virus has disrupted my training schedule as well as my travelling plans. For now, our health and safety is paramount.
HOW’S LIFE BEEN IN SWEDEN SINCE JOINING THIRD TIER SIDE GOTTNE IF IN 2014?
I have been enjoying myself since I went there six years ago. Save for the weather during winter season, everything is okay.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE YOU CAME BACK?
I have been supervising my project and I’m almost done. But right now I’m in the village as I wait for the coronavirus to be contained.
WHAT CAN YOU CONSIDER AS YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS WITH GOTTNE SO FAR?
I found the team in division three but helped them promoted to division two. Our target now is to qualify to division one. Individually, I have really developed.
ANY CHANCE OF MOVING TO ANOTHER CLUB?
A number of clubs both within and outside Sweden are interested in my signature but unfortunately I’ve extended my contract at Gottne.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PLAY PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL?
Dedication, commitment, self-drive and discipline have pushed me to where I’m right now but I still have a long journey to achieve my target. As you know, there is a lot of opportunities in Europe but to make it at higher level you must be patient.
AND FOR ALL THOSE YEARS AT GOTTNE, ARE YOU CAPABLE OF SPEAKING THE LOCAL LANGUAGE?
Hahahaha!!Sure, I am going to school to study the language and right now I can write and speak fluently.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF CHANGING YOUR CITIZENSHIP?
No!No!No! Not now maybe in future. At the moment, my plan is to acquire a European passport.
HAS YOUR LONG STAY IN SWEDEN CHANGED YOUR CAREER AND LIFE IN GENERAL?
Definitely yes. Career wise I have matured and right now can manage a lot of things by myself. In addition, I have been able to help my family in different ways.
HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER BEING VOTED THE 2016 MVP IN SWEDISH 3RD FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION?
It never came as a surprise because I really had an impressive season. We won many matches. I deserved it.
REMIND US, HOW DID YOU SECURE YOUR MOVE TO GOTTNE?
Six months after joining AFC Leopards in 2013 directly from Kakamega High School, I received an offer from Gottne. So to make the move easy, I asked coach Luc Eymael to send me out on loan to Kakamega Homeboyz. On return from my three month loan deal, AFC released me and I signed a short term deal with FC Talanta as I processed travel documents to Sweden.
DO YOU REGRET LEAVING AFC LEOPARDS?
No. I think it was a blessing in disguise. For your information, I rarely got playing time and I think deciding to go to Europe was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
YOU HAVE FEATURED FOR THE KENYA U20 TEAM BEFORE, ANY DREAMS OF MAKING IT TO THE SENIOR TEAM HARAMBEE STARS?
It is always a dream of each player to wear the national colours. So, given chance I will take that call up with both hands.
HAS SWEDEN SUDDENLY BECOME A PREFERRED DESTINATION FOR A COUPLE OF KENYAN PLAYERS (ERIC JOHANNA, JOSEPH OKUMU AND ERIC OUMA)?
I’m not surprised to see many Kenyans in Sweden because that is like a stepping stone to top European clubs. If you play in Sweden there is no other place in Europe you will fail to flourish. Swedish football is very physical and fast, so it prepares you before the next move.
HAVING PLAYED WITH JOSEPH OKUMU AND ERIC OUMA AT KAKAMEGA HIGH, DID YOU EVER THOUGHT OF THEM MAKING IT TO THE TOP LEVEL?
Of course yes. Kakamega High is a factory of talent. It has produced many top players. And for the two (Okumu and Ouma) they showed their potential right away from form one. They always wanted to learn from their seniors. They’ve gone on to push themselves and I’m happy for them.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BEST AND WORST MOMENTS IN YOUR FOOTBALL CAREER SO FAR?
My best moment is when I decided to leave AFC Leopards, I have never regretted that decision because it went on to change my life. Worst moment is when we (Kakamega) lost to Upper Hill in the 2012 national school games semi-finals in Mombasa.
WHAT’S YOUR COMPARISON BETWEEN THE KENYAN PREMIER LEAGUE AND THE SWEDISH ALLSVENSKAN LEAGUE?
I think Swedish Leagues are more organised and well managed than the Kenyan Premier League.
WHO’S THE DEADLIEST STRIKER HAVE YOU EVER ENCOUNTERED IN YOUR PLAYING CAREER SO FAR?
Mmmmmh!! Maybe Timothy Otieno of Tusker. But in Sweden, I’m yet to face a striker who has given me a lot of trouble.
YOU SEEM TO BE A QUIET AND RESERVED GUY. WHAT ARE YOU LIKE IN THE DRESSING ROOM?
Nothing much. Just listening to music as I psyche up myself for the game.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY DESTINATION?
My home country Kenya. The serene is superb.
WHAT DO YOU MISS ABOUT KENYA WHEN IN SWEDEN?
I miss Kenyan food especially Ugali and chicken.
WHAT’S THE BEST GIFT YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Adidas boots and I-phone from my friend in Europe.
GIVEN CHANCE, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE IN THE KENYAN FOOTBALL?
I will advocate for players’ welfare.