Former Kenyan international McDonald Mariga has revealed how Kenya’s low FIFA ranking denied him a chance to become the first Kenyan player to grace the English Premier League (EPL) in 2010.
In an interview with Radio 47, Mariga said that he had signed a contract with Manchester City after leaving Parma, but his work permit application was rejected because Kenya was ranked outside the top 70 FIFA-affiliated countries at the time.
“I left Parma and went to Manchester City direct, they brought me a private jet,” Mariga said. “My agent and I arrived in Manchester, I did a medical and signed the contract but at that time, the rules were that you must have played 70 per cent of matches for your national team and I ticked that box. The problem was our rankings.
“Our rankings denied me the opportunity to play for City. I stayed there for five days trying to sort this issue but it was not possible to get a work permit.
“All coaches in Italy put in a good word for me. They said I am talented, disciplined but we still did not succeed.
“I was so annoyed, and I was returned to Parma via the same provide jet that took me to Manchester.”
Mariga’s story is a stark reminder of the challenges faced by players from non-traditional footballing nations. Despite being a talented player with a proven track record, he was unable to secure a move to one of the world’s biggest clubs because of his country’s FIFA ranking.
It is also a reminder of the importance of footballing development in Africa and other parts of the world. If Kenya had been ranked higher in the FIFA rankings in 2010, Mariga would have been able to realize his dream of playing in the EPL.
Mariga’s story is also a reminder of the importance of changing the rules that govern the granting of work permits to foreign players. The current rules are often seen as unfair, as they discriminate against players from countries with lower FIFA rankings.
It is hoped that Mariga’s story will inspire other African players to pursue their dreams, no matter the challenges they face. It is also hoped that Mariga’s story will lead to a change in the rules that govern the granting of work permits to foreign players.