Having scored for his club in the 2017 CAF Confederations Cup qualifiers, in their 1-1 draw at the Bukhungu Stadium against Madagascar’s Fosa Juniors; this week, The Dugout had the pleasure of speaking to the calm, soft-spoken and laid back Yusuf Mainge; the starlet right full back for one of the country’s most successful and popular clubs AFC Leopards.
Born in Kisumu, Yusuf Nasri Mainge, pretty much like you and I, started playing football in Class 1, at Highway Primary School, before moving on to Kakamega High School, and today at 18, is honing his skills, developing his talent and plying his trade for AFC Leopards.
Football is life for Yusuf. Not only does his passion, love and intrigue for the game go beyond his performances on the pitch or the training sessions before every game; but also he feels indebted to the sport and is eternally grateful that it has positively affected his life in becoming the man he’d like to be and also for affording him the opportunity to pursue an education through the various scholarships he’s been awarded and aspires to be nothing short of a professional footballer in the near future.
Yusuf burst into the limelight through the Chapa Dimba Na Safaricom Tournament in 2017, playing a part in the Nyanza edition, with his local side Manyatta United. The tournament wasn’t the first, for Yusuf and his peers. They had participated in a few before, although quite never played. Unfortunately, there is a long-standing and retarding tradition/practice of coaches fielding over-age players in youth tournaments in this country. So Yusuf and his mates were essentially on the fringes of the tournaments that were meant for them.
Chapa Dimba Na Safaricom, through its organizers, backed by Safaricom Ltd and in conjunction with the Federation, however, aims to break and has broken this mould. Chapa Dimba, to quote Yusuf proved to be the turning point,
“Although I did not play throughout the tournament, due to academic commitments, Coach Opiyo alinipea opportunity na playing time…”
Manyatta United would successfully navigate the group stages of their pool with Yusuf in the midfield, eventually coming short at the Semi-Finals of the Nyanza region. But that opportunity would leave an indelible mark on young Yusuf’s life, culminating in being scouted and signed by AFC Leopards and eventually a call-up to the National U20 side.
Yusuf, has the whole world ahead of him, and I believe, we believe and you should believe that he is equal to it. Currently, coach Robert Matano has every confidence in him with parallels being drawn between Yusuf Mainge and his mentor, icon and role model in Dani Alves, both former midfielders who have been transformed to Right Fullbacks, who inject pace, life and width down the right flank for their sides.
To the current and future crops of talented players, at the Chapa Dimba na Safaricom Tournament s, Yusuf has this to say:
“Believe in God, after all, ni yeye ndiye anatupea uhai. Be Disciplined and lastly Be Humble…”
Finally, the time is now and the place is here to support and develop the youth’s talent in football, with the approach and efforts of Safaricom’s Chapa Dimba na Safaricom being commendable. The Dugout can attest to the scrutiny, inclusion of stakeholders, attention to detail, vetting of players’ age and timely financial support to teams to provide them with the opportunity, playing time and platform to be seen and heard, to develop their talent, further it and achieve their dreams.
With Yusuf Mainge, and most of the current U20 Harambee Stars players, it is unquestionable that we have young players, who are talented, have the drive, understand the technical aspects of the game and have the correct mentality to take the beautiful game, further and higher in this country. Keep your eyes on Yusuf Mainge, the AFC Leopards Right Fullback, who at 18, with a Confederations Cup goal being the highlight of his career can and should only achieve greater things…