First published in the year 2012:
He was then KCB’s Top scorer with six goals to his name at the time of the Interview. He has featured prominently for the national Junior teams, the Under 20 and the Under 23. Before the start of the season, no one really knew much about the Friends School Kamusinga alumni.
However, his exploits on the pitch have made him a known figure in the local soccer scene. He even received his first ever Senior Harambee Stars Call up when the team was preparing for the match against Malawi in Nairobi.
Raphael Mumgai Kiongera, mostly known to his peers as Munga was born in Webuye on the night of 14th June in 1993. He loved soccer so much that he started playing as soon as he could co-ordinate his two feet.
He attended primary school in Webuye where he used to prominently feature for the school team in inter school competitions in Webuye. Funny enough, he never used to be a striker while at Primary school. He used to be a goalkeeper, who would switch once in a while to an offensive midfielder.
Upon Completion of primary school, he was enrolled at the Friends School Kamusinga, a school known better for basketball and hockey talent. However, he chose to continue with his love for football. At FSK, he started off as a keeper, and the then coach Mr. Oruko noticed his good goalkeeping exploits during inter class competitions and drafted him into the school team.
But Mr. Oruko would then be promoted to the School’s Games Master and the soccer team had a new coach, Mr. Waluvafu. The coach then noticed that Mungai would make a better attacking midfielder than a goalkeeper. It was then that he switched from his goalkeeping antics into midfield business.
He was later drafted back as a defensive midfielder at Form Two, a position he played up to the time he completed school.
Though he says they never had such great outings as a soccer team in Western Province, Mungai vividly remembers his last year in fourth form as one of the best years in the School’s soccer history.
“In that year, we participated in the Allan Bradley Tournament hosted by our school and managed to reach the finals. We had never gone into the finals before. We beat very notable schools like Kakamega high and Vihiga, but we lost to Manor house in the finals. In that same year, we managed to reach the Provincial Level of the school games. The last time the school reached the Provincials was in 1998,” says Mungai.
He never really thought he would take up soccer as a career. His parents too, never always advised him so, and neither did the principal of his school.
“We always used to collide with my parents. They thought I was playing with education by playing soccer all the time. The Principal of our school always said that football can never be taken as a career as he always pointed out at the usual wrangles that go on in soccer. I loved football but I never thought at even one point I would play professional football,” adds the KCB forward.
Upon Completion of high school, he immediately joined the Kenyatta University in 2011 where he is currently a second year pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology. In his first year at KU, he went for trials at Nationwide side KRA, with his desire still burning to play soccer. Good for him, he was picked by the team. He only played there for six months before KCB noticed his talent and captured him.
2012 was his best season at KCB’. He scored six goals for them and was selected for the Under 23 National team and neared a call up to the national team. He vividly remembers the most important call of the year inviting him to the senior team like it was just yesterday.
“It was on a Monday, I was just relaxing in the house because we had played a game on Sunday. As I was resting I got a call from a new number. I received the call and got the most “shocking” news. The person at the other end told me that he was the coach and I was needed in camp immediately. I could not believe it, it was a huge surprise for me,” he says.
“I did not expect to get a call to the national team because the squad had already been named. It was a BIG surprise for me,” he adds.
He notes that he picked a lot of experience from his days in the National team camp, interacting with players who have plied their trade in Europe and also getting to learn a lot from the immediate former national team coach Francis Kimanzi.
As a young player, he has also had his ups and downs. For his lowest moment;
“That had to be in 2010 in the CECAFA Under 20 Championships in Eritrea. We had played so well in the tournament and were even hot favorites to win the cup. Everybody was talking about us. However, in the semi finals, we lost 2-1 to Uganda. I felt too bad because we lost due to simple mistakes, a match that we would have easily won,” says Mungai.
His highest moments;
“My career is still on a high and I know I will have bigger and better moments. But up to now, my highest moment is the Wesr African trip we had with the Under 23 team. We surpassed so many people’s expectations. I was happy meeting with top players I always see on television like Demba Ba and Demba Cisse, against Guinea also being tightly marked by players like Bobo Balde and Ishamel Bangoura who I have only heard on radio and seen on TV made me feel great,” he says with a huge smile on his face.
Challenges for a soccer player are always forthcoming for a soccer player. But for the youn Mungai, the biggest difference is how you handle those challenges that make you a better player.
“The biggest challenge I have seen in my soccer career is whe things just do not work out for the team. You do everything right and play the Coach’s tactics to the latter but you still go for almost a month without victory. The pressure is always high on everybody’s shoulders but it is always up to an individual to shell out of the pressure and come out a champion,” adds Mungai.
He puts his aspirations as one day playing in the elite European leagues.
“It is any player’s dreams to play in Europe. I am no different. I would like to work hard and see myself playing in bigger and better leagues,” says the avid Manchester United fan.
His role models,
“Here in Kenya, I admire Sofapaka’s John Baraza. He is a prolific scorer and despite his age he still runs around like and 18 year old. Ever since I started hearing of him, he has never stopped scoring. Around the globe, I admire Totenham Hotspur’s Raphael Van Der Vaart. He is an attack minded player whose philosophy is always forward play. You rarely see him playing the ball to his back. That is what I want to adapt as a player,” he adds.
And which striker would he feel complete twin striking alongside with?
“Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is my role model. He is a team player who fights for the team and can lift the team when it is evidently down,” he says.
Of the defenders he has played against in the Kenyan Premier League, he has singled out Tusker duo of Brian Mandela and Joseph Shikokoti as the hardest nut to crack.
“The two are very intelligent defenders who play with a striker’s mind. They are never too rushy in making tackles and beating them is never easy. Most of the times you find them winning the ball so easily. I think they are the best defenders in the KPL,” he adds.
His parting shot;
“Always work hard and trust in God. Never let your dreams die. Challenges are part of life and never give up even if you find the biggest rock on your path. If you were destined to success and you work towards that, nothing will come in between you and your success”