Leo Messo: Who is Arsenal’s new Kenyan wonderkid?

Video Archive
Sat, 22 May 2021 Source: goal.com

Two days after breaking the internet following his transfer move to Arsenal academy from rivals West Ham United, Goal have traced the roots of 10-year-old Leo Messo.

The Kenyan wonderkid sealed his transfer to the Hale End-based Arsenal Academy on a scholarship contract from their London rivals, and he was received by Arsenal Youth Academy Manager Per Mertesacker – who captained the Gunners from 2016 following Mikel Arteta’s retirement and later quit at the end of the 2017-18 season to take charge of the club's academy.

A picture of Messo posing with Mertesacker immediately went viral after the deal was confirmed and with his name almost resembling that of Barcelona star Leo Messi, he made the transfer hit the headlines across the globe!

According to the testimony of a school friend of the wonderkid's father, Messo's talents are reminiscent of his dad's skills on the rugby field.

What are the roots of young Leo Messo?

According to Onyinkwa Onyakundi, Messo’s father Benson hails from Siaya but lives in London, UK with his family.

He was a well-known rugby player during his school days at Cardinal Otunga, Mosocho, and this happened long before rugby became a mainstream Sport in Kenya and the ‘Shujaa’ national team made Sevens Rugby as popular as it is today in the country.

Siaya County is one of the counties in the former Nyanza Province in the southwest part of Kenya.

It is bordered by Busia County to the north, Kakamega and Vihiga County to the northeast, and Kisumu County to the southeast and it also shares a water border with Homa Bay County which is located south of Siaya County.

“Long before rugby became a mainstream Sport in Kenya, and ‘Shujaa’ made Sevens Rugby as popular as it is today, there was a rugby team I wouldn't miss one minute of their game and not be heartbroken,” Onyakundi wrote on his Facebook page in reference to Cardinal Otunga, a school where Messo’s dad studied.

“They were our High School rugby team, they were called ‘the Zebras’ for two reasons. The first is that the Zebra embodies the strength and speed they often employed to overwhelm such hapless opponents as Kisii School, Maseno School, and St. Marys Yala.

“The second was their beautiful uniform - which even our bitter rivals often conceded was the most beautiful School Rugby kit in Kenya back then - that was a black and white striped top, a snow-white pair of shorts, long black socks, and black Adidas football boots.”

In his tribute to young Messo’s move to Arsenal, Onyakundi remembers how the boy's father was as fast runner and was known as 'the dancer' because of the manner he could dance around tackles during a match.

“That is to say the team’s coach - who quite curiously shared a name with the School - the late Maurice Otunga was able to blend about five very strong and fast players with, about another five very agile and crafty players with explosive speed to make a team that was pure ecstasy to watch.

“We liked to call the latter, the 'dancers' because of the manner that they would dance around tackles, away from the outstretched arms of their well-beaten opponents and into spaces for the trademark sprint to the touchline.

"The two greatest ‘dancers’ during our time were without a doubt the late captain Mario Magonga, the Helicopter pilot who died in a crash in Turkana not too long ago, and one Benson Messo.”

He continued to write, “Fancy footwork here, a body dummy over there, followed by a sudden burst of speed, an unexpected turn, a screeching stop when stopping was impossible, and such other wizardry is what we were always guaranteed every time these two ‘dancers’ got hold of the ball, and that is why from the yelling and screaming, you could easily tell from a distance even without watching, every time Mario or Messo had the ball. They were that good.

“That is why when I read the headline ‘Arsenal sign 10-year-old Kenyan wonderkid’ on an online sports magazine on Wednesday, and on reading on learned that he is Messo's son, I was left with no doubt that we not only have another Thierry Henry in the pipeline at Arsenal, but also that many of these talents are inborn, and Leo Messo’s exceptional skills run in the family.

“Anyone who watched Benson Messo play rugby for the Zebras back in the day at Cardinal Otunga would never doubt the fact that this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree!

Arsenal 'nowhere near where we want to be' - Arteta

Article continues below

“Move over Leo Messi, Leo Messo is here!”

Who else has gone through the academy?

The young Messo has joined a long list of star-studded players, who have successfully graduated from the Arsenal academy to go on and rule in the football world.

They include Juventus custodian Wojciech Szczesny, Emiliano Martinez, Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere, Nigerian Alex Iwobi, Serge Gnabry, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Folarin Balogun, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Ignasi Miquel, Emmanuel Frimpong, and Bukayo Saka.

Others are Tony Adams, Ashley Cole, Hector Bellerin, Oguzhan Ozyakup, Kieran Gibbs, and Francis Coquelin.

Source: goal.com