MLSsoccer.com's "Under African Skies" series is a look at what the first World Cup held on the African continent means to Major League Soccer's African players. We continue with the Philadelphia Union's Danny Mwanga, a native of the Congo who was the top overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
WALLINGFORD, Pa. – For Union forward Danny Mwanga, this summer’s World Cup in South Africa cannot come soon enough.
A native of the Congo, Mwanga is thrilled to see the tournament finally be played on his home continent.
“I’m very excited,” Mwanga said. “Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to go over and play there and will just watch it. It’s the first World Cup ever to be in Africa and we all know how soccer is very big over there, so it’s definitely huge. At the same time I think it’s a great opportunity for the rest of the world to go there and live there and see how different it is to other continents.”
Mwanga immigrated to the United States in 2006, culminating a five-year journey that ended in Portland, Ore. Mwanga went on to star at nearby Oregon State, but he started his career in the U.S. with meager beginnings.
“I started to play with this men’s league,” Mwanga said. “It was a pick-up African teams and the guy who was there saw me and took me to a [Portland] Timbers try-out. And the assistant coach there saw that I had talent, and saw that I was young, and that the best way to go is to school for at least a year or two and from there I could try for MLS.”
Mwanga said that he’ll pay close attention next month to the host nation of South Africa and to the Ivory Coast, two of six African nations in the tournament he figures should make an impression.
“They are a pretty good team and they are at home, which means they’ll have great support and it’ll really help them to do well,” Mwanga said of South Africa. “I also think that Ivory Coast are a pretty good team as well, so I’m hoping that those two can make it to the quarterfinals.”
No matter who advances or gets eliminated after the group stages, Mwanga’s main focus in the tournament is the bright light it will shine on Africa. He’s hoping that his homeland will shine right back, helping others understand how soccer can unite the world.
“Having lived in Africa, I know that there is always some sort of war or conflict,” Mwanga said. “When it comes to soccer, however, it’s unbelievable and amazing how you see a sport bringing everyone together.
"It’s almost like people forget about everything that’s happening in the country and they focus just on soccer. It’s one of the biggest sports in the world and the people of Africa have so much passion for it. I think this tournament is going to be a wonderful opportunity to bring the whole world and most of Africa’s countries together.”