By Tyler Trent
(Photo courtesy of the Mayaka Foundation)
Philip Mayaka is a quiet guy on the pitch. He takes care of business in midfield for top-of-the-table Crown Legacy FC and goes on his way. Off the field, Mayaka is making big moves in his home country of Kenya with the Mayaka Foundation. From Nairobi, Kenya, to Charlotte, North Carolina, learn the story of Philip Mayaka.
The Road to Legacy
Mayaka was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2000. He grew up with soccer everywhere around him, but his father was strict about making sure that he put his studies before anything else. Montverde Academy’s Mike Potempa was on a scouting trip in Nairobi when he first witnessed Mayaka’s skill. Mayaka’s high school coach knew that Potempa would be scouting and took Mayaka for his chance to impress.
Potempa immediately built a relationship with Mayaka before offering him an opportunity to join him at Montverde Academy. Mayaka left his home country at the age of 16 to follow Potempa to Florida, where he could continue high school while playing. While in Florida, Mayaka had the opportunity to play with the Orlando City Academy team before graduating high school.
Growing up, Mayaka was a big fan of Santi Cazorla, who played for Arsenal. However, after he arrived in the United States, he shared he liked how Darlington Nagbe played in the midfield and enjoyed watching him play and attributes some of his style to Nagbe.
In April of his senior year of high school, Mayaka had yet to receive a college scholarship, but Clemson came calling, and the rest is history. Mayaka was named ACC Freshman of the Year, All-ACC First Team, All-America Second Team, and a semi-finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy after his first season at Clemson.
His great success at Clemson had drawn international interest as Levante in Spain had offered a contract to the budding midfielder. However, COVID-19 shut down the planet in 2020, which saw Mayaka return to Clemson for a second season. After his sophomore year, Mayaka was First-team All-ACC and ACC All-Tournament team. Mayaka was projected as one of the top picks in the 2021 SuperDraft. The Colorado Rapids selected him as the third overall pick.
The 2021 season was spent on loan with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the USL Championship. In 2022, Mayaka showcased his skills with Colorado Rapids 2 in the inaugural MLS Next Pro season. While Mayaka didn’t get a shot with the Rapids’ first team, he caught the eye of Crown Legacy FC. Mayaka was happy in Colorado but couldn’t pass on the opportunity to move to Charlotte, where most of his host family lives. “It's kind of like being home,” said Mayaka on the decision.
Philip Mayaka with Crown Legacy FC (Photo credit Jake Sokol)
The Mayaka Foundation
Now a regular starter and difference-maker for Crown Legacy FC, Mayaka also has plenty on the table with the Mayaka Foundation. He created the Mayaka Foundation in 2023 to help children in need have access to free education through scholarships and to hone their skills in sports as well.
Mayaka FC (Photo courtesy of the Mayaka Foundation)
The foundation also has a soccer team, Mayaka FC, which plays in the Kisii County League in Kenya. Mayaka FC provides an opportunity for kids from the foundation to be involved in activities where they can nurture their talents while still learning in school.
Mayaka has aspirations to use his foundation to build a school in his home of Nairobi, Kenya, to further provide for those children in need. While this plan is still in its early stages, Mayaka is putting tremendous effort into reaching that goal.
As an extra way to supplement his Mayaka Foundation, Mayaka's clothing brand called Stitch Fix was formed. “I wanted it to be something unique that my fans can have,” said Mayaka on providing more incentive for his supporters to help contribute to his work with the Mayaka Foundation.
Mayaka spends large parts of the year in the United States but has a support network in Kenya that helps him run the foundation. Leading that network and the foundation is Mayaka's father.
While growing up in Kenya, Mayaka recalled his father working multiple jobs to provide for his family. Now that Mayaka plays professionally in the United States, he is paying his father back. “He is the one taking care of the foundation now. Instead of going to work, he is taking care of the foundation, and I'm kind of supporting the family,” said Mayaka. As his father approaches 60 years old, Mayaka is happy that his father can relax more often as part of the foundation.
While there is currently no way to donate to the Mayaka Foundation, and Stitch Fix is not currently online, there have been talks about making the Mayaka Foundation an online presence and a way for the community to get involved. Mayaka mentioned he wants to ensure everything is set up properly and clearly for the community to see directly where the money will go and how it will help the youth in Kenya.
Building the Legacy
In 2021, Mayaka was called up to the Kenyan National Team, which he considers one of the best moments of his young career.
“It was a great experience. It was something that I've been dreaming for. I used to go watch them when I was young. I would go with my teammates back in Kenya. We would go watch the national team and watch McDonald Mariga, who was playing for Inter Milan back then. When I got my first call up, it was like a dream come true.”
Now in 2022, Crown Legacy FC is off to a hot start in their inaugural season, largely in part to a strong midfield core of Mayaka, Nikola Petković, and David Poreba. Mayaka shared how beneficial it’s been having players like that beside him, saying, “When you are in a place where there's competition. They say iron sharpens iron, so when you are in an environment where people want to improve, everybody's fighting hard. So I feel like, yeah, me coming here and having those two guys playing in front of me, they've helped me a lot for sure.”
As Crown Legacy continues to fight to win the Eastern Conference, Mayaka continues on his path both as an athlete and as more than that. As someone who left his family as a teenager to chase his dreams, achieved them, and decided to give back to all who made it possible and those Kenyan youths who want to follow their dreams just like he did.