Former Mombasa gubernatorial aspirant Suleiman Shahbal has come forth to defend former footballer MacDonald Mariga after he was disqualified from the Kibra by-election.

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Shahbal said that Mariga deserves respect after he put the nation on the world map after making history as the first Kenyan to win the Champions League Trophy. 

He, however, said that Mariga made a mistake by dragging himself into politics. He noted that Mariga will be remembered for inspiring millions of Kenyans in different capacities.

"Mariga is a decorated Kenyan professional footballer. The first Kenyan to win Champions League. In his struggles to the top, he inspired hope to millions of Kenyans. Hitherto, I don't know why he allowed himself to be dragged into the murky waters of Kenyan politics. Our politics is so cruel and so unforgiving! Regardless of this, he still remains a hero; He's still that star who flew our flag high when Inter Milan won Champions League in 2010,"  read his post on Facebook.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) disqualified Mariga from the contest after it emerged that his name was not in the 2017 register.

Mariga was seeking to succeed former Kibra MP the late Ken Okoth who succumbed to cancer in July.