Itoje-fest might be one of the best but this yr, as Maro returns to his dad and mom’ backyard in Edgware for his or her souped-up household barbecue in September stuffed with Lions tales.
‘It began in 2018, so we’re on to our third model having missed it final yr; Ugo Monye retains asking for an invitation!’ Itoje’s brother Jeremy tells Sportsmail with amusing.
‘All of north-west London involves our dad and mom’ backyard in Edgware for Itoje-fest!
Maro Itoje is seeking to write his identify into the historical past books with the Lions in South Africa
Jeremy Itoje, Maro’s older brother, has given followers a perception into the rugby star’s background
‘On the patio we have now a DJ — our mate DJ Salus — there’s music, Nigerian meals, in addition to burgers and sausages. It is occasion theme!’
There shall be lots to have fun if Maro and the Lions full their collection win over South Africa over the approaching two weekends.
Jeremy — two days lower than a yr older than Maro, aged 27 — watched the primary Check at their shared home south of Barnet.
‘On the stadium I am fairly low-key, however in my very own house I am going loopy!’, he says sitting on the couch of their five-bedroom dwelling, having welcomed Sportsmail into the place they used to share with Saracens wing Rotimi Segun.
‘I had just a few pals over and we have been going completely psychological for it. Particularly his efficiency — I used to be screaming on the TV.
‘When it comes to a defensive efficiency, it was among the best I’ve seen from him. I believe he nonetheless has a bit extra to supply offensively however from a defensive aspect it was class.’
The Itojes, like all Lions households, have to observe from afar this time. They travelled to New Zealand 4 years in the past, when Maro was the youngest vacationer, and beloved it.
Itoje received the Man of the Match award for his towering show within the first Check vs Springboks
‘We have been there for 3 weeks, so the Exams and the Hurricanes sport,’ provides Jeremy.
‘It was superior — particularly with how cocky the Kiwis have been, it is loopy! I keep in mind I used to be within the carry with this retired 70-year-old All Black and he was like, “You guys are going to lose 3-0… no likelihood”.
‘He had no thought I used to be Maro’s brother. The Wellington second Check was class — particularly once they have been singing, “Oh Maro Itoje” on the finish. Even Alun Wyn Jones was singing it.’
There are few clues at chez Itoje that one occupant is a sporting nice. Two pointers stand out. On a settee in the lounge sits the stuffed toy lion given to him as a 22-year-old in New Zealand.
Opposite to widespread perception, the youngest participant is allowed to maintain the toy, so for these Exams it has satisfaction of place at dwelling.
The second trace is a framed photograph of him with mom Florence, father Efe, sister Isabel and brother Jeremy after the 2017 second Lions Check in Wellington. The household are all wrapped up in scarves and hats, Maro, having accomplished his coming-of-age efficiency to beat the All Blacks, in full equipment and beaming with them.
In any other case, as you may anticipate, Itoje’s sanctuary is hardly an homage to rugby.
Jeremy (second left) and the household have fun with Maro after the second Check win in New Zealand in 2017
Two giant prints of African artwork adorn the quick hallway. In the primary sitting room the place Jeremy chats away, six extra items depicting elegant women add vibrant splashes of color to the partitions.
Beside the fireside sit two bejewelled feminine figures, a skinny talking-drum over within the nook.
‘Maro loves his African artwork,’ Jeremy explains. ‘Each time we return to Nigeria, he goes to a market in Lagos the place he picks all of it up from. He curated an exhibition in Mayfair with just a few African artists lately, which was actually cool. I went down, and also you see all these faces which are within the papers… David Lammy, Mrs Blair, Diane Abbott, just a few different artists and DJ Cuppy. It was good.’
As we discuss a fox leaps throughout Maro and Jeremy’s backyard — maybe eyeing up the koi carp, goldfish and sturgeon the final proprietor left of their pond two years in the past.
‘Sadly one of many sturgeons died the opposite week,’ Jeremy says. ‘However Maro is aware of. It occurred when he was right here.’
Throughout their each day chats, Jeremy and Maro focus on the home greater than skewering Springboks.
‘We communicate just about each day — however hardly about rugby,’ Jeremy continues. ‘There is a builder coming quickly. Within the storage we have now a health club, however we’re altering it to equipment it out a bit extra. There was a leak the opposite day, stuff like that!’
As brothers and house-mates, after all Jeremy and Maro share a particular bond — even when they’re Manchester United and Arsenal followers respectively.
Each October till they have been youngsters they’d share birthday events, in addition to spending hours collectively enjoying Combat Night time boxing video games and watching WWE wrestling at dwelling in Cricklewood and Edgware.
Jeremy’s commencement photograph with father Efe (prime left), mom Florence (backside left), Maro (again centre) and sister Isabel (prime proper)
Jeremy revealed all about his brother’s upbringing with him standing on the point of historical past
‘He was an enormous Undertaker fan, and we each preferred The Rock.’ smiles Jeremy, who undertook a white-collar boxing battle whereas at Loughborough College.
‘When it got here to sport I would not say it was a lot of a contest, as Maro was a 200m runner, threw shot put and performed basketball. He was very a lot superman at that kind of stuff.
‘Ever since my dad acquired us Combat Night time for the PlayStation in 2005 we have been entrenched in boxing.
‘I might at all times choose Muhammad Ali and Maro can be Joe Frazier or Roy Jones Jnr. My dad was a large Ali fan. We would have automotive journeys the place he would inform us about his fights.’
Whereas they did as soon as play rugby collectively when at St George’s Harpenden earlier than Maro moved to Harrow Faculty — Jeremy enjoying tighthead prop was amazed at how simple it was to carry Maro the lock within the lineout — enjoying sport has by no means been an end-goal for any member of the Itoje household.
‘My dad has an academic previous, each he and my mum did college and grasp’s levels, so for them schooling was the primary factor,’ says Jeremy, chief of workers for the monetary companies and insurance coverage a part of IT big Atos.
‘Rising up we did not take into consideration rugby, we’d have a lot reasonably been wrestlers or footballers. Sol Campbell was considered one of his heroes, as was Jay-Jay Okocha.’
The Itoje sister, Isabel, is a coming drive in her subject too. At 25, she helps ladies displaced from properties because of home violence, whereas additionally educating round race and appearing since graduating from college.
Jeremy was amazed how simple Maro was to carry within the line throughout their college days collectively
So the conversations across the dinner desk have at all times reached deeper than rucks and mauls.
‘Our household have at all times mentioned race,’ says Jeremy. ‘As a household with Nigerian heritage in Britain, it is most likely irresponsible in case you’re not discussing race along with your children.
‘My dad at all times spoke about it. Now we have political debates round feminism with my sister, discussions about what Boris Johnson is getting as much as. Rugby is on the very finish of the dialog scale.’
It largely is for Maro too. The England lock, nonetheless simply 26, is much keener to speak artwork, politics, the deserves of taking the knee, his work round The Black Curriculum and The Digital Divide — a stance absolutely supported by his household.
‘If he had simply been a rugby participant that may have been superior, proper? However he can do much more from his platform, and has the accountability to,’ Jeremy says.
‘Particularly we’re actually pleased with these additional bits he does. If in case you have a care and a ardour about one thing, I believe it is your accountability to say what it’s.’
So whereas Maro cements himself because the Lion King in South Africa, come Itoje-fest his household shall be far prouder of the impression he makes exterior the sport as they tuck into jollof rice, burgers and yams in north London.