I’m Never Going Down without a Try
I like surprises. I like surprising people as much as I like to be surprised. This is the reason why my two moves in Europe wasn’t anywhere near the press.
I remember well when I landed in Tel Aviv. I was too preoccupied with the next step that I couldn’t wait to see the club representative who had come to pick me at the airport.
But before the Israel stint I had a short deal back at home with Thika Queens.
My contract with Spedag FC had elapsed and after featuring in the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Cameroon there had been a lot of offers on the table. Of course, Spedag and the national team had played a major role in my career; AWCON being the pinnacle.
There were teams that had shown interest in my services but there was a fear in me. The fear was on my parents too. I had left the country before for tournaments but leaving to go stay away from them had a mixed reaction. I didn’t know what awaited me neither did they. What derailed my departure further was that my parents’ word on education. I had to finish school first.
So before I made a decision of moving out of the country I decided to ink a short term deal with Thika Queens. It was in the off season and I only managed a couple of games more so in the preseason before the pressure from my representative continued.
The Thika management was understanding enough to allow me to leave despite not having represented them in a competitive game. I’m forever grateful for that. We had a proper team there. If I was to stay I think we were going to dominate the local scene for some time. They had roped a few foreigners too and I think the balance was perfect. We had national team players in the team and adapting wasn’t hard. I clicked immediately. It was sad I had to leave early.
Apart from the fear of the unknown in playing away from home. I had my graduation coming up in a matter of months and I wanted to wear the gown before moving out. It was always my mum’s dream to see me graduate. It might have taken long to graduate due to my schedule but I was determined to finish school. Not for my mum and family but for my future. Little didn’t I know that lightning was going to strike twice in a matter of days.
Of the deals that I had on the table, Ramat Hasharon was the best. What convinced me about moving to the team was the fact that they had represented Israel in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the previous team and was forming a squad to make it back to the competition. They sounded convincing and knew what they wanted. It was a project I really wanted to be part of.
As I said earlier, arriving in Israel wasn’t the occasion; inking the deal was out of this world. Everything was set up from my arrival to the day of the signing. It was the first time I was seeing professionalism being displayed first hand.
There was no sleeping in a hotel or in some unknown place. The club had apartments for new players and anyone was free to go rent a house of his choice once they felt settled. We had everything at speed dial. I don’t want to lie. I didn’t sleep in my first day. Everything seemed surreal.
“Little didn’t I know that lightning was going to strike twice in a matter of days.“
In the morning before inking the deal, I was taken in a short club tour where I was shown the facilities and our home ground. It was to join the mid-morning session with the junior girls’ team just for some warm down before inking the deal. My mum and brothers were always on the phone to ask if everything was okay and couldn’t hide my joy when everything was done. I think they didn’t believe it until I confirmed and sent them pictures. I could see the smile in their faces. I had done something that had them proud. Mine was to get down to business.
What people don’t know that a day after signing my deal was the day I was to graduate from Kenya Methodist (KeMu) University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA). My chair was empty that day but just seeing my name emblazoned in that plastic chair was everything for me. In a matter of hours, I had signed my professional deal and had graduated. Double win.
We had a good start to the season and everything went on well until injuries hit us. We were forced to play girls from the junior team and I always played out of position to help the team; right back to be precise. It was a position I have never played before but I think I did well when I was slotted there. There was a game, under the floodlight that I forgot myself and took on everyone; it’s in a clip. I gave an assist from right back but the dress down that came after the game.
I was to defend not to attack. I was caught out of position so many times in the game and I think the coach was right. But playing at right back instilled some discipline in me in matters positioning. It’s something that I use to date; not to be afraid of trying new things in my position but to always stick with the team’s plan.
My display in Israel didn’t go unnoticed and it was just a matter of time before my representative came back again that there were offers around Europe. We had not done well with my team due to injuries and some factors that were beyond us and when I concluded my first season, the team that had won the league and who were to represent us in the Champions League were really on my neck. My coaches at the club had informed me of the same but I had to consult. No sooner had I told my agent the same than he came with a list of teams.
Just as my deal with Hasharon a few people knew of the move. The arrival wasn’t that scary and full of unknown things as with my first stint but when I arrived in Turkey it was a different ball game all together.
It was a step higher. Everyone was a crazy about the game. The Istanbul Derby was something else. The week to the game the streets turn into something else. Everything is literally at a standstill.
That apart, the facilities were a notch higher that what we had in Israel. We were allowed time to play in the Vodafon Arena when we hosted Atletico Madrid; surreal experience. This was just a team that I use to see on the internet. Here they were, flesh and blood.
The changing room with my jersey. Esse Akida 14. The white colour has never looked more beautiful under those lights. This was the little girl from Kilifi living her dream. I shed a lot of tears when such things happen. I remember my family. The people who look up to me. My country. The female gender and I feel I owe them my career. I want to fight for every one of them.
In Kenya we are not privileged enough to have such of these things I have had in my career. I receive numerous message more so on my Facebook page from people who just need help on how to go about their careers. They are genuine from their voices. At times I’m overwhelmed to help them in the little ways I can.
I want to give them hope. I want hope to everyone who doesn’t have the belief. I want to encourage all the youths in this country. Those with no clear paths on where they will be in the coming days. They need that guidance and I’m always willing to do my part. But I can’t do it alone. It needs a collective effort.
I’m glad that a number of my colleagues are now joining European leagues. And this shows that we are all capable down here. We have good players in Kenya, it’s only the opportunity that we lack. I am saying this because I have played in some of the best teams. It’s a challenge to the federation to make things better for the lady footballer. To make the Kenya Women Premier League stronger.
This is the same reason that I want to open a foundation. To help those young girls and boys in Kilifi. I am a product of help. Without Moving The Goal Post (MTG) Kilifi I couldn’t have been here. I was helped and I have to help. It’s not that it’s a mandatory thing but it’s because I feel it’s the right thing.
I know things will be up one day for every female Kenyan footballer. But that will only happen if me and you can pull in the right direction. I want to do my part. And maybe if things don’t work, at least I would have gone down after trying.