“We treat every game like a final. That’s what keeps us on our toes.”
These are the words of Pauline Awuor, Head Coach of Acakoro Ladies.
“Every time these girls come to train, I feel at home. They genuinely love football and have sacrificed so much to be where they are and I’m forever proud of them for taking the platform that Safaricom has given them through Chapa Dimba.”
Pauline is even more excited for this season. Not just because she knows deep down that her team, Acakoro Ladies will lift the mantle, but also because this season, Safaricom announced that they would also feature coaching clinics to be conducted in partnership with LaLiga as part of efforts to upskill local football coaches as well.
This to her is a dream come true; especially knowing how hard it has been to be in an industry that doesn’t appreciate the women as much as the men.
She tells me that as a woman who has been in this industry for over 6 years, there has never been such opportunities for coaches to learn and even have the chance to go to Spain.
Here’s her story as the head coach of one of the most promising teams Nairobi has seen, the Acakoro Ladies:
“When we started out, it wasn’t smooth at all. If we start by even thinking about where we stay, having them consistently coming for practice is a blessing. Korogocho is very unsafe and it becomes even riskier for the girls considering all the risk factors.
I also have to take into consideration where they come from. Some of them might get roped in in household chores or babysitting their siblings or even helping their parents with their daily hustles and knowing where we come from, we have to understand and respect the hustle.
Also, when the time of the month comes, some of them can’t make practice because of severe cramps. You might find that practice was scheduled for 20 girls & 5 don’t show up because they can’t play and knowing how the menstrual cycle works, not everyone gets their period at the same time, so getting everyone for practice sessions is something I don’t take lightly.
We were also not received with arms wide open at first. Some people in the community where we come from were opposed to the girls playing football, because traditionally, football was meant for boys, thus they would always try to make the girls quit. Another thing we had to battle before being well known due to Chapa Dimba was the fact that whenever we wanted to have practice, some boys in the hood would deny us the pitch, saying that girls don’t know how to play football and should instead be at home cooking and taking care of the house.
How has that changed since Chapa Dimba?
First, we get a lot of respect where we come from. The same guys who used to send me threats from our pitch in Korogocho [we have two pitches, one in Korogocho & Kariobangi] now see us and encourage us to keep doing what we’re doing because they’ve seen us play at Chapa Dimba. The community in general is also cheering us on. The same people who would have looked down on football as a profession are now even encouraging their children to start playing sports.
I’ve also found relief in the fact that this season will applaud coaches. Most of the times, coaches get overlooked and this happens in all sectors, not just football alone. This will not only motivate me to become a better coach, but will also encourage those who are in the hood to be better at what they are and for that I truly thank Chapa Dimba na Safaricom.