Doreen Nabwire Omondi is a 32-year-old female football player, soccer activist and young talent scout. She holds the title of being the first female footballer in Kenya to ever play in an international match.

The mother of three, better known as Kenya’s first professional female football star, shared her story with Saturday Magazine.

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“I like to think of myself as the torchbearer of the underdogs in football. I am currently a Women Development Officer at the Kenya Football Federation (KFF) and Deputy Competitions Manager in charge of grassroots football development. I am also the Founder of Girls Unlimited which I started back in 2009 to nurture fresh talent.

When I was young, most people associated a footballer player with being immoral and I was seen as having no direction in life.

People would often brand me as undisciplined just because I was into sports. A lot of female footballers got discouraged and even developed low self-esteem due to these remarks.

Due to my resilient spirit, I chose to ignore the critics and managed to finish my KCPE in 1999.

SUPPORT

In high school, teachers would tell girls not to hang out with me because I was playing a man’s game.

I decided to use their negativity as fuel and strived to excel in football. I later became the first woman in Kenya to ever play in an international match.

I credit my tenacity to my dad’s support. He would watch most if not all of my matches.

He gave me the name “Dodo” – which means short for daughter – and it stuck. Even now as an adult, he still makes me feel like ‘daddy’s little girl’. I was born 32 years ago in Kasarani and later moved to Mathare North.

At Mathare, we would make a ball out of plastic materials and just kick it in the streets with my friend Monica. Boys would join in and we would play until sunset.

I was a shy child — I am still am, but I now conceal it — and at times going to play at the school’s pitch was difficult but I had to push myself to do it.

FOOTBALL GENE

Football runs in our family DNA. My dad used to play football way back but he quit due to a hip injury.

I like to think he lives vicariously through me. I am the third born in a family of six. My two elder brothers were once players, but one is now a football coach.

My younger brother and younger sister both play football in Sweden. Only our last born, who studies at Kenyatta University, didn’t take to the path.

The football gene is now with my kids. I have three aged, 12, 11 and four. My elder boys now play for Kariobangi Sharks football club. It makes me happy.

While my father was my cheerleader, it was not so for my mum. I remember when I was in primary school and we had a match, my mum wouldn’t let me go.

I was going to miss the game but my other team members couldn’t play without me and came to our house to show their solidarity.

ACCOLADES

Luckily, my dad was around and he insisted in his deep voice, “You should go play Dodo, never let anything hold you back.” I was able to go join my teammates for an unforgettable match.

With time my mum came around and accepted the fact that football was my first love.

Then came countless opportunities of travelling all over the world and winning several accolades when I was playing for the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA).

I had joined the association from the age of eight and continued playing till age 21.

Football is a risky game. Injuries are rife and there is always that fear that this will be your last game. I knew my dad dropped his love because of an injury.

I thought about it but brushed it off. I am a very optimistic person, and I always try my best to look at the bright side of things.

FAMILY

During the height of my career, I met the father of my kids. We fell in love and we decided to settle down in marriage.

I thought nothing could tear us apart. But four years later we broke up due to differences we couldn’t mend.

I had adopted my firstborn at the age of two. We had been blessed with two more kids who are 11 and four.

I value my family, and they come first. My children motivate and bring out the best in me. I am currently seeing someone, and let’s just say I like the way things are progressing.

You have to keep going no matter what because the clock is always ticking. I am a firm believer in moving on whenever I am faced with a crisis.

I don’t like dwelling on negative situations. You should always dust yourself off and pick yourself up.

I am my mother’s daughter because she always taught me to be strong no matter what life throws my way.

CAREER

Life has thrown at me several things, both good and bad. I couldn’t study law, which was my childhood dream due to lack of money.

But then, due to the travel exposure that I got while playing football — in Germany and Norway — I opted to do a Tours and Travel course instead.

I doubled it up with a Cabin Crew course. In 2010 when I was playing for a football team in Bremen, I got an offer to work as an Air Hostess in Air Berlin.

I receded the offer as I changed the team that was allied to the airline.

When I came back to Kenya in 2011, I worked briefly as a tour consultant, but I yearned to be in football.

The next year we went for a soccer camp in the U.S with the National team and I became the Captain of the National Team in 2012.

The team wasn’t consistent. Unfortunately, in 2014, I got Achilles tendon rupture (a partial or complete disruption of the tendon just above the heel) when I was playing for FC Koln in Germany, and I took time out to recover.

RETIREMENT

By the time FKF was getting stable, which was in 2016, I was retiring.

My highlight was receiving the Sports Personality of the Decade at the Magharibi Michezo Awards in December 2018. It shows that all my years in the field were not in vain.

I now play football mostly for fun at FKF, where we formed a team. We usually play floodlight football on Fridays.

I am also part of Mathare United Legends and we play sometimes during midweek.

If you are passionate about football then keep practicing and don’t let anyone discourage you from getting into it.

When you invest and nurture your talent in soccer then you will reap good results. Football is a rich industry that requires good governance and proper management.

Today, I wear many hats — worker, player, soccer activist, scout and nurturer of talent. I also volunteer with the Kenya Footballers Welfare Association (KEFWA) that I joined in 2014.

We advocate for player’s rights. And I am happy we are a voice to many players out there especially the ones that are new into the football world.

Football taught me a lot of things, but most of all it taught me patience and endurance.”