Ataro not hanging gloves anytime soon

By elvince joshua
Nov 25, 2013
  • Kenya's goalkeeper Josephine Ataro.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

While at Nyamira High School in Bondo-Siaya County, Josephine Ataro was a non-sporting girl whose only interest was drama and reciting poems in English and Swahili.

One day, her teacher, Onsongo Mang'uro, the current Kisumu Day High School Deputy Principal pulled her out the classroom onto a hockey pitch and 20 years down the line, Ataro is Kenya’s number one and one of the most capped players in the Kenya Hockey women's national team.

Ataro who made her debut for the national team at just 18 in 1993 has earned 97 caps which is not a mean achievement for a country that plays very few international matches.

"I didn't want to play hockey," reveals Atoro during our interview at the City Park Stadium, just after the match between Kenya and Ghana which Ghana won rallied from 0-2 down to win 3-2.

The current Telkom Orange keeper earned her first international cap during the 1993 Africa Cup of Nation/World Cup qualifiers in Nairobi where Kenya beat South Africa 3-1 to be crowned continental champions.

"Hockey standards have gone down in Kenya. We beat the same South Africa that is giving us problems right now, here at home," said Ataro.

She believes the standards of Kenya Hockey started going down the moment the country stopped playing more international games.

"This is not anywhere near the Kenyan squad then. We were good because we used to play more International games with countries like India," Ataro who started her playing career with Inter-Capitale, the first women's hockey club in Kenya before moving to Posta and finally Telkom Orange says her love for hockey cannot be rivaled.

No replacement so far, Ataro

She will continue to play as long as there is no rightful replacement to take her place between the sticks.

"I feel so sad because there is no one to take my place. My dream is to nurture someone to be like me or possibly better but these young players are not willing to go that extra mile. I shouldn't be playing right now but there is no one who can do it that is why l am forced to come in a give them a challenge," says Ataro who is currently the Kenya under-16 national team and Telkom Orange assistant coach.

The veteran goalkeeper has done coaching courses locally and in Ghana. She has also taken part in the World Cup (Barcelona, Spain), All Africa Games since 1993, Afro-Asian Games and numerous Africa Club Championships and Africa Cup of Women's Cup (1999) where she was voted the best goalkeeper.

If there is one thing Ataro is grateful about, it is standing between the sticks, covered in the heavy but protective goalkeeper uniform and a stick in the hand.

"I love hockey so much and l am where l am because of hockey. Just imagine that today l was taken to the hospital, treated and discharged and the bills is on my employer (Telkom Kenya)" she explains.

The incident happened during a match between Kenya and Ghana where two players fell on her chest. She was rushed to Highridge Hospital where an AR showed no fracture but an inflammation on the tissues.

Such is Ataro’s love for hockey that she attended the London Olympics in 2010. "In 2010, l paid for my trip to London Olympics just to watch a hockey match.

That's how much l like the game, can you imagine that," she offers. Ataro whose dream is to open a youth academy is currently a coach at the Makini School.

"One day when I stop playing, I would want to own an academy for young children and coach them. That is the only way I want to give back to the society," she reveals.