Naise completes switch from hockey to football

By alex wafula
Oct 13, 2021
  • Ann Aluoch, the Harambee Starlets captain impressed with good preparations before the continental bonanza. She urged the team to make the preparations count. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Pauline Naise was one of the fittest players in hockey where her work rate at the United States International University - Africa caught the eyes of the national team selectors.

But, the player, after being called up for national team apparently lost interest in running with a stick in hand and instead opted to play football. A costly gamble one might say.

But, a few months later, Naise has completed the switch and is in the Harambee Starlets team for the African Women's Cup of Nations.

David Ouma, the Harambee Starlets head named a strong squad with four debutants as the team left for Rabat Morocco for a week-long training camp on Thursday.

The girls will play a friendly match against the Moroccan national team as well as two more matches against the top clubs in the country as they build up for the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in November.

Forwards Janet Moraa from Nyamira Starlets, Pauline Naise from Vihiga Leeds, Esther Nyandika from Soccer Queens and defender Betha Omita from Wadadia have all made the cut into the final squad of 24 after being called up last week.

Ouma has also included Enez Mango, Doris Onyango and Purity Nyongesa who never made the final team for last month’s CECAFA Women’s Championship in Uganda.

“There has been a lot of competition in the team and we only have to go with the best. The four players I called in showed they can handle national team pressure and we want to give them this opportunity to show us what they can do,” Ouma told Sports News Arena.

Start of intensive preparations

The Morocco trip will be the beginning of an intensive month-long preparations for the team as they angle for their debut in the AWCON.

From Morocco, they will play Cup of Nations hosts Cameroon and Egypt both in Nairobi, before travelling to Yaounde to play a second leg friendly against the Indomitable Lionesses.

The tactician believes this kind of preparation will give them a superb bouncing pad into their debut, while insisting they are going for nothing less of a semi-final slot.

While Morocoo have been at the AWCON twice, last being in 2002, Cameroon and Egypt have both qualified and Ouma says playing the two will give the side a mirror effect on what to expect in Yaounde.

“We need to play more of these tough matches so that we gauge ourselves with the best. It is our first time playing at the Cup of Nations so we really need to know how we will cope. I know these six matches will be of help to us,” Ouma added.

Skipper Ann Aluoch is upbeat the team will be in their best when the tournament starts, saying the good preparations have given the players morale to work and do well in Cameroon.

“We have never previously experienced such good preparation where the team even goes out of the country to camp. We feel indebted and as much as we are training hard, we should keep it in our minds that we need to repay all this the federation has done for us,” the right back noted before the team departed for Rabat.

Goalkeepers: Samantha Akinyi, Lilian Awuor and Vivian Akinyi; Defenders: Anne Aluoch, Wendy Achieng, Dorcas Shikobe, Irene Ogutu, Esther Nandika, Elizabeth Ambogo, Doris Ayango, Jackline Akoth, Betha Omita; Midfielders: Corazon Aquino, Jacky Ogol, Caroline Omondi, Cheris Avilia, Mary Kinuthia, Pauline Naise, Christine Nafulam, Enez Mango; Strikers: Janet Bundi, Esse Akida, Neddy Atieno, Purity Nyongesa.