•Mwangi has scored over 200 goals, averaging about 20 each in a trophy-laden career at Telkom, who rebranded to Blazers last year following the exit of long-time sponsors Telkom Kenya.
• She also chairs the African Hockey Federation Athletes committee further confirming her worth across the boarders.
For a team to win titles season after season, they need exceptional individuals who are ready to give everything in laying the groundwork for something special.
In addition, a team needs an individual who can shoulder the burden of expectation, to act as the driving force behind the rest of the.
This is what Jacqueline Mwangi has been for her club, Blazers (formerly Telkom), and the national team in the past decade.
In a world where everything is performance-based, Mwangi has continued to bag goal after goal which has seen her win numerous accolades, especially individually and at the club level.
Mwangi has scored over 200 goals, averaging about 20 each in a trophy-laden career at Telkom, who rebranded to Blazers last year following the exit of long-time sponsors Telkom Kenya.
The sports teacher at Hillcrest School also boasts over 20 goals with the national team until her retirement from international hockey in 2015. Despite being in the twilight years of her career, Mwangi is still keen to push on as she currently nurses an ankle injury sustained in February.
Mwangi is, more or less, the glue that has held things together at Blazers since joining the club in 2007. She has gone on to win seven African Cup of Club Championship ACCC titles and over 10 Kenya Hockey Union Premier League titles.
The newly appointed national team coach has proved that she is not your average athlete but a superstar and selfless team player whose influence especially on the field is immeasurable. These accomplishments make her highly regarded at the club, arguably their best player after Betty Tioni, who passed on in 2014.
She also chairs the African Hockey Federation Athletes committee further confirming her worth across the boarders.
She won the December 2018 Sports Journalist Association of Kenya/Startimes Award for emerging top scorer at the ACCC in Abuja, Nigeria where she notched five goals alongside compatriot Audrey Omaido. Blazers reclaimed the title they had lost to Ghana Revenue Authority GRA in 2017.
But what makes the burly forward to be touted as the best in the past decade? Why is she still living up to the expectation despite her age? And how inspirational is she to the younger players?
Amira Sailors coach Thomas Mucheni has special praise for Mwangi, who was the joint top scorer last season with eight goals. He said she is the closest to the exemplary Tioni.
“I will start with a notable mention of Tioni, who passed on in 2014. She is the all-time best for me. As for the decade, I will definitely go for Mwangi. Give her half a chance and she will make something out of it. She is not the fastest but most often she beats defenders either by dribbling or creating space for herself. If cornered, she knows what to do. She will either create a foul or look for a teammate. She has the aura that brings the best out of people around her,” said Mucheni, who also turns out for Greensharks.
“She has fantastic movement and very intelligent also. When she makes runs into the D, the opposition defenders go crazy. She has an admirable touch of the ball. Control of the ball in tight situations is often the difference in getting an opportunity to score a goal or not even having the chance.”
“There’s one side to her actual game that is very clean— her finishing is clinical, deadly, and unerringly accurate and coupled up with some intricate link-up play. There are very few flaws to report on her game and she knows where to place herself on the field and an awareness of space. While the width is a striker’s friend, mobility runs are offensive players’ best-attacking weapon—attributes she has been identified with,” he adds.
“Her composure and hold up play is articulate, a natural finisher who has always carried her side on her back. Her confidence and self-belief rarely see her lose possession. She eases the pressure off the rest of the team by comfortably staying with the ball.”
Having pipped his opponents to the men’s striker of the decade gong a fortnight ago, George Mutira said: “I haven’t seen anyone else like her, honestly. She’s been consistent and challenged herself to kick-start her career having been in the United States for some time. She has been the top-scorer year after year while her skills and bullying off defenders is synchronous with statistics.”
Mutira, who has won two consecutive league titles with the Sugar Millers, added: “She has been so reliable for the national team upfront and it is good to see her grooming upcoming players. Without taking anything away from her, she is so predatory because of the good decision-making she has and she is a mentor to many girls.”
It was not all rosy for Mwangi, who was away from hockey for almost ten years. Her adventurous journey in the United States between 1998 and 2007 largely involved football as she studied and played at Martin Methodist College and also won several age-group titles as a coach.
Returning home and fine-tuning herself to accomplish what she has achieved is phenomenal.
She was the heroine, who singlehandedly booked a ticket for Kenya to the FIH World League Two series in 2015, in Uruguay. She scored the solitary goal against Ghana in the qualifiers.
Even veteran Parkroad Badgers defender David Omwaka agrees that Mwangi deserves a seat at the high table. Omwaka tutors newbies Orange Leonas after guiding them to promotion to the top tier. For him, Mwangi’s experience has been her triumph card. “She has been in the game for long, achieved almost everything, and is a natural finisher who kills off games with even half a chance and can also create something out of nothing.”
Another Blazers forward, Omaido and Strathmore’s Gilly Okumu are unlucky to lose out to Mwangi in the battle for the best of the decade, even though they are not fence-sitters.
The latter is a captain both at the club and national team level. Omaido has been in the game since 2008 while Okumu boasts eight years of play.
Okumu, who was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2017, has been the top scorer twice, league runners up severally, and has tasted glory with the students in Kenya Universities Sports Association KUSA games.
Omaido’s achievements, on the other hand — in terms of titles — are similar to Mwangi’s. She thrives on speed, a workhorse who plays her heart out the game in, game out.
As Mwangi begins the journey of remodeling the national team, it is hoped that her transition will be built on the dedication and deliveries she has had as a player. She has lived long enough to understand what is needed to succeed at the top level.