•After years of dabbling in football as a player and never achieving much from it, Alumira embraced the game from a different perspective, this time round choosing to become a coach.
•“I was introduced to my coaching skills by Omari Matendechele, the father to Ramadhan Balala, former Harambee stars and AFC Leopards player,” —Alumira
Vihiga Queens’ coach Alexander Alumira has been experiencing goosebumps ever since Covid-19 bolted from the blue.
Alumira is getting scared that some of his players could be caught with their hands in the cookie jar if the break from football is prolonged.
With the country witnessing a surge in the percentage of unwanted pregnancies among the youth, Alumira is a worried man.
“They are young and sexually active and if any of them messes up and gets pregnant, it means two years on the sidelines considering the maternity period,” Alumira.
He admits that he has lost essential contact with his queens and as such it has become increasingly difficult to keep tabs on their actions.
“We are totally in less contact with our players at the moment due to regulations in place. So you can’t really tell what a player is doing out there at any particular time,” he said.
His concerns are justified considering the fact that it took him several years of persistence and determination to build a side so formidable as Vihiga Queens, who secured back-to-back Kenya Women Premier League titles.
He looks forward to the resumption of football so that he may prepare his charges for continental assignments after they emerged at the apex of the top tier in the just concluded season. His journey in football has been punctuated with ups and downs, first as a player and then as a coach.
When we paid him a visit at his home, the 36-year-old engineering graduate let us in on his rollercoaster ride to the summit of women football.
His parents’ indifference initially threw a wet blanket over his passion for football but he chose to push his dream forward. Alumira says his folks believed that the energy he was expending in football could be better directed into improving his grades in school.
He was always convinced that he was cut out for football going by his exploits on the pitch while still in school. “In primary school, I was a sports person and looking back, I was indeed a great footballer,” said Alumira.
He said after joining Mbale High School, he saw his dream blossoming day by day as he achieved pockets of success in the field of play. His parents, however, would hear none of it.
Things, however, took a swift turn when he joined Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology. That’s when the rain started beating him. “My problem started when I enrolled for university. My parents became firm. They wanted me to focus on my studies,” added Alumira.
At the university, his parents kept him under the watch of his aunt who was always breathing down on his neck and checking up on him. She did everything she possibly could to smother his interest in football. “For the first two and half years on campus, my aunt couldn’t give me space to develop my talent.”
He became upset and eventually made a drastic decision to bolt out of his aunt’s home to live alone. “In my third year, that’s when I rented my own house. I got apprehensive after staying out of the pitch for a long time. I felt like my dream would never materialise,” said Alumira.
After years of dabbling in football as a player and never achieving much from it, Alumira embraced the game from a different perspective, this time round choosing to become a coach.
“I was introduced to my coaching skills by Omari Matendechele, the father to Ramadhan Balala, former Harambee stars and AFC Leopards player,” he says.
Matendechele owned a football academy and conducted his sessions at Bukhungu Stadium, where he would guide him on coaching techniques. “I used to visit Bukhungu for trainings in my third and fourth years. After graduating as an Electrical engineer student at MMUST, I returned home and began to implement my skills by guiding local clubs within my neighbourhood,” he said.
Alumira secured his first coaching job at Mudete Tea Factory but he could only last there for a year. His performance as a coach was compromised by factors that impeded the success of the team.
“I couldn’t last there due to some challenges. Most of the players were employees, so getting enough time for training was quite a challenge,” he said.
His success story began in 2018, when he guided a soccer academy at Chavakali in the annual Chapa Dimba soccer tournament.
For a tactician still as green as he was at that time, going as far as the regional level of the competition was quite an achievement. After the tournament, the team later metamorphosed to Chavakali United and in 2011 became known as Vihiga All Stars.
Alumira says Vihiga beat all odds and rose through different levels of competitions to qualify for the National Super League. “The team was facing financial crisis by then because most of the time we were relying on goodwill of our fans and few handouts from politicians,” added the coach.
Eventually, the county government came to their rescue on condition that they would change their name to Vihiga United to attract more fans. Alumira says that soon after the formation of Vihiga United, the county government conceived the idea to form a women’s team as a way of addressing gender equality.
“Vihiga Queens was formed in 2014 and one of the requirements was that the team must have a qualified coach. I was the only coach there by then and so I had to step aside from Vihiga United, where I was serving as assistant coach to guide Vihiga Queens,” he said.
They began their journey on a sound footing and in 2015 won the regional trophy and were promoted to Kenya Women Premier League.
He said in 2016 they were runners up to Thika United before ultimately clinching the title in 2017. “Our first trophy was in 2017 and we successfully defended our title in 2018 and 2019 even though it was not all that easy.”
Alumira said the Caf tournament that has been lined up for 2021 will be an eye-opening experience and may help him to gauge his coaching skills and the ability of his girls as well.
“Caf will serve as an indicator to me if I am able to rise up to the challenge on the international stage. It will also afford my girls the necessary exposure they actually need in order to rise to higher levels of the game,” he said.
Alumira also believes that he will have the platform to market himself as a coach when he gets to rub shoulders with the best tacticians on the continent.
He says the ultimate secret to his success in the KWPL for the last four years has been all about commitment and focus. He is, however, quick to point out that it has not been a bed of roses for them throughout. They have had a share of their financial hiccups given that they don’t entirely rely on the county government.
“Financial crisis has been a major blow to the team since we don’t rely on the county fully, although currently the county is working on the sports fund kitty that will solve our issues. We pray that it goes through,” said Alumira. He further says that transport has always been a challenge especially during away matches. “Both Vihiga Queens and Vihiga United rely on the same bus, which is quite challenging,” he said.
Alumira is also concerned about the frequent absence of his players who turn out for the national team, pointing out that they have less time to train and blend with the rest of the squad.
Alumira looks back with pride on his success as a coach pointing out that he has produced a number of quality players who have brought him and the team honour and pride. He says as a coach, he’s now realising the dreams he never attained as a player. “I can now achieve my desires in football through coaching,” said Alumira.
Alex Alumira’s BIO
Status: Married two kids.
Education: Degree in Electrical engineering Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST),
Mbale High School.
Elumbove Primary school.
Coaching: Chavakali United-2008-2010
Mudete tea Factory 2010-2011
Vihiga all stars 2011-014.
Vihiga Queens 2014- up to date.
Also Alumira partly coached
Friends school Kigama Boys 2010-2018.