•Aluoch’s journey in football can be traced back to Ngomongo, a residential area that stands side by side with the sprawling Korogocho slums in Nairobi’s Eastlands area.
•Her career as a player is entwined with successful stints in coaching, including a crucial role she played as the Kenya U-20 women’s national team head tactician.
When Anne Aluoch got pregnant in the year 2004, her father was furious. She was only 14 then and had just sat for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams.
Sixteen years down the line, Aluoch is today the proud mother of Jane Hato, a bubbly budding footballer who turned out for the Kenya U-17 Girls National Team during the 2019 Cecafa Championship in Uganda.
We caught up with the 30-year-old mother in her office at Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) headquarters at Komarock along Kangundo Road in Nairobi, where she currently serves as the academy’s technical director and doubles up as the Mathare United Women Football Club assistant coach.
MYSA has an impressive track record of producing high calibre footballers, among them former Harambee Stars centre forward Dennis Oliech.
Our visit to her office came exactly a week after her triumphant entry into the Football Kenya Federation’s administration block following her emphatic win in the Nairobi county branch elections, where she was elected the women representative.
She and her “Team Reforms” led by chairman Amos Otieno ‘Wakili’, became an instant sensation in town, setting the cyber space alight after pulling off a major upset on ‘Team Blue’ which was endorsed by FKF President Nick Mwendwa a day before the poll.
Aluoch’s journey in football can be traced back to Ngomongo, a residential area that stands side by side with the sprawling Korogocho slums in Nairobi’s Eastlands area.
Her career as a player is entwined with successful stints in coaching, including a crucial role she played as the Kenya U-20 women’s national team head tactician. Born in 1990, Aluoch discovered her potential at the tender age of 10 while attending Chandaria Primary School in Baba Dogo, Nairobi.
“My football journey began at Baba Dogo grounds in 1999, where I featured in the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA)— organised U-12 league,” says Aluoch.
She hardly knew her mother, having lost her early in life, and her father— the only parent she now looked up to— initially attempted to extinguish her interest in the sport.
Aluoch revealed that had it not been for the unwavering support she received from her siblings, she might have quit football long time ago.
“At first my dad didn’t savour the idea and as such the only people who were there for me were my brothers. My father, however, came to support me much later when he discovered that I had been selected to travel abroad for the Norway Cup,” he says.
Aluoch never made the traveling party in the end, given that she was still in Class Eight preparing for her final exams. That notwithstanding, her star had just begun to rise further up. A month later, she was journeying to Tanzania for a regional tournament under the auspices of an organization called Old Is Gold.
“As a child, I participated in a lot of competitions, one of which was the MYSA girls’ tournament. Both in 2000 and 2001, I traveled to Tanzania for the East Africa Games.”
Her best feeling in football came when she banged in her first goal ever during a match in the MYSA league. “I found the back of the net in one of the MYSA tournaments in 2014. It was an amazing feeling. I felt I had finally done something important for my team,” said Aluoch.
Her frequent football trips with MYSA put her on a collision course with her teachers who felt that she was squandering the time she should have utilised in class to improve her academic grades.
“I received zero support from my teachers. We used to travel a lot especially when they expected that I should be in school.”
In the absence of her departed mother and being the firstborn daughter in the family, a lot of responsibility was placed on her shoulder.
“I was also the first born in our home and domestic chores were taking a toll on me. I was expected to rise early, take good care of my siblings and attend to a host of other duties. I would then return home to cook for the family after a demanding day on the pitch,” says Aluoch.
Perhaps, the absence of a mother figure around her in the house may have led to the terrible blunder she committed in life. Barely in her adolescence, Aluoch suffered a major setback in 2004 when she fell into the arms of a man who impregnated her and momentarily stalled her progress in what appeared to be an impressive progress in her career.
She was not, however, one to recoil in the face of adversity. She thanks her school principal at New Jogoo Road Girls for extending a shoulder to lean on and showing her kindness during her trying moment.
“Our principal encouraged me to join school despite my condition. I gave birth and went back to continue with my studies after the principal prevailed upon me,” says Aluoch.
Her determination, hard work and patience finally paid off in 2013 when she was handed a national team call-up. Her leadership skills became evident the moment she set foot in the Harambee Starlets camp where she was appointed assistant captain upon arrival before being given the full armband status a year later.
“I received invitation to join the Starlets in 2013. The following year, I deputised Martha Karimi before taking full responsibility in 2015.”
Indeed, the task ahead was enormous. In 2016, she captained the national team to their maiden appearance in the prestigious Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Cameroon, where she featured alongside the likes of Vivian Akinyi, Dorcas Shikobe, Wendy Achieng’, Cheris Avilia, Mary Kinuthia, Janet Bundi, Esse Akida, Lilian Awuor, Vivian Corazone and Sharon Bushenei among others.
Aluoch reminisces: “It was like the World Cup in Africa so achieving it was a great milestone for me.”
Aluoch says her lowest moment as a national team player came when the Starlets bowed out of the Olympic qualifiers after crashing to Banyana Banyana in Machakos. “It was a painful experience but I emerged from the ashes much stronger and ready for new challenges.”
Her appointment in 2017 as the inaugural Kenya U-20 Women’s National Team (WNT) head coach was an icing on the cake. Aged only 27 and assisted by former Makolanders midfielder Jackline Akoth, Aluoch became the youngest head coach ever of a women national team at any level not only on the continent but the world over.
The team of 40 players scouted mostly from secondary school ball games had pitched camp at the Moi Girls High School in Eldoret in preparation for a tournament in the Kingdom of Jordan.
Concerning Aluoch’s appointment, FKF President Nick Mwendwa said then: “We feel it is an opportunity for women to step into leadership positions and take up roles that have in the past been held by men.That is why we have appointed Aluoch and Akoth to head the team’s technical bench.”
Aluoch says she will always be thankful to the Football Kenya Federation supremo for entrusting her with such a huge responsibility.
“I thank FKF President Nick Mwendwa and Dorris Petra for having given me such a rare opportunity to handle the national team. It is an achievement that I had always yearned for considering the fact that I always wanted to coach the national team.”
Some of the players she nurtured have gone ahead and made a good impression of themselves in the professional football circles. These include Harambee Starlets midfielders Vivian Corazon Odhiambo who currently plies trade for Portuguese club Atlético Ouriense, and Cynthia Shilwatso who is sending spectators wild with her superb skills at EDF Logroño in Spain.
Aluoch has vital piece of advice for budding footballers: “Getting to the level of playing top flight football is not easy. It calls for hard work, patience and focus on one’s goals.”
Her past experiences as a teenager have influenced her desire to establish an organisation that targets vulnerable youth and especially those who have unknowingly fallen into the agonizing trap of early pregnancy.
At Ruaraka Girls Academy, Aluoch is not only a football coach but also a life skills counsellor to the heartbroken young single mothers and a host of budding footballers.
Like a dotting and loving mother, Aluoch guides her protégés, listens to them and gives them the much needed advice about their problems. Evidently, she is successfully turning the lemons that life presents to her into lemonades.
Name: Ann Aluoch
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth: Nairobi
Current position: Coach
1997-2004: Chandaria Primary School
2006-2009: New Jogoo Road Girls High
2013-2017: Harambee Starlets
2017: Coach, Kenya Women U-20
Clubs she has featured for:
Old Is Gold; Mosca; Spedag; Mathare United Women.