•Even though she found the going tough in his early days in Vihiga, patience and hardwork saw her rightfully earn her place in the star-studded team.
• Often used sparingly, Alumira unleashed her in the 2018 season but last year was the most fruitful for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) teacher.
In as much as the teams that win titles are oftenly built on solid defence and an equalliy hardworking midfield, a deadly attack is always hard to find.
In Europe, there are few exceptions though. The Manchester United trio of Mason Greenwood, who has been compared to title-winning former United striker Robin van Persie, the reborn Anthony Martial and the philanthropic Marcus Rashford have so far combined to score 60 goals in all competitions.
They have put United in the hunt for top four finish despite their early-season struggles. Their bitter rivals Liverpool have Senegalese forward Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah of Egypt and Brazilian Roberto Firmino. They boast of 54 strikes together.
Prior to his move to Juventus from Real Madrid in 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo was the darling of the Madrid team that won three straight Champions League titles.
His chemistry with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, in what many knew as the BBC is another example of how strikers are key in success of any team.
Back home, Kenya Women’s Premier League champions Vihiga Queens, who have largely attributed their success to collective team effort, also boast of sharp finishers in the league.
The duo of Terry Engesha and Topista Situma makes Queens sorted as far as the goal-scoring duties are concerned. The pair combined to score a total of 68 goals between them last season.
Of the 68, Engesha bagged 36 While Situma managed 32 with over 18 assists as the Alex Alumira-tutored side scored a record 101 goals in 28 matches.Vihiga also conceded a league-low of 15 goals.
“I think we are blessed with lethal forwards who can adjust on match-to-match basis but with Terry and Topista, we always start a game 2-0 up,” coach Alex Alumira said in a past interview.
Vihiga is blessed with strikers. In 2014-2015, Selphin Muyonga was their sole striker in the Division One League. In 2016 when Queens made their debut in the WPL, Enez Mango was the top scorer.
Phoebe Oketch and Engesha were formidable the following season before Topista joined the duo in the strating lineup in 2018.
Situma is the reason why Queens are enjoying a scoring spree. Despite joining Queens in 2016, Situma had limited playing time. Due to this, she almost gave up but opted to chat her path in search for greatness.
Often used sparingly, Alumira unleashed her in the 2018 season but last year was the most fruitful for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) teacher.
Her 32 goals tally, which can only be achieved by few players, even in Europe, is further proof that she is an arsenal for the side for the next few years.
The 27-year old played for Arcbishop Njenga Girls High School, a football hub in Kakamega County, between 2008-2011. Apart from 2009, when the team lost at the nationals, the students won both the national and East Africa trophies in the other three years.
Two years later, she joined Kakamega Muslim club before teaming up with Queens in 2016.
Even though she found the going tough in his early days in Vihiga, patience and hardwork saw her rightfully earn her place in the star-studded team.
“When I joined Queens, it was a bit tricky because the team had many proven and goal-hungry strikers. I was okay but there was no playing time.”
“I trained hard but I felt I had not contributed to the success of the team. My love for football was slowly ebbing away but thanks to coach Alumira, who convinced me that I had a lot to offer to the team,” said Situma.
“He pushed me harder to reach the required standards. Engesha and Cynthia Shilwatso are utility players that gave the coach different options but I did not give up. I had to remain level-headed and tough-minded because I knew my time will come and surely it did.”
Sometimes it’s hard to accept the tough situation one is facing but for Situma, she was born a winner. Nothing but the glory of success would change her mind, informing her decision that Queens was the team to take her to the next level.
“The duo always encouraged me that I would make a top striker if I trained harder because I wasn’t in the first 11,” she added. “They were like my football sisters and I heeded their advice. I learnt a lot from Shilwatso and despite being a different type of a player to her, my chemistry with Engesha is perfect and it will only get better and better.”
No matter how strong our resolve, sometimes we get frustrated and want to give up, whether at work, training for a big race or even a relationship. Those are the times we need some encouragement and Shilwatso and Engesha came in handy for Situma.
Situma was runners up in the 2010 Sports Personality of the Year Awards after helping Bishop Njenga win the regional tournament. She scored 11 goals to bag the top scorers prize.
Last year, she was nominated for the annual Magharibi Michezo Awards that was won by Jentrix Shikangwa. She was named the most disciplined player by the team last year.
Situma is a now Kenya international and even played in the Olympic qualifiers last year against Zambia, Ghana and Malawi. She also boasts of winning the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) title in Tanzania in December 2019 with Harambee Starlets. Kenya lifted the trophy without conceding a goal.
With three titles under her belt, the prolific striker reiterated that more is coming from her. She is keen to bag the top scorer’s award that was won by Engesha last season.
“It is going to be even tougher this time but I have what it takes to be rewarded at the end of the season. I can score at least two goals in a match and help my team win fourth title,” she observed.
“The link-up play between the two of us is phenomenal but I credit the whole team for making us better. While Engesha is clinical and a penalty specialist, she is creative too.”
“We compliment each other in terms of goals and assists. I need to shoot more in the 18-yard box because I am powerful. The best from us is yet to come but to this end, it has been an unforgettable experience.”
Engesha on the other hand has had a sterling career of her own despite her relatively young age. The 22-year old made headlines when she scored four goals against Hallybrann on her debut for Swedish Division two side Dalhem IF in 2018.
She won the inaugural Kenya Footballers Welfare Association (KEFWA) Women player of the year with 36 goals.
She has been a constant figure for Starlets as well though she missed the Olympic qualifiers through injury but remains central to the national teams’ plans.
Alumira, however, is unfazed by his star forwards’ form since they only execute what they do in training in a real competition situation and even tipped them to topple their current record.
“I wasn’t surprised with their goals because they have a correlation. As they gain more experience in the coming season, they will ooze more confidence too,” said Alumira.
“Competition is rife in the squad. Phoebe, who we have pushed back to central defence and the evergreen Shikangwa can fill their voids should any of the regular starters suffer a deep in form.”
The title winning coach reflected on the struggles Situma had before adapting to their style of play. Through specialised training, however, she slowly adjusted before winning her position.
“Any player coming to Vihiga is assured of improvement because that is our belief and Situma was no different. At some point she wanted to quit football but because of her discipline, we made her assistant chaperone of the club whose duties was to receive new players and guide them,” noted the experienced tactician.
“We put in place specialised tailored training for her and she began regaining her fitness through gym session and training. In small matches she made blunders but we fielded her with her mistakes because we were pretty sure she will be of pristine value in the long run.”
“We have structured our team in a way that every player in his department becomes outstanding. The movement, rotation and telepathy work out while the symmetry and chemistry becomes the norm. Successful men and women keep moving, they make mistakes but they don’t quit,” the former Mudete FC coach revealed.
In order to ensure that her performance reach dizzying heights, targets had to be set for Situma.
“We played her in 10 games in her debut season in 2016. The following year, when we won the league, she met our requirement of five goals for the season.”
“By the end of 2019, we wanted her to be in Harambee Starlets squad. I am happy she’s a now a regular in the national team. Situma is a perfect example of how discipline and perseverance pays dividends,” observed Alumira.