Pauline Naise belongs to a different class, a rare one, with a few names ahead of her. A class of Kenyan stars who have represented the country at International level in two(or more) different sports, and have excelled at it. The likes J.J Masiga for Rugby and Football, Aasif Karim for Tennis and Cricket, Carl Tundo for Motorsport and Golf and Collins Omae for Rugby and Athletics.
Pauline is a Hockey star! and thanks to her exploits with the Harambee starlets and Vihiga leeds in 2016, most of us now know she is also a football star. Currently playing for Chase Bank Hockey team, Pauline is our Kenyan Star of the week and spoke to us on her life and sports career.
KS: Thank you for agreeing to speak to us Super Star, you are our Kenyanstar of the week....
I'm not a super star! will hopefully get there sometime soon but i appreciate that you acknowledge my efforts.
KS: So what's your story? Hockey, Football, What else?
Mine is a story of chance, some luck and a lot of hard work. For both Football and Hockey...
KS: Chance and luck? How so?
Because before my Starlets call up few people knew me as footballer, most knew me as a hockey player but in actual sense Football was my first love. In high school at St. Cecilia Misikhu I played football in form one and two, In those two years i wouldn't move near the hockey pitch, I considered hockey a very dangerous game.
KS: So how did you start and became so good at this dangerous game?
I had a small miss-understanding with the football coach at school so i got suspended from the team. I needed a place to keep exercising and in that moment the Hockey team gave me the opportunity. It was to be for a short time while i served my suspension from the football team but i gradually developed an interest in hockey and learnt it by watching others play. No one ever pushed me like you would expect it since even the hockey coach did not consider me part of the team. I believe this made learning much easier and faster, the fact that it was my own interest and drive.
KS: How has the journey been since then?
Things moved really first and in 2008 while in form three i was included in the hockey school team for an annual tournament at St. Anthony's Kitale Day High School. I was the top scorer in this tournament actually for doing nothing but just waiting in the 'D' and flicking the ball, but that was the turning point and i never looked back. I played lots of tournaments since then and in most of them i would emerge either the top scorer or be voted the most valuable player. That same year we went all the way to the Nationals of the school games but unfortunately lost in the semi-finals to Lwak girls high school but it pretty much summed up my first year and foundation in Hockey.
KS: After High School?
My post high school hockey was probably determined in my first year of playing hockey because when we went for the annual Nabongolo tournament at St. Anthony's Kitale day high school, USIU was one of the teams at the tournament. They were impressed with my play and offered me a sports scholarship so immediately I completed my high school I joined USIU in 2010 for schooling and playing Hockey. I Played for USIU until 2015 when i joined strathmore. I'm currently playing for Chase Bank. I have represented the country several times including captaining the Under 21 team.
KS: Any Humbling moments you've had in Hockey?
Yes quite a number but particularly when I made my Kenya senior team debut in 2011 and we went to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe for a continental tournament. I was the youngest player in the team and in the entire tournament I scored only one goal because of course there were better players in the team, the likes of Jackie Mwangi and the rest. This tournament was an eye opener because i realized i didn't know everything and there was so much I still needed to learn. So i developed a habit to always arrive early at the training ground and do something extra and I kept pushing myself.
KS: Pretty much looks like football was dead and buried ...
Not at all. My suspension from the football team back at school was temporary but by the time i got back to the team I had already developed an interest in Hockey and even made it to the school team so then I kept playing both games. However our football team was not as strong so we could get eliminated at very early stages of the competitions so i got more exposure in Hockey.
KS: Did you play football in college?
For some time no I didn't play especially because back then USIU didn't have a serious ladies football team. But then I started craving football so once or twice a week I could train with the men's team just for fun and make sure I still had the touch.
KS: How did Vihiga leeds happen?
This is another story of chance, I fractured my left arm in 2015 so I was set to miss an entire season of the 2016 hockey league because it would take some time after recovery to get back to the top. I moved to my rural home in Kakamega for rehabilitation so this one day I'm jogging in Sigalagala and I spot a group of ladies training for football. One of them happens to be a friend I had not seen for a long time and she convinced me to join the team. I decided to give it a try and she introduced me to the coach, Kenneth Bramley. Initially the coach didn't see much of a footballer in me because of my small body, and I had a pony tail and make up. It wasn't an image anyone would have for a footballer but i would go on and train with the team anyway.
KS: How difficult was it to get into the starting team seeing that you were now up against 'professional' footballers?
It seemed an impossibility until we went to this tournament to honor a former Leeds United player. We were trailing in the finals and I scored a hat trick to help us win 3-1 and just like that I got into the starting team for future games. I went on to feature regularly for leeds united and we finished 5th in the FKF women league.
KS: Harambee Starlets?
I was in the leeds united team that played Nyamira starlets in a league match at the Mumias Sports Complex. We won 3-0 courtesy of my hat trick. Kariobangi sharks players and technical team were also at the stadium. I think they were scheduled to play a match at the same stadium later in the evening on that day. So after the match a few of them walked up to me and congratulated me for a good game. They told me I had great talent and potential and should I keep working hard I might just make the cut for the National team. At that time the National team were out of the Country for CECAFA. Two weeks later when they got back, I received a call from the federation inviting me to join the Starlets camp. It was unbelievable!
KS: Your best moments in Football so far?
I would say my hat trick in the match against Nyamira Starlets.
KS: How about in Hockey?
When i was the top scorer at the World league 1 with 13 goals. I think this was my best tournament. I felt i was at my peak and really matured.
KS: Which people would you say have influenced your career so far?
A number of people, my coaches Mr. Kayieko and Mr. Kimanzi. They have had a great influence on my hockey career and both have really pushed me at different stages of my career.
KS: Who is the greatest player you have played alongside and or against in both football and Hockey?
I wouldn't say played with or against but when i grow up i want to be like Naomi Van Ness of Holland. She is my all time favorite. Her skill, speed, reasoning and trickery, they are just top notch.
KS: Which Sports Icon in the world do you look upto?
Brazil's Ronaldinho Gaucho. His trickery and entertainment is out of this world. I would love to be able to entertain like that.
KS: What is your role at Oshwal Academy?
I'm a sports teacher at Oswal. I'm also the football coach and hockey coach at the school.
KS: Isn't it too early to get into coaching?
Incidentally coaching helps me improve a lot on my own game as a player both in hockey and football.
KS: How do you manage to keep up? Coaching both games, playing both games, schooling ...
Yes, it's not easy. It needs a lot of self discipline dedication and hard work. I wake up every day at 4am and i won't go to bed until 10pm. I work with a tight schedule, disciplined planning with constant reviews to ensure a balance in all the activities I'm involved in.
KS: You intend to continue pursuing both sports?
At the moment yes. At least my 2017 schedule accommodates both sports but I know sooner or later I will have to choose one.
KS: Which sport would you favour if you have to make a choice?
KS: Any chance of going pro in either sports?
I have previously had a chance to go play hockey in Germany but my application for a VISA was rejected. I think it was a communications problem because I do not understand Germany and I might have answered some questions in a way I shouldn't have. But I believe another chance will come by. In football while at the AWCON I was invited to go for trials in Florence. Plans haven't been finalized but I'll probably make the trip sometime this year. But you realize this are only trials, the reason I haven't spoken about it before is so it shouldn't be interpreted to mean I'm making a move.
KS: How do you think Kenya rates against competition in Hockey?
Well the rankings are out there for everyone to see but i think despite the challenges we are facing in the country we can still compete effectively at the continental level. We might not be the best but we can definitely stand up against the best. At the world level, I think we need to do much more for us to be able to compete.
KS: What is this much more we need to do?
There is urgent need to invest in Infrastructure. We have one standard pitch being shared by all hockey teams in the country. We compete with countries whose individual hockey teams and even schools each have their own pitch. We need to invest more in hockey academies so that our players can start playing hockey as early as at 6/7 years old. At this point i would love to recognize efforts by Wazalendo Hockey Club, they are ahead of the pack in terms of youth development but the entire industry needs to join in. Finally we also need to have more corporate sponsorships to support the game.
KS: Would you say sports pay?
Not as it should in Kenya. I know for both Hockey and Football the only time you are going to get paid is when you are with the national team. Otherwise all these other times it's purely playing for passion. Maybe a few institutional clubs like Telkom and Chase bank would pay but how about the rest?
KS: What is your parting shot to your fans and readers of Kenyanstar?
I want to encourage everyone, especially those in sports to do what they love and to do it effectively. And that they are the masters of their destiny. They should not let dream killers distract them from reaching out for their dreams.