Why Starlets’ Acquino can’t wait to settle with her love, Leopards’ Oburu
Since penning a one-year contract with Portuguese side Atletico Ouriense in mid January 2020, Harambee Starlets sensational midfielder Vivian Corazone Acquino has encountered highs and lows highlighted by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Acquino, 21, in an exclusive online interview with Citizen Digital from Lisbon, Portugal said the pandemic has momentarily brought to a halt her career progression just as she was gathering momentum in her new team.
With Portugal reporting 3,544 Covid 19 cases by Thursday 26 2020 as per the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, Acquino admits there was no option but to keep off the field which she says is a big setback.
“I really received warm reception from the club upon my arrival and I was ready to prove to the club my signature was worth chasing after. We had just one week training before the coronavirus became serious and we were told to stop the league as well as the training.
“The Portugal Government stopped all sports activities and many other operations hence forcing people to stay indoors. I am not fond of staying at home without doing anything, but we have to do this for the good of everyone. I have however mitigated the challenge with personal exercise in the house, in Ourem not far from our training ground,” she explained.
She continued, “Since the lockdown, many people have been suffering a lot. For example the supermarket where I normally shop the shelves are almost empty. The management there told us they will not restock so we are all wondering what we will do in the coming days if this situation escalates. The Government lowered prices of some commodities yes, but nothing more has been done in other sectors like lowering the taxes. I think it should embrace what has been done by other countries suffering from the pandemic, like supplying food to people as well as money for upkeep during this period,” Acquino told.
Apart from coronavirus, she has encountered other challenges in Lisbon, language barrier being one of them.
“I can say I really miss some of the foods which I was used to while in Kenya. I miss Ugali. I also miss some vegetables like kales, murenda and managu; but that’s life when you change environment. Here I take foods like rice, potatoes, chicken and if I miss fries I always get from McDonald’s,” she narrated.
To communicate effectively, she has to depend on a translator as she has learnt very little Portuguese so far.
“The first language here is Portuguese, for you to communicate well you must learn it. Only few people understand English here, so when I landed I found myself using sign language. I looked for someone who could understand English to help me. It was not easy.
“So far there are my friends teaching me from time to time. I met some players who were signed at the same window with me from different countries, who already understand Portuguese so I make sure I spend time with them to learn. Our coach also ommunicates in Portuguese but he translates for the players who can’t understand, and so I’m learning,” remarked Acquino.
Has she made friends? Yes. Lucia Leila and Brazilian Laura Pirez are some of her best friends. She met them at the club after they were signed at the same time from Mozambique and Brazil consecutively.
She reveals Leila has been instrumental in teaching her some basic laws and policies in Portugal, adding the God fearing colleague is always near her for help.
Before joining Atletico Ouriense, Aquino played for Gaspo Women FC in the Kenyan Women Premier League (KWPL) having featured for Vihiga Queens and Soccer Queens.
However, she traces her long journey to professional football from humble beginnings, from the low-income area of Kaloleni in Nairobi.
“I was named after Maria Corazon “Cory” Sumulong Cojuangco-Aquino, popularly known as Cory Aquino, a Filipino politician who served as the 11th President of the Philippines and the first woman to hold that office, and female president in Asia. I started playing football while in class four in the year 2007, emulating my mother because she too loved and played the game,” she remembered.
Along the journey, there were significant accolades from tender age, giving Acquino hope that the future could only be brighter.
“I won several trophies including two for the best player while at primary level in class five and six. I was also a top scorer in High School in 2015, in the Dr. Kidero Cup netting 16 goals. I emerged top scorer during the Airtel Rising Stars tournament held in Kenya in the year 2012, scoring 21,” recollected Aquino, whose first club was Masa Babes in Makongeni then coached by Elvis Wafula (2007), currently known as President Kimbrow FC.
In 2014 she joined the National Under-17 team where the head coach Florence Odhiambo gave her the armband, before later joining Soccer queens in 2015 hencce breaking into the KWPL.
Shel recalls, it was coach Joseph Orao Amos who spotted her while at Olympic High School during the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association games, and gave her a chance into the Premier League.
Acquino, who revealed she’s dating AFC Leopards striker Vincent Oburu, recalls most special moments of her career highlighted by Kenya’s maiden qualification to the Cup of Nations.
“The day we eliminated Algeria in 2015 and qualified for our first ever African Women Cup of Nations tournament (Awcon) is still so special for me. Another day I will never forget is when I was awarded the best player accolade in street soccer in Huruma, 2007 and of course the day I signed for Atletico Ouriense. On the other hand, my worst day in football was in 2019 when my national team missed by a whisker a chance to feature in the Olympics Games which were slated to be staged this year in Japan. What pained me most is that we defeated strong teams like Mali and Ghana but ended up being knocked out by Zambia,” she said.
She also reckoned it was stressful to sharpen her career being a lady, with pressure from men demanding sexual favours to help somewhere a long the way.
“As a female player it’s always good to stand firm. It can become extremely difficult when for example someone demands sexual favours for you to have a place in a team. Does is it mean you will give in to everyone coming in such an approach? It calls for very strong will for ladies especially from Africa if you are to reach your goals,” she averred.
Aquino whose eyes are set on major European clubs, also looks forward to settling down with Oburu to establish a family.
“I want to see my career grow a notch higher. I want to give my best here in Europe and hopefully attract bigger interests from clubs like Arsenal, Barcelona and such, though for now I’m committed 100 percent where I am. I also want to learn as many languages as possible because my career is hinged on languages.
“Finally as a lady I’m looking forward to getting married. I want to be a mother and I also want to stay with my love. I can’t achieve this if we both continue playing football. One must surrender, probably myself,” a smiling Acquino revealed.
She singles out Florence Adhiambo and Starlets Team Manager Beldine Odemba as some of her role models who played in a big role in her career so far.
Importantly, she urges upcoming footballers to never give up on their dreams and especially girls, noting a lot has been put in place in the recent past to promote the sport with focus on women.