Q & A: Vihiga Queens’ star Engesha on her love for farming and career
For the 23-year-old Tereza Engesha, September 9 2021 will forever remain etched in her mind. On this particular afternoon, she played a starring role as her team, Vihiga Queens thrashed stubborn Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) 2-1 in the CAF Women’s Champions League (CECAFA qualifiers final) at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani to book the ticket to the premier club championship finals to be staged in Cairo Egypt from November 5 -19, 2021.
With the victory, earned deep in stoppage time, jubilant scenes broke out at the Kasarani stadium, all hurrah! But beneath the glory and adulation that followed her precious display in the two-week tournament, life has not been rosy.
She recounts her experiences, struggles, goals and vision to our chief women football writer Geoffrey Mwamburi.
Q. How did it all start, and did you envisage career in football?
First of all I was born in Vihiga County in Mbihi location and all through my life I have been raised by single mother (Mbone Edith) after my dad passed on when I was a toddler. I also have an elder sister (Robai Ayoyi Kebedi) whom we play together with at Vihiga Queens but she is a defender. I started kicking a ball with men when I was a kid (class four) because from where I come from, there wasn’t a ladies team. It was not easy playing with men because many times they would push me because they knew I am a lady. I did that until I reached class 6; that’s the point I got involved in primary school games and it went on till I high school level, w here I discovered my talent for football. I received the MVP accolade in 2013 during the East Africa Secondary School Games (FEASSSA) held in Uganda.
Q. Tell us a bit about your educational background?
I studied at Mbihi Primary School in Vihiga. I then graduated to Tar Tar girls High School in West Pokot County before moving to St. Paul’s Abwao in Kisumu where I completed my high school education. However, my passion for farming pushed me to Mawego Technical Training Institute in Oyugis where I pursued a certificate course in General Agriculture.
Q. What, by far, is your most memorable match?
Our final match against Rwanda, it was a very tough game because we were forced to a barren draw then proceeded into penalties. We went ahead and won the match hence receiving our allowances. To me it was the best feeling ever.
Q. Did you ever feel you were good enough for a national call up ?
It was my dream. I knew I could do something important with my talent if I got the opportunity and so I really prayed for it and it. Playing against best teams in Africa like Ghana, Zambia, Algeria etc, was the best feeling to me and I thank God for that.
Q. So, how did you break into the national team?
Before making a name at Vihiga Queens I used to play for Soccer Queens in Nairobi when I was till schooling at St. Paul’s Abwao. The school could allow me to travel to Nairobi every weekend to play for the club. After sometime I left them and joined Vihiga Leeds for one season then moved to Vihiga. The first call came in 2016 when we clinched the Women Premier League title in Nairobi. I however missed out in the squad which took part in the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Yaoundé, Cameroon due to injury. David Ouma, the then head coach is the man who spotted my talent and brought me to the national team. Being in Harambee Starlets gave me the exposure I needed. I have become a star not only in Kenya but in Africa at large. Every time I walk around the streets people call my name and ask for a photo with me something which motivates me a lot.
Q: How’s life at Vihiga Queens?
Compared to the rest of the teams I have played for, at Vihiga we are treated nicely, our leaders are so cooperative and I am sure great things are just ahead of us.
Q: How has Covid-19 impacted your career?
It has been tough! Going through injections, wearing masks, keeping social distance and all that, wasn’t easy but we must adhere to Government measures to curb the virus. Secondly, it’s a bit hard playing without fans on the pitch something which I was used to.
Q. Tell us about your passion for Agriculture?
When I was growing up my mom was also practicing farming, she used to produce food in the farm so I learnt a lot from her and that’s how it started. When I am not on the pitch I’m farming. I produce sukuma wiki, kales, spinach etc something which I really enjoy.
Q. Your best team partner?
My combination with Cynthia Shilwatso . Since leaving us for greener pasture in Spanish,I have really missed her. I had to form a new partnership with Topister Situma and Maureen Ateri and it has worked wonders.
Q. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I am now aiming to play abroad. Currently I think I have reached my peak (locally) that’s why I am aiming for Europe, a new challenge.
Q. What’s your favorite meal?
(Laughs I love chapati and potato stew (waru). That’s my favorite. I do cook for myself; I am a woman so cooking is in me. I do prepare nice chapatis and stew, I also prepare variety of foods ranging from pilau, biriani, githeri, mokimo, chicken etc.
Q. Are you seeing someone currently?
Q. Who’s the lucky guy?
(With a shy grin) let’s just keep that secret for now. I will reveal it when it will be official, just know that he is not a footballer
Q. What else do you do in your free time?
I offer mentorship to young footballers. I neither don’t drink nor smoke. (Jokingly) I think I am a boring person to hang out with.
Q. What else don’t people know about you?
I use both feet while playing, can shoot with any though the left leg is the strongest.
Q. Parting shot?
I want to urge the Government and the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) not to underrate women football in the country. It should give it equal weight just like the men version. We get demoralised seeing our league without sponsorship and the poor treatment. There are so many women talents out there so they should kindly put this into consideration. Lastly, for women footballers, I want to urge them to be so keen when signing contracts more so in Europe. Most of agents are into business and you may find yourself signing contract which will kill your career. Some contacts are written in foreign language and in this context they should demand for translation so that they know exactly what’s contained therein.