As a nine-year-old, when she used to kick a tin can around the streets of Nairobi, playing only for the recognition of the other kids in the neighbourhood, Doreen Nabwire Omondi could surely never have imagined that she would one day live in Germany and play for one of the most prestigious clubs in the home country of the FIFA World Cup 2006™.
At an early age though, the girl's talent was easy to see, as was the fact that she was willing to pursue her ambitions and put her knowledge and talent to good use. When she was just 12, she founded and coached a girls' team at the MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association) in Matare. Located in of the biggest slums in Nairobi, this is a place where football gives the players some respite from the drudgery of their everyday lives.
Nabwire soon went on to represent her country, which enabled her to travel around the world. She was the playmaker in various youth teams up to U-20 level and got to show what she was made of in tournaments in Norway, USA, Uganda, Czech Republic and Germany.
At Germany 2006, she and her men's colleagues from MYSA took part in the first Street Football World Cup and went all the way, winning the title. This tournament was one of the main reasons which made FIFA sit up and take notice of the talent in Kenya. In November 2007, Nabwire was one of the world governing body's guests of honour at the Preliminary Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
The fulfilment of her dream of playing football in Europe got a little closer when Willi Lemke, UN Special Envoy for Sport and chairman of the board at Werder Bremen, got in touch with the 22-year-old during a UN seminar in Nairobi.
"A whole host of people warmly recommended that I should meet her, including Dr Aumar Obama, the half-sister of Barack Obama, who is involved with CARE International in Africa," said Lemke, who went on to invite Doreen to Germany. "When I heard about this young woman I immediately wanted to get to know her, and when I finally did meet her, she made a real impression on me," he added. "It quickly became very clear that Werder would be the right place for someone with her history, experiences and personality to develop."
Dodo, as Nabwire is called, remembers the emotionally charged moment when she first met the man championing her cause. "When we met, he was so fascinated by my history that he wanted to support me straight away, and that's why I'm here today," she said.
"Chance of a lifetime"
The young Kenyan attacker has been living in Bremen for a few weeks now, and everything is going swimmingly, both off and particularly on the pitch. In her first match for Werder Bremen in Bundesliga 2, she helped her team bag their first point of the season by scoring twice against Hamburg.
"Dodo is a really ambitious player," said coach Birte Bruggemann, who is understandably full of praise for her new charge. "She knows that this year in Germany will bring her on. She can use both feet, she has great skills and is very mobile," said Bruggemann after Nabwire's first match for the green and whites.
"I really wanted to play football in Germany, and I can also work here, so this really is the chance of a lifetime," said Nabwire after her successful second division debut.
Her main role within the club is actually off the pitch. Her international, social and footballing experiences are all being put to good use for the Bundesliga club in the global social work it performs. "Doreen has amassed a wealth of experiences for one so young," explained Werder CEO Klaus-Dieter Fischer.
"We are sure that she will be an asset to our work. On the one hand she can throw herself into our 'Werder World Wide' and 'SCORT' projects and collect some invaluable experience. On the other she will be an ideal contact person and speaker when we want to approach subjects of discrimination and the need to have the courage of one's convictions. She can talk about these issues from a totally different and highly unique point of view."
The young Kenyan will spend a year living the dream in Bremen before returning home, hopefully the richer for her 12 months in the North German city. Lemke for one has great plans for Dodo. "When she goes home, it should be to give people and particularly girls the courage to seize their chance and get out of the slums. They need to know that all they have to do is study hard, go to school, set themselves goals and strive to achieve them."