Moreen Muritu: From her hockey national team dream being shattered by thugs to Kenya Lionesses

Moreen Muritudisplays her Kenya Lionesses jersey. Photo/Moreen Muruti
Moreen Muritu displays her Kenya Lionesses jersey. Photo/Moreen Muruti

In the heart of Nairobi, beneath the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, there is a story of resilience, determination, and a never-say-die spirit. Moreen Muritu, once a promising hockey player, found herself at a crossroads when a life-altering encounter with city thugs changed her path forever.

Born and raised in a small village in Gatondo, Embu county, Moreen’s dreams of playing for the national hockey team were fueled by the unwavering support of her family. She began her hockey career while in high school at St. Anne’s Kiriari Girls School. Her journey continued when she moved to the urban area of Nakuru City to pursue her studies and continue her hockey career. In Nakuru, Moreen joined Egerton University and later became a part of the Nakuru Royals hockey team, which competes in the top-tier hockey league in the country.

Moreen Muritu trial invite

As time went on, Moreen received an invitation to attend the National hockey team trials, which were set to take place in Nairobi, a city she had never set foot in. The prospect of representing her nation at the highest level was both exciting and nerve-wracking. Little did she know that unforeseen challenges lay ahead.

Moreen Muruti with her Kenya Lionesses teammate. Photo/Moreen Muruti

Moreen Muritu with her Kenya Lionesses teammate. Photo/Moreen Muruti

On that fateful morning when she was en route to attend the national team trials, Moreen faced a harrowing experience. A group of thieves confronted her, robbing her of her belongings and leaving her traumatized just as she arrived in Nairobi. This traumatic encounter could have broken many, but not Moreen.

In the face of adversity, Moreen emerged stronger and more determined than ever. She refused to be defined by the unfortunate incident that had befallen her.

“My dream has always been to play for Kenya’s hockey national team,in 2017 I came to Nairobi from Embu, with intention of attending the National team trials but when I reached town I encountered thugs who snatched my phone and everything I had, I was in communication with someone who was to show me direction to where the trials were held, but it had to end, I went back home since I wasn’t familiar with Nairobi, that’s how my door for hockey national team was shut,” she told the Scrummage Africa.

Despite the setback, Moreen refused to be defeated. She refused to let her dreams slip away. In her quest for redemption, she turned to a sport that shared her homeland’s love for physicality and determination, rugby.

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In the beginning, she was met with scepticism and doubt from those around her, Rugby was a different world, a tough and competitive sport with its own unique set of challenges. But Moreen was no stranger to hard work and discipline. She embraced the game, learning its intricacies, mastering the art of tackling, and pushing her body beyond its limits.

But how did she join rugby?

“I have always been passionate about sports, since my high school days, after the thugs incident I decided to shift my focus and try something else, rugby,” she said.

“I first attended a Prinsloo rugby tournament in 2017 and met some pretty ladies who were playing rugby, I asked if I could join them and they gave me a nod, that was now the Nakuru RFC ladies team,” she added.

“I was given the training schedule and had to balance my academics, rugby and sometimes I found myself going back to hockey (laughs),”  she revealed.

Moreen Muritu debut

Moreen’s rapid progress in rugby couldn’t go unnoticed, and soon, she earned a place on the Nakuru RFC starting team, under Coach Felix Ade. Her debut came against Homeboyz RFC in the KRU rugby 10s circuit in 2018, a game they went on to win.

In 2019 her efforts paid off when she was called to Kenya’s select national team during the safari 7s, the very first time donning national colours, something she termed as ‘proud’.

“It was one proud moment, I wanted to play for the national team regardless of the sport, thanks to rugby, though it wasn’t a main national team I felt happy and my family too were happy.” she offered.

In 2020 COVID pandemic came in and everything including sports in the country came to a halt.

Moreen will however have the year 2021 to thank. The year that will go down in her books of history. She resumed her training and fought to regain her fitness. A few months later she received a call-up to join the Kenya Lionesses provisional squad for the world cup qualifier tie against Colombia at Nyayo Stadium where she made her long-awaited maiden senior team debut for Kenya, marking a triumphant moment in her life.

The following year 2022, Moreen faced another transition, in the form of playing position, from winger to centre, which she quickly adapted, travelled to Uganda with Kenya Lionesses, later on went to Madagascar played two games and got injured in the third game, ruled out with a fracture before the lionesses qualified for WXV3.

In 2023, she received a national sevens team call-up, with it came another change of playing position, shifting from center to hooker, another new position she quickly adjusted to.

“I was called to Kenya national Sevens team, first I had to be introduced as a hooker, I had always wished to try Sevens team for the longest time, but I was always axed whenever I got provisional call up, I kept asking coaches on what I needed to improve on and they guided me, and now my moment came, went to Olympic qualifier in Tunisia with the team, being a debutant I wanted to earn an ‘Olympian’ status, unfortunately, we fell short to South Africa, but I took a lot of pointers,” she said.

The loss to South Africa came as a lesson to Moreen, with her sight set to play in the Olympic games soon.

“South Africa was a worthy opponent, and we knew we would meet in one of the matches (semi/final)we were ready for any team, but unfortunately we fell short of our expectations and we conceded a last-minute try which kicked us out of the race to winning the cup and qualifying for the Olympics. We picked our lessons and will be ready for what comes after this,” she stated.

Moreen Muruti receives a jersey from Kenya Lionesses coach Dennis Mwanja. PHOTO/Moreen Muruti.

Moreen Muritu receives a jersey from Kenya Lionesses coach Dennis Mwanja. PHOTO/Moreen Muruti.

Today, Moreen stands proudly as a Lioness, a symbol of hope and determination. She not only plays for her country but also uses her platform to inspire young athletes across Embu County, being the first Lionesses from Embu isn’t a mean feat, reminding them that setbacks can be the stepping stones to greater achievements.

“Am proud that I am representing my country and all other girls and ladies who believe in making it anywhere in the world as long they have the passion for something and are willing to pursue it. Many ask, “Where are you from, I  tell them Embu!”, then they ask, ooh sides za Meru? I’ll represent this country to the World”

Moreen says she will forever remain indebted to her parents for their support, Coach Sam Njogu (SnC lionesses) who pushed and shaped her, and Nick Aballa and Chris Brown, individuals she said have made an impact on her career.

She went on to thank the Lionesses technical staff for the platform and credit her teammate Janet Akello, who she said she looks up to on matters of skills and personality.

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