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Masega, the woman who played football while six months pregnant

Monicah Masega in action during the inaugural United Nations Football for the Goals tournament in Siaya.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

In the heart of Trans Nzoia County, amidst the rolling hills and lush landscapes, a remarkable tale of unwavering passion and determination unfolds on the football field.

We meet Monicah Masega, a 28-year-old powerhouse who has not only broken through gender barriers, but has also defied the conventional norms of pregnancy at Sidindi Primary School in Ugunja, Siaya County.

As the sun sets behind the horizon, casting a warm glow over the pitch, Masega's indomitable spirit takes centre stage, showcasing her love for football that knows no bounds.

Masega had travelled miles to play in the inaugural United Nations Football for the Goals tournament that is advocating for the Sustainable Development Goals and promoting sustainable practices.

Vihiga Leeds FC, a local team that has steadily earned a reputation for its tenacity and dedication, finds its heartbeat in Masega.

With every precise dribble and daring sprint, she leaves spectators awe-inspired and wondering: How does she do it? The answer is simple yet profoundly captivating – sheer determination.

Monicah Masega in action during the inaugural United Nations Football for the Goals tournament in Siaya.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

While most expectant mothers might choose to take a step back and prioritise their health and well-being, Masega has embarked on a journey that marries two of her greatest loves – football, and motherhood.

As the breeze rustles through the goalposts and chants of enthusiastic supporters fill the air, Masega's journey to this moment is nothing short of inspirational.

Raised in a community where football was often considered a male-dominated pursuit, she fought against stereotypes from the young age of nine during her Primary School education years at Namawanga D.E.B, Masaba, and St Veronicah Masuno.

As a child, she would spend countless hours honing her skills, chasing the sun-drenched dreams of becoming a football icon. Her backyard transformed into a sacred training ground, where the grass bore witness to her relentless pursuit of excellence.

A natural talent was nurtured, and her skills grew like wildflowers in the open field. Her parents, who initially questioned her choice to play a sport that seemed unconventional for a young girl, eventually became her biggest supporters, marveling at her dedication.

Monicah Masega with her 8-months-old baby during the inaugural United Nations Football for the Goals tournament in Siaya.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

Fast forward to the present, Masega's story has taken an extraordinary turn. As she stands proudly on the pitch, she revealed that she played football while she was six months pregnant, her resilience and love for the sport radiating like a beacon of hope.

In a world that often places limitations on what women can achieve, Monicah's fierce determination is a testament to the unbreakable spirit that can overcome any obstacle.

Her decision to continue playing football while pregnant was not made lightly.

"In football, I found not just a game, but a canvas upon which I paint my dreams and rewrite the rules. Pregnancy didn't define me, it empowered me. Playing at six months pregnant wasn't about defying norms; it was about embracing the extraordinary capacity of the human body."

“Through football, I am not just playing for myself; I am playing for all the women who dare to dream without limits,” said Masega.

Monicah Masega in action during the inaugural United Nations Football for the Goals tournament in Siaya.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

Masega played for former heavyweights Tartar Girls and was part of the squad that won the secondary schools national girls' football title in 2012 before winning silver at the East Africa games held in Uganda.

“My fellow teammates were the only ones who knew I was pregnant. I had explained it to them and because we were fighting to avoid relegation and I was a key team player, we kept it under wraps and the coach never new. In fact, when he heard I had given birth, he was shocked,” said Masega.

Off the field, Monicah's journey continues to captivate hearts and minds. She has become a beacon of inspiration for young girls and women across the region.

Her story has sparked conversations about empowerment, choice, and the limitless potential that resides within each individual.

“I hawk bhajia (a traditional African snack made of spicy potatoes), tomatoes and onions at Kiminini Market Centre where I try to earn a living if I am not on the field,” she said.

Monicah Masega in action during the inaugural United Nations Football for the Goals tournament in Siaya.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

As the sun dips below the horizon, casting a golden hue over the field, Masega's story remains etched in the hearts of those who have had the privilege to witness her play.

Her unwavering passion for football, her defiance of societal expectations, and her determination to pursue her dreams – all while embracing the beautiful journey of motherhood – serve as a poignant reminder that the human spirit knows no boundaries.

In the realm of Vihiga Leeds FC, Monicah's legacy is one of resilience, courage, and the unbreakable pursuit of dreams.

Her journey is a symphony of hope, a testament to the power of the human will, and a celebration of the extraordinary heights that can be reached when passion meets purpose.

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