The silly trick that got me to the World Cup

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Emilly Amimo, 27, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in 2018.
  • She captained the national roll ball ladies team at the just concluded sixth World Cup in Pune, India.
  • The second-born in a family of five children is also the captain of Archibella Roll ball club in Nairobi.

To emerge the Player of the Tournament at a World Cup is no mean achievement. Goalkeeper Emilly Amimo got that gong after guiding the Kenya ladies team to victory at the fifth Roll Ball World Cup in Chennai, India in 2019. She was also part of the sixth Roll Ball World Cup-winning team in Pune, India where Kenya also bagged the men’s crown.

Kenya defeated Egypt 5-0 in the women’s final and India 7-4 in the men’s final last month. Roll ball is a sport that combines basketball, throwball, handball and roller skating. Each team consists of 12 players, six on the field and six in reserve. The main objective of the game is to score maximum goals within a stipulated time. Emilly got into the sport of roll ball by accident, but is now reaping fruits, albeit small.

How did you get into roll ball and skating?
I started skating in 2018. I had a roommate who used to skate, but I had no interest in roll ball. When she was away I used to take her skate shoes and train myself inside the room. One day, she caught me and was willing to help me get the basics. One of my classmates, Eunice Wanjiru, tricked me into joining rollball. During one of the league matches, Eunice asked a friend to call me saying she was sick. On getting to the venue of the match, I was asked if I could take the position of a goalkeeper, and I agreed. Goalkeeping was the only unoccupied position, so I took it up. Previously, I was a football goalkeeper. I left football because I felt there was no space for me since getting play time at my club was difficult. I don't regret leaving football because it opened doors for me to venture into new sports and be open to more opportunities, including motorsport.

What challenges have you faced as a football goalkeeper and in roll ball?
Getting medical assistance is a big challenge. As a goalkeeper, I am prone to injuries during training and in games but I have to foot the medical bills. I have had knee injuries several times, a fractured finger and arm, wrist injury and swollen joints in the finger. I had to be out of the game for three months after getting a dislocated wrist and fractured arm. All these injuries required specialised treatment, and I had to pay for it myself. Another challenge is lack of goalkeeping outfits. It costs over Sh40, 000 to buy the whole kit which includes a chest guard, abdominal guard, gloves, helmet, leg guard, knee and elbow guards, and skates.

Kenya won gold medals at the Roll Ball World Cup 2023. Are rollballers accorded the same honour as, say, medallists in track and field?
It is not the same. There are always cash awards, prizes and endorsements in athletics, but personally, I have never received any for roll ball. It is disappointing and discouraging. At times I feel like quitting, but my passion for roll ball keeps me going. How I wish something could be done about it in order to inspire and change the lives of youths engaging in this sport.
You are a university graduate, how useful is the degree in your life? 

I have a degree in genomic science from JKUAT. It is the study of the genetic sequence and information of plants and animals. Concepts in Genomics can be integrated in biomedical research, biotechnology, medicine and even agriculture. I have found it hard to get employed in the genomics field. In all job advertisements, they always look out for experience of not less than five years. Personally, I am left wondering how I am going to achieve that if I am not given a chance. Currently, I have shelved that career path and focused on roll ball since getting even a simple internship, let alone employment, has proven hard.

What does it take to be a good roll ball player and captain? 
Persistence, hardwork, discipline and, mostly, being a team player. I believe I was chosen to be the Kenya Ladies capin because I am capable. The coach and my teammates had faith and trusted that I could deliver.

Who is your role model in roll ball? 
I don't have a specific person but I look up to my coaches and teammates. They always give me a reason not to give up but to be the best. I’d also like to acknowledge the contribution of Sally Ndegwa in my sporting journey. She is that friend who kept me going and never gave me a chance to even consider quitting. May all who have contributed to my roll ball journey receive blessings and give the same to our upcoming generation.

Roll ball is not a popular sport in Kenya. Do you think this should change?
We certainly need more visibility. Publicity through media can really help, not only in the championship but also the national league to create awareness. Support from the government is also welcome. We should roll out roll ball practice sessions in schools, colleges and universities.

How has roll ball shaped you as a person? Have you benefited financially from it?
I was an introvert but through roll ball I have learnt to be outspoken. It is full of life lessons, including on patience and discipline. So far, I have not benefited but I am hoping in the near future I will see my sacrifice and commitment paying off.

How did your parents react to your love for roll ball?
At first they were hesitant and afraid, saying it was a dangerous sport. But after my first international duty, they decided to support me fully since they knew I was not about to give up.

You were voted the Player of the year in 2019. How did it feel?
It was a great honour. I was overjoyed because it was my first international competition. It came as a surprise but all in all, it was an eye-opener that I need to work more and never let my guard down.

Outside roll ball, what else are you involved in?
I’m a skating coach and also a motorsport enthusiast taking the role of safety marshal during the Safari Rally.

Any advice for aspiring roll ballers?
Never pressure yourself to be someone else, but rather be yourself. Be your own competition and focus on being a better version of yourself.

What are your future goals?
To retain the league championship title this year. I also plan to mentor and train the upcoming athletes. Currently, I coach skating to children in various schools and at home.


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