By Ian Asabo
The captain of the Uganda national women’s football team, Ruth Aturo, has realized her dream of playing professional football after signing for Finnish club Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat.
Aturo, a goalkeeper of the national football team, joins Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on a two-year deal from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) women’s team, the Lady Cardinals. She featured for the UCU Lady Cardinals for three years, helping the team to win trophies in 2018 and 2019.
The 26-year-old graduated with a Diploma in Business Administration from UCU in 2019. However, she continued playing for the Lady Cardinals.
“I am grateful to the university for providing me with the opportunity to play the game that I love, at the highest level in the country,” Aturo said, noting that she would not have found it easy to join a club in Finland if she had not got a chance to play for the Lady Cardinals. She was in UCU on a sports scholarship.
It was while at the Lady Cardinals that Aturo became a household name, with the Uganda football association naming her Player of the Year in the national league in 2018.
Like many student-athletes, Aturo faced the challenge of balancing performance in class and on the pitch.
Her challenge was even tougher, however, given that she is the captain of the national women football team, meaning she had class, club and national football team issues to concentrate on. However, to her, the answer remained in “being consistent, working hard and remaining focused.”
“While in Finland, I will be far from home but it’s an exciting experience that I cannot let pass,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to make it to the highest level, and this is a step in the right direction.”
Born on July 19, 1995, in Soroti, eastern Uganda, Aturo initially started playing as a center forward. However, later, she discovered that she could perform even better between the posts.
She began playing football in Senior Two at Soroti Senior Secondary School. From there, she joined Kawempe Muslim Secondary School in central Uganda, for A’level. It was her performance in the women’s soccer team of Kawempe that caught the attention of scouts who connected her to a scholarship offer at UCU.
She says it was at UCU where she was able to harness and grow her skills, and maximize them to the full potential, something which would later prepare ground for her to captain the national team.
Sam Lukaire, the Sports Administrator at UCU, is happy that the investment the university has made in sports is finally paying off.
“The right coaching through the sports program provided by the university has had an impact on the athletes, enabling such moves to happen,” Lukaire says.
He encourages Aturo to continue working hard to reach her full potential. Aturo’s deal was completed towards the end of December last year, but her travel was delayed until end of February. She says she used that time to watch videos about her teammates at Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on YouTube, to try to understand how they play and their football philosophy.
Her longtime teammate at both club and national team level, Hasifah Nassuna, acknowledges that Aturo’s next step in football is only the beginning of her exposure to playing football at the greatest level.
“I am happy for Ruth. It is definitely not going to be easy as it only gets harder,” Nassuna said. “But I’m confident in her abilities as a goalkeeper and a leader on and off the pitch.”
As she arrives in Finland, Aturo is loaded with big dreams, hoping to not only etch her name in the global footballers’ hall of fame, but also to leave a legacy as one of the greatest ever Lady Cardinal players.