Kenya's lacrosse team: The game's sleeping warriors

Tuesday September 14 2021

The Kenya women's lacrosse U19 team play against China on August 5, 2019. PHOTO | COURTESY


The true story of Africa’s first women’s lacrosse team to compete in a world championship premiered on MyMovies.Africa on September 1.

The award-winning documentary titled Sleeping Warrior tells the story of the struggle the Kenyan Lacrosse Women’s U19 National Team went through to compete in this little known sport.

The film, shot in 2019, follows the lives of the young women and their journey from Kenya to Canada; how the opportunity transforms their lives, from getting a passport for the first time; discovering how their friends and families react and ultimately how the sport changes their lives.

The 92-minute documentary traces their journey from Rift Valley in Kenya to the 2019 World Lacrosse Women’s U19 World Championship held in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. It is a life changing journey that required courage, self-belief and vision. The team overcame limited resources and training opportunities in order to achieve their dream.


The Kenya women's Lacrosse U19 team overcame hardships to play in Canada. PHOTO | COURTESY

Coached by Storm Tretham in Canada, the Kenyan team also achieved another first with their first 17-1 victory over Jamaica; and later put up a competitive display against Germany, Israel and China. They finished 18th out of 22 teams and earned the respect of fellow competitors.


One of the main players is Sharon Opari, 18, who was given away at seven years to work as a house maid after her HIV-positive mother was sent to prison. Against all odds, Opari is chosen to represent Kenya at the World Lacrosse Championships.

Sleeping Warrior secured numerous laurels at the Cannes World Film Festival; European Cinematography Awards (ECA); Around International Film Festival (ARFF) in Barcelona; Toronto International Women Film Festival; Toronto Independent Film Festival of Cift; Houston International Sports Film Festival; Chicago Indie Film Awards and Blackstar International Film Festival (BIFF) in Ghana.

Nina Ruiz makes her debut as a producer and says her passion for issues affecting the youth and women has influenced her filmmaking, which she regards as a powerful tool for educating and making positive change in communities.

“I met the girls five years ago, when they started their epic struggle to make history in the world of lacrosse. They made such an impact on me that I decided that the world needs to know about them," she said.

Kenyan filmmaker, Timothy Mwaura is the co-director/cinematographer on Sleeping Warrior. He won a 2019 Resource of Open Minds (ROOM) grant for his television series Nairobi by Night funded by Comic Relief UK, which is now in post-production. Mwaura focuses on documentaries and has captured conflict in Somalia, art in Zimbabwe, graffiti in Copenhagen, HIV in Eastern Africa, immigration in Italy and the Children’s Parliament in Kenya.