THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF WOMEN FOOTBALL IN KENYA. THE SUPER ROLE OF NICK MWENDWA- THE STORY

Looking Back

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Night Lugalya of Kenya (11) against a Banyana Banyana opponent from South Africa in a match at the Nyayo Stadium in the early years of women football in Kenya

Habil Nanjero goes down into the history books as one of the pioneers of women football in Kenya. In the mid eighties while studying at the NYS, Habil and Selebwa encouraged women to play football. It is after completing his studies at NYS that Habil the “unsung hero” formed Eastlanders football team that was among the first five women teams to be formed in Kenya. The other teams formed were Nairobi City Council, Standard Chartered Bank, Utali College and NYS. Nyayo Stars from Kakamega and Eregi Teachers College also came up.

In the early nineties the Kenya Women Football Federation (KWFF) was established and the Chair was Fridah Shiroya while the Secretary General was Rebecca Olela. Apart from these super women in sports, the technical committee comprised of the late James “Abawa” Sianga, Salamba Miendo (RIP) and Habil Nanjero. Judy Nyawira an accredited FIFA referee became the treasurer. During these years the National team for women participated in International tournaments in Wales, Scotland and the USA.

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Mr. Football: FKF President Nick Mwendwa in a previous function.

Golden era in women football

Just like Roy Gachuhi my favorite sports journalist describes the mid eighties as the golden era in Kenyan football (Definitely men football), Nick Mwendwa’s era as the FKF President has arguably marked the golden era of women football in Kenya. The passionate FKF President has enabled the football landscape in women football to change drastically. The flamboyant Nick has contributed pricelessly to the popularity of the women game in the country and success has followed him inevitably.

CECAFA Championships

Harambee Starlets lost 2-1 to Kilimanjaro Queens of Tanzania in the finals of the 2nd edition of the 2016 CECAFA Senior Women Championship in Jinja, Uganda. Esse Akida of Harambee Starlets won the silver boot. In 2019 Harambee Starlets reached the pinnacle in the CECAFA Championships after emerging victorious over hosts Kilimanjaro Queens of Tanzania by beating them by 2-0.  The scorer of the two goals could be none other than the sensational striker Jentrix Shikangwa. In this tourney, Jentrix the school girl wonder girl from Wiyeta secondary school won the golden boot award with unprecedented 10 goals under her name. For the first time an U-17 team participated in the CECAFA Championship this year although with minimum time for preparation.

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The Champions: Harambee Starlets players and officials celebrate jubilantly after clinching the CECAFA Championship

AWCON

The Harambee Starlets cemented their name in the history of women football in Kenya when they qualified for the AWCON for the first time ever.  A 2-2 draw against Algeria was enough to give Kenya a ticket to Limbe, Cameroun in 2016. Esse Akida’s goal against Ghana and Cheris Avila’s goal against Mali were a consolation after Kenya lost all its matches. Participation of Harambee Starlets in the COTIF Cup in Spain had given the girls the much needed exposure that they needed. Esse Akida was awarded the Golden boot after her goal scoring exploits.

COSAFA

A talented Harambee Stars team participated as a guest team in the 2017 COSAFA tournament in Zimbabwe in 2017 and gave a good account of themselves. The team reached the semi finals only to lose 4-0 to hosts Zimbabwe.

Under Nick Mwendwa’s leadership the Harambee Starlets have consistently and repeatedly participated in all qualifications of the AWCON, CECAFA and Olympics qualifiers. In all these tournaments the kitting of the team has been immaculate.

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Harambee Starlets Head Coach David Ouma is undisputedly the most successful women coach in Kenya.

Grass root Coaching Courses

Many women coaches have undeniably benefitted from grass root coaching courses conducted countrywide by the federation. This includes FKF Instructors courses and the recently conducted FIFA Instructors course in Kenya.

Homework

That the women premier league has no sponsor up to now and the lack of a platform for women footballers in the country to play professionally are areas that needs more attention.

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