Kenya’s Harambee Starlet are set to play in the 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations for the first time which kicks off on Saturday 19th November to 3rd December in Cameroon.
The Kenyan women football team qualified after defeating Algeria narrowly on the away goal rule and are placed in a tough West Africa dominated group which features defending champions Nigeria, Ghana and Mali.
It will be a big test for the Starlets since all the teams in their groups are experienced in the tournament, which the coach David Ouma acknowledges. “It is a very tough group because all those countries are experienced when it comes to continental football. This is our first time there but looking at how well we have prepared I am confident we can attain our target of getting to the semis,” Ouma told Caf website.
The Women football team have indeed captured the imagination of the hungry Kenya’s football lovers who be hoping they can achieve what their male counterparts have failed to do by going as far as possible in the tournament’s stages.
The Starlets have really struggled to get this far having forced to sleep on mattresses in the cold concrete floor in the men’s changing rooms at Nairobi’ s Safaricom Stadium despite the facility enjoying proper hostels when the then Football Kenya Federation (FKF) administration could not afford to pay for their housing.
Despite the difficulties, they went on to beat Botswana 1-0 in the return leg of their Olympics qualifier to sail through to the final round on the away goals rule after a 2-2 tie before they narrowly fell 1-0 on aggregate to continental giants South Africa to miss a ticket to Brazil. On their journey to make the AWCON , they beat North African giants Algeria on the away goals after a 2-2 draw away before a 1-1 stalemate in Nairobi to make the 10-team finals in Cameroon.
The new FKF regime under Nick Mwendwa provided more support for the Starlets. Friendlies against Spain and Morocco were prepared for them and there was much improvement in performance which enabled them to qualify for the AWCON.
“We have the right team representing us. The idea has been developing players physically and technically, so we have tried a big number over time but we have finally settled for the best for this job.
“As a coach I’m content with the preparations for the tournament, the ball is in our court to give our best,” Ouma said.
The Starlets play their first match against Ghana on Sunday, 20 November 2016.