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Better times desired in women’s football this year

It was another good year for women’s football in 2017 as the national team, Harambee Starlets, picked from where they left in 2016 when they qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations and finished second in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.

Last year, they were invited to participate in the fifth edition of Council of Southern Africa Football Association (COSAFA) Women’s Championship, with reaching the semi-finals being their aim. They would keep an unbeaten run in the group stages, registering three wins for maximum nine points and scoring 17 goals while at it. Five against Mozambique, 11 past Mauritius and one against Swaziland.

It was also another milestone in the sport as a junior team was formed (Under-20) and took part in the World Cup qualifiers. The side started their campaign from the preliminary rounds where they saw off Botswana 7-1 playing away, prompting the opponents to withdraw from the return match. They went ahead to defeat Ethiopia 4-3 on aggregate in the first leg to book a date with Ghana in the penultimate round of the qualifiers.

The Black Princesses, however, crashed the junior Starlets’ hopes of featuring in the World Cup after a 10-1 defeat on aggregate. With the two teams having faced some of the best sides in the continent, the level of confidence in players has improved and with the right exposure and support, women football will be a force to reckon with.

However, the same support should be extended to clubs and the league as the players hone their skills at that level. Women’s Premier League All is well that ends well, and that can be said of the 2017 Football Kenya Federation Women’s Premier League season that concluded in December after months of players and teams doing battle on the pitch.

After experiencing a series of postponements, where it was first slated to kick off in March, clubs finally settled on April, and teams made efforts to honour matches albeit with difficulty, a situation that necessitated two-week breaks after every two fixtures upon the request of clubs.

The 2016 season had witnessed a number of walkovers, attributed to lack of funds and the trend spilled over to 2017 with Zone B side Vihiga Leeds the first team to hand a walkover as they failed to turn up for their clash against Oserian Ladies in the second week of fixtures.

Thus when teams requested for the break to sort “in-house” affairs, it might have slowed down the league but was a blessing in disguise as fewer walkovers were witnessed after. It was a step in the right direction having the federation provide essential services like ambulance, paying for venues and match officials and as we outline the season that was, the league has a long way to go.

However, the organisers, clubs and most importantly players held on and the season ended with Vihiga Queens clinching their maiden title, the trophy coming with a Sh100,000 prize money.

Young Squads Despite the lack of structures for a junior’s league (Under 20), Premier League and Division One teams have embraced a culture of nurturing talent by incorporating youngsters in their squads.

This has in return led to significant improvements in national teams. The current Under 20 national team has shown great potential to compete continentally while their seniors are no different. Cash crunch However, clubs are struggling for lack of sponsorship and the federation has not found a sponsor for the league yet despite promises upon assuming office in 2016.

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