Whereas football remains the most popular sport in Kenya, the gender balance has always been biased towards the men’s side. The general public and mainstream media have historically given major football events featuring women a total blackout.
This is unlike the men’s team’s events where chaos dominates due to fierce rivalry and mammoth crowds in attendance.
The first Kenya national women’s football national league and national team were created in 1985. They were governed Kenya Women’s Football Federation, a body that existed from 1993 to 1996 when it wrapped up leaving the role to Kenya Football Federation.
The Kenya national football women’s team is nicknamed “Harambee Starlets”. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Football Kenya Federation. The team represents Kenya in the international arena.
The Football Kenya Federation was founded in 2011 and officially recognized by CECAFA, CAF, and FIFA in 2012. It preceded the defunct Football Kenya Limited. Headed by Nick Mwendwa, the federation manages Kenya Premier League, Kenya national football teams, Kenya Women’s Premier League, and also Men’s and Women’s Division One Leagues.
Coached by David Ouma, the women’s Kenya national women’s football team trains at the Moi International Sports Centre, a multi-purpose sports facility with a 60,000 football fan capacity.
Notable players in the team include Corazon Aquino who plies her trade in Portugal, Ruth Ingotsi, and Annedy Kundu, both based in Cyprus.
Occasionally crippled by insufficient or total lack of funds, the Kenya national women’s football team has kept its head high in the regional duels. Their most memorable tournament is the 2019 CECAFA women’s tournament held between 16th and 25th November in Dar es Salam, Tanzania.
The Harambee Starlets rose through the ranks from topping their group, fighting their way to the finals. They not only beat the host 2-0 but also produced the top scorer, Jentrix Shikangwa who netted ten goals. At the same time, gatekeeper Annedy Kundu claimed the golden glove award for not conceding a goal in the entire tournament.
They are ranked position 124 internationally as of December 2020 FIFA records. This is an improvement having stayed on position 137 for the better part of last year.
The top tier Kenya Women’s Premier League is the most notable and nationally recognized body. It’s organized in a two-zone format, namely Zone A and Zone B each with eight teams.
Zone A mainly consists of the Nairobi region teams: Kayole Starlets, Thika Queens, Mathare United, and Zetech Sparks.
Among the notable teams in Zone B include Eldoret Falcons, Kisumu All Starlets, Nakuru West Queens just to mention a few.
The future looks bright for women’s football in Kenya. With several players already playing in foreign clubs and more women’s grassroots teams coming up, it’s not too early to conclude that the game has come of age.
Major corporate organizations and educational institutions have shown interest in women’s football by hosting and sponsoring events. With the right support structures, Kenya women’s football has the potential to reach world-class levels.