NAIROBI, April 12- Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Arts and Culture Dr Hassan Wario has promised Harambee Starlets full government support as they prepare to make their maiden appearance at the 2016 African Women’s Cup of Nations finals slatted for Cameroon in November.
Starlets booked the slot after upsetting highly rated Algeria 3-3 on aggregate to qualify on away goal rule thanks to their 2-2 first-leg draw.
Wario who witnessed the girls write history as the first Kenyan women football team to qualify for the biggest competition in the continent, went into the dressing room after the return leg 1-1 stalemate to congratulate the team for their achievement.
“I am so proud of you and what you have done. As Government we have supported you for this campaign and we will continue supporting you even as you prepare AFCON. We are at your disposal and when you go to Cameroon and bring the trophy, there will be bigger rewards for you,” Wario told the girls amidst huge cheers.
Wario rewarded the team with Sh200, 000 and promised to set up a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta in a date to be announced soon.
For their trip to Algiers, the government gave the team Sh7million to cater for their facilitation and the Cabinet Secretary promised they will offer better support and ensure they prepare as well for the finals.
“This is a huge task ahead of them and we will do everything possible to ensure they are prepared in the best way they can. They will be representing the country and we will be on the front line to ensure they get there in fit conditions,” Wario told Capital Sport.
Starlets’ qualification to the Nations Cup is the sweet reward of a torrid time they have undergone over the last decade and head coach David Ouma could not put this in better words.
“We have come from far and undergone through many difficulties. From sleeping in the dressing rooms to unpaid allowances and no sponsorship and now we have achieved something huge by getting a ticket to the African Cup of Nations. This is a team that has only been supported by the fans and media before and I dedicate this victory to them,” an emotional Ouma stated after the match.
Starlets have not been short of drama as far as their welfare is concerned. Prior to their second round win over Botswana in the Olympic qualifiers last year, the team was forced to put up beds at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani changing rooms using it as their hostels.
However, they defied the odds to go on and beat Botswana to book a date with South Africa in the penultimate qualification round but unfortunately bowed out 2-0 on aggregate.
It was worse in the previous year when they camped at the YMCA Hostels in Shauri Moyo and had to cook for themselves and walk to City Stadium for their training sessions.
“Women’s football has for long not been taken seriously but we hope now that we have qualified, we will get better treatment. This is a show that women can do it as well and with better support I believe we can even achieve greater things. The new office has promised us good things and we hope they keep their word,” captain Mary Kinuthia told Capital Sport.