NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3- Harambee Starlets, the national women football team has warned their opponents at the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) to underrate them at their own peril, sounding confident as they packed their bags ready for a historic sojourn to Cameroon.
Kenya is pooled in group B alongside defending champions Nigeria, Mali and Ghana and the girls who will be making their debut at the biggest women’s tournament on African soil said they feel equal to the task and will make history in the West African nation.
“No one should underrate us because we have shown what we can do in all the build-up matches we have played. We have trained well, played good friendly matches and our confidence levels are high. We are ready for the assignment,” Skipper Ann Aluoch said on Thursday.
The team leaves Nairobi on Friday morning for a two week camp in Limbe, Cameroon, including a friendly match against their hosts on Sunday. The sea-side City 303 kilometers away from the capital Yaounde will also host the Group B matches.
“It is something so important for us to go to Limbe and camp for two weeks because that’s where we will play our group matches. It will give us ample time to acclimatize and the girls can settle in well. Psychologically, this will give us an advantage when the tournament starts,” head coach David Ouma offered.
The team has enjoyed one of the best ever pre-tournament preparatory steps having had two different training camps out of the country.
They played in the COTIF tournament in Spain after which they stayed for a further one week, playing friendly games against local clubs. They also most recently had a 10-day training camp in Morocco, playing two friendly matches as well.
The girls have also played build-up matches against Egypt and Cameroon, both set to play at the AWCON on top of playing at the CECAFA Women’s Championship and another friendly match against Uganda’s She-Cranes.
“When we came into office, we were warned that the government will not be willing to support us. But they were all wrong. Everything we have done has been principally because of the government and I want to thank them for the part they have played,” FKF President Nick Mwendwa said during a luncheon to see off the girls.
“I am not saying we are going there to win. We have said, we want to get to the semi finals and anything on top of that is a bonus. I am confident in these girls and I am optimistic they will make it,” Mwendwa added.
Ouma has named his final travelling squad and has included five new faces including 18-year old Nyakach High School goalkeeper Lilian Awuor.
Also making the cut to the final travelling contingent is Thika Queens’ Lydia Akoth, Vihiga Queens Lilian Adera, Nyamira Starlets’ Janet Moraa and striker Sharon Bushenei who is tasked with filling the boots of Neddy Atieno.
“Any coach would love to have his best squad at any tournament. It is unfortunate we will not have Neddy, Mwanahalima Adam and Enez Mango because of issues beyond us. But we have a capable squad. We have selected the best we could have,” Ouma offered.
Kenya opens its AWCON account against Ghana on November 20 at the 5,000-seater Ominsport Complex in Limbe.
Starlets squad to Cameroon:
Goalkeepers; Samantha Akinyi, Vivian Akinyi, Lilian Awuor
Defenders; Elizabeth Ambogo, Wendy Asol, Ann Achieng, Irene Ogutu, Dorcas Shikobe, Carolyne Anyango, Doris Anyango, Ann Aluoch, Lilian Adera
Midfielders: Cheris Avilia, Corazone Aquino, Jacky Ogol, Lydia Akoth, Christine Nafula. Forwards: Sharon Bushenei, Esse Akida, Mary Kinuthia, Janet Moraa, Mercy Achieng’.