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Eyes on Akida as Starlets near AWCON debut

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Spedag and Harambee Starlets forward Esse Akida sandwiched by Espanyol players during the COTIF tournament in July

Spedag and Harambee Starlets forward Esse Akida sandwiched by Espanyol players during the COTIF tournament in July

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 14 – A huge chunk of the weight of expectation on Sunday when Kenya makes its debut in the African Women’s Cup of Nations against Ghana at the Omnisports Complex in Limbe, Cameroon will be on the young shoulders of Spedag FC forward Esse Mbeyu Akida.

Top scorer at both the COTIF invitational tournament and the CECAFA Women’s Championship in Uganda, Akida is expected to lead the hunt for goals especially in the absence of Neddy Atieno who joined the Kenya Defence Forces.

Starlets head coach David Ouma admits Akida will be expected to lead the line once again, but the forward who is also the top scorer in the local league says she is under no pressure.

“Neddy is out yes, and I know that is a blow for us because she has been part of us from day one. I know the expectation on me but again, I know we have a very good team and my team mates will also rise up to the occasion. There’s no pressure,” a cool, calm and collected AKida told Capital Sport.

Ouma has been scratching his head to pick out an attacking solution especially noting he faces West African side who are physical and more imposing.

L-R- Striker Esse Akida, Team Captain Ann Aluoch, head coach David Ouma and deputy captain Mary Kinuthia. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

L-R- Striker Esse Akida, Team Captain Ann Aluoch, head coach David Ouma and deputy captain Mary Kinuthia. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

The tactician who spent most of his early career training girls at the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) is optimistic he will have the problem covered by the time they face Ghana’s Black Queens in their opening match.

“Esse has been doing well for us and was top scorer in Spain and Uganda. Definitely, we expect her to keep it going at AWCON. Neddy’s absence is a blow but I have been trying out different formations to see how we can cope without her,” Ouma offered.

He adds; “There is Corazone (Aquino) and she scored on the first match I used her as a striker. So possibly, that is a problem solved. Hopefully she can keep up till the tournament.”

Akida is confident the team is well oiled to do well in their maiden tournament and the idea of getting to the semi-final will not be a mirage.

Cherish Avilia (left) and Esse Akida share a light moment during training. PHOTO/TIMOTHY OLOBULU

Cherish Avilia (left) and Esse Akida share a light moment during training. PHOTO/TIMOTHY OLOBULU

“We can do it. Personally, I am psyched to help my country and I will work hard to score and assist as well. We have trained very well and our preparations have been the best. What remains now is for us to do the work and we will ensure we deliver,” the pint-sized forward adds.

After playing Ghana on Sunday, Starlets will face off with Mali three days later before winding up their group campaign against defending champions Nigeria. At least two wins will take them to the last four.

“It is something that we can do, but not easy. We have had very good preparations thanks to the federation and now it is time to show that the girl child in Kenya can achieve something,” Ouma added.

Starlets have been camping in Limbe to acclimatize since playing their final build up match against Cameroon’s national team, Les Lioness last week.

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