NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 20 – After signing a two-year contract with Turkish Women’s Premier League side Besiktas, Esse Mbeyu Akida targets to become the first Kenyan woman to play in the lucrative UEFA Women’s Champions League next season.
Akida joined the Turkish Kadinlar Ligi side this week as a free agent after concluding her spell with Israeli side Ramat Ha Sharon at the end of last year and finds the Turkish season advanced into the second leg.
“My first target in this team is to see to it that I get regular playing time and then secondly, I want to win the league title. It has been my dream always to win a title and with Besiktas, we have a chance. With that, we will qualify for the Champions League and this will be a dream come true for me,” Akida told Capital Sport from her base in Turkey.
Besiktas, who won the Turkish league title for the first time in their history last season, made their maiden bow in European football last season.
This year, they did not make it past the group stages where they finished second in Group 9 with five points, two behind Dutch side Twente who qualified for the knockout round.
With her imminent knock on history’s door, Akida has attracted praise from all and sundry and former Kenyan international Doreen Nabwire who was the first ever Kenyan woman to play football abroad believes the pint-sized forward will make it big.
“I am really proud of her because she has worked her way to the top. Noting that she might be the first Kenyan in the Champions League is a huge achievement for her and the country. We continue wishing her the best and hopefully more Kenyan players can learn from her,” Nabwire stated.
She added; “I believe she still has so much to offer to the national team and it will be my joy to see her back.”
In this season’s Turkish top-flight, Besiktas are placed second in the standings with 36 points, one behind leaders ALG Spor with nine rounds of matches left in the 12-team league. Only league winners qualify for the Champions League.
Their next match is against ninth placed Amed on Sunday and Akida might make her debut then.
“I have been here for a week now and to be honest it is a brilliant experience for me. The facilities are brilliant and the training is so intense. The tempo in training and the seriousness these people treat their football is just amazing,” Akida, an erstwhile poster girl for the national team stated.
She says she is settling well in her new environment and admits she has a lot to work on especially after being out of action for almost two months.
“I love it here. The good thing is that we are on the same time zone with Kenya so I didn’t have a lot to adjust to. The food is always almost the same with things back home but now here, you have to watch everything you eat because the club is very strict on diet. There’s a club hotel so most of the time, you can have your lunch or dinner there,” Akida opened up to Capital Sport.
“We have two sessions a day; the first one in the morning is individual training so it is up to you to decide whether you need it or not then we have the main one in the evenings at 7pm,”
“But it is not all easy though because most of the players are Turkish and they speak their language so that is one of the things I have to learn. I also have to learn how to pronounce their names (laughs), but I am getting better,”
“Another thing that’s a challenge is the weather. It is winter here so I have to adjust, train with a lot of layered clothes, but I will get used to it eventually,” she added.
She has also narrated how she has been dodging the club’s ritual of either signing or performing a dance, something that is done by every new signing.
“They watched some dance celebration I did in a past match and they have been telling me every day to repeat it. They are amazing people. They welcomed me to the club with open arms and they have made me feel at home and comfortable,” she stated.
Akida is thankful for finally landing an opportunity after waiting for close to two months following her exit from Israel.
“It was a really nervous time for me to be honest, but as always patience pays. I thank my management team because they worked so hard for me to get a good club. Now the challenge is on my end to work hard and perform well,” she added.