NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma says he is open to welcoming star striker Esse Mbeyu Akida back to the national team, saying the door has never been closed on the forward who scored Kenya’s first ever goal at the African Women’s Cup of Nations.
Akida has not been part of the team for the last one year after the tactician decided to wipe out most of the senior players from the squad due to off field issues.
However, Ouma says the forward has always been on his list.
“The last time when she was in Israel, we wrote to the club requesting for her release for an assignment but they refused. She is still welcome into the team. For me, the door is always open to everyone, as long as you are performing you have a chance,” the tactician told Capital Sport.
“Esse did justice to the shirt in the over 30 matches she played and now she has made a big move to Besiktas which is not something small. It means that she worked hard to get there. The door is not closed for her and any other player. As long as they show they can deliver, they will have a chance. The most important thing is that they have clubs,” the tactician further added.
Akida was the national team poster girl for a while and played a starring role as the Starlets qualified for the Cup of Nations for the first time ever in 2016.
But, at the start of 2019, she was among the experienced players shown the door including the likes of Neddy Atieno, Mary Kinuthia, Cherish Avilia and Wendy Achieng.
There was hue and cry over their omission, but Ouma’s stars aligned well for him as his new crop of players not only reached the penultimate round of the Olympic qualifiers but also won the CECAFA Women’s Championship for the first time ever.
Even in that success, Akida’s achievement of signing for a top European club will definitely put her firmly in a chase to be part of the team ahead of the 2020 Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Meanwhile, Ouma will focus on creating a larger pool of players after calling up a squad of 29 for the Turkish Women’s Cup scheduled for next month. The tactician has called up a squad of only locally based players and he explains why.
“They (foreign based players) just made their moves recently and at this moment they are still learning and getting oriented to their new teams and they need maximum concentration. If you take them out now, it will be hard for them to keep their places in their teams. It is a risk,” Ouma says.
He adds; “I want to let them settle down first in their teams. It is better for me to lose them now but have them in the qualifiers which is the most important thing for us.”
Akida, Corazone Aquino and the duo of Annete Kundu and Ruth Ingotsi just made their moves abroad last month. Akida and Aquino made their debuts over the weekend with Aquino finding the back of the net in her first match.
The tactician meanwhile hopes the Turkish Cup will give his players a good platform to test themselves against some of the best teams in the world.
“We are playing a team like Chile which is ranked number 32 in the world. We also have the hosts Turkey and these tough matches will help our players develop and get more experience,” the tactician offered.
The team is set to travel to Turkey this weekend after a week-long training camp which will culminate in a friendly match against the national under-16 boys’ team on Friday.