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Kenya’s Junior Starlets to hold camp in Spain ahead of U17 Women's World Cup

Kenya's women's U17 team in action against Burundi
Kenya's women's U17 team in action against BurundiFKF Media
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has confirmed Kenya’s Junior Starlets will pitch camp in Spain to prepare for the 2024 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup scheduled for the Dominican Republic from October 16th to November 3rd.

On Sunday, June 16th, 2023, the Junior Starlets achieved a historic milestone, becoming the first Kenyan national team to qualify for a World Cup after securing a 5-0 aggregate victory over Burundi in the fourth and final round of the qualifiers.

Kenya went into the return leg fixture at Ulinzi Complex with a 3-0 advantage from the first leg played in Ethiopia and first-half goals from Marion Serenge and Valerie Nekesa ensured they emerged 2-0 winners to secure their place in the global stage.

Team to train in Marbella

According to FKF President Nick Mwendwa, the Junior Starlets will proceed to Marbella in Spain in September for a rigorous three-week training session camp in readiness for the tournament.

“We have a plan for the U17 (after the historic success), they have been supported, they have received what they are supposed to receive, they have trained when it is rainy and sunny, and now we are going to put them in Spain for three weeks starting from September, they will go to Marbella and then from Spain they will head directly to the Dominican Republic ahead of the tournament,” Mwendwa told Flashscore.

“We want them to get ready; we want them to play friendly matches while in Spain, so it is going to be a training like no other, we will give them support and make sure by the time they head to for the World Cup, they are ready to compete and not to participate.”

The Junior Starlets celebrating
The Junior Starlets celebratingFKF Media

Marbella is a city and municipality in southern Spain, belonging to the province of Malaga in the autonomous community of Andalusia. It is part of the Costa del Sol and is the headquarters of the Association of Municipalities of the region; it is also the head of the judicial district that bears its name.

The City is situated on the Mediterranean Sea, between Malaga and the Strait of Gibraltar, in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca. The municipality covers an area of 117 square kilometres (45 sq mi) crossed by highways on the coast, which are its main entrances.

Asked why Marbella, Mwendwa said: “We looked at the climate and it would be conducive for the girls to train in a very quiet place and prepare well because we aim to go out there and compete, we want to take on the best in the world.”

Mwendwa further took his time to explain why Kenya’s women's football had always been knocking on the door to write a new chapter in the country’s history.

“I always said our women's football is the single biggest area of growth in Kenyan history, we played U20 and lost against Ghana, and we continued to have them and they became our main national team, who are currently doing very well in all fronts,” said Mwendwa.

“We took Harambee Starlets to AWCON for the first time in history in 2016, though we did not have a good tournament, we then took Harambee Stars to AFCON 2019 and now we have made history with the Junior Starlets to the World Cup.”

Mwendwa continued: “Harambee Starlets almost made it to the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, but I want to remind everyone that at that time we were suspended by FIFA, so we couldn’t take part, for the U17, we have qualified without conceding a goal, we aren’t there yet but one thing is for sure, we have a great team.”

In a separate interview, coach Mildred Cheche assured the team’s readiness to make Kenyans proud during the global tournament. “It is a big moment for Kenya and I am proud to be part of a team that has made big history by being the first team to qualify for the World Cup, it is a huge moment for us, as the bench and for the players,” Cheche told Flashscore.

“We have a very formidable team that can compete at any level, we have the best players, we have depth in our squad and I believe we are more than motivated to go out there and compete with the best to make Kenyans proud.”

Government honours team

Kenya's Junior Starlets and Ababu Namwamba
Kenya's Junior Starlets and Ababu NamwambaFKF Media

Following their historic success, the Kenyan government through Cabinet Secretary for Sports Ababu Namwamba awarded the team Ksh10million in recognition of their achievement of getting to the summit.

“It is a pleasure to cheer and support you, an honour to reward you with Kshs 10 million in recognition of your historic achievement of getting to the summit,” wrote Namwamba on his social media pages.

“The first Kenyan team ever to qualify for a FIFA World Cup at any level. You have made our country proud and pumped incredible wind in the sails of women's football in Kenya. We honour you, Junior Starlets.”

The success of the Junior Starlets caught the attention of many government officials, with Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua leading the East African nation in praising the Glamorous girls.

“Hearty congratulations to the talented Junior Starlets for qualifying for the FIFA U17 Women World Cup Championship in the Dominican Republic in October-November.

“Their emphatic win against Burundi ensured the Starlets made history by being the first Kenyan football team to feature at a global event. We are proud of our young heroes and assure them of our full support as they prepare for the Championship.”

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who doubles up as the Patron of FKF Premier League champions Gor Mahia FC said: “A historic moment! Our Harambee Junior Starlets have qualified for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in style, defeating Burundi 2-0 (5-0 on aggregate). We celebrate them for their great achievement!”

Meanwhile, Homabay governor Gladys Wanga wrote: "History made! Kenya will participate in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, and having our young dreamers, the Junior Starlets, as our representatives are even sweeter. Congratulations to our girls as they head to the Dominican Republic for the tournament in October.”

Throughout their journey, the Junior Starlets finished without conceding a single goal and managed eight. They first thrashed Ethiopia 3-0 on aggregate to book a date with Burundi, whom they eventually hammered 5-0 on aggregate to qualify.

The teams that have qualified for the tournament include Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England, Japan, Kenya, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, USA, and Zambia.

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