Harambee Starlets captain Shikobe is inspiring future generations
FOOTBALL By Washington Onyango | April 18th 2020
Whether donning the Harambee Starlets jersey or Oserian Ladies FC jersey, Shikobe always works hard to help her team win and inspire others while doing so.
So much attention is paid to what she can achieve in the future, but very little is said about the incredible impact she has made to upcoming young players.
The Harambee Starlets captain is writing her own story on Kenyan football history and many young players look up to her after what she has achieved at the helm of the national team.
The 29-year-old defender was instrumental in leading Harambee Starlets to capture the Cecafa Senior Women’s Challenge Cup title after edging out hosts Tanzania 2-0 last year.
Shikobe was key in ensuring Starlets won the regional title without conceding a goal and scoring a record 24 goals.
Kenya had never won the Cecafa title since its inception in Zanzibar 33 years ago, with their best position being runners-up in 2015 in Uganda.
Hence, it was a historical moment for Shikobe when the glittering cup came home under her captaincy.
“After the Cecafa win, I believed that my qualities as a captain are working well for the national team. To be the first Starlets captain to lift the women’s Cecafa trophy just sums it all,” she said.
When Shikobe started playing football, little did she know that one day she would rise to the position she holds.
Born and raised in Kakamega County in a family of 10 (five boys and five girls), Shikobe fell in love with football at the tender age of 10 while at Emulunya Primary School.
“Everyday after school, I would join boys and play football (made of plastic bags) at the neighbourhood. It was weird for my siblings since I was the only child in my family who fell in love with football. I loved it and that is how my journey started,” she said.
Shikobe started playing competitive football at Thika Queens after completing her Form Four studies at Kilingili High School in Kakamega County.
She rose to became a dependable player at Thika Queens and at one time she was surprised after being unanimously named the team’s best player.
“To be able to play competitively in the Kenya Women’s Premier league shocked my parents who did not believe that I was actually playing football. The stage was there for me and all I could do was work harder.”
Her dominance, consistency and resilience caught the eye of scouts from Oserian who recruited her in 2015, the same year she got a call up to the national team.
Her shielding, heading and tackling abilities which pushes offensive players off the ball made her a regular in the national team and becoming one of Harambee Starlets core defenders.
“It is not always easy to accomplish what I have done in the past five years. For me, God’s time is the best. Prior to becoming a regular in the national team, I had received many call-ups but I was always being dropped at the last minute.
“It was not easy to get a position in the team due to stiff competition but this made me work even harder. I always believe that if you want something and you work tirelessly for it, then there is nothing that will stop you,” Shikobe said.
She was named captain last year, something she says has helped her improve her leadership skills on and off the pitch.
“Harambee Starlets captain! I did not see that coming. However, I took this as a clear indication that my talent is growing because it never crossed my mind that at one time I will ever become the captain of the Kenya national team.
“Being the captain has moulded me to became even better on the pitch. I know how to deal with pressure both off and on the pitch and being able to push other player to get positive results.”
The Oserian Ladies defender went on to represent Kenya from 2015 to date, saying her most memorable moment was when Starlets won this year’s Cecafa Senior Women’s Challenge Cup in Tanzania.
“To bring the first-ever title back home will forever be the best moment in my career so far. Many tried but failed, so for me and my teammates to do it unbeaten was just a different class,” said the mother of one.
Shikobe said as the captain, she takes the flak when the team is under-performing.
“The head coach is always on your neck when the team is not getting positive results. When the team loses, you are required to answer tough questions,” she said.
She further reveals that her lowest moment was when Harambee Starlets were knocked out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifying phase after losing 3-2 on aggregate to Zambia’s Shepolopolo.
“We were very unlucky to crash out of the Olympic qualifiers. We were very confident of getting positive results in Lusaka after our 2-2 first-leg draw in Nairobi, but everything went the opposite way. It was painful but we are looking forward to future events,” she said.
Starlets drew 2-2 in Nairobi but in a return match in Lusaka, their dreams to secure a final round to the Olympics were dashed when Zambian striker Lushomo Mweemba struck the winner.
Shikobe said that the 4-0 thrashing by Nigeria Super Falcons in the Africa Cup of Nations campaign was the most embarrassing defeat she endured as a national team player.
This year, she led the national football to a third-place finish in the Turkish women tournament held last month where Starlets’s 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland was their only solitary win after losing to group leaders Chile and Ghana.
However, all that is behind her as she focuses on the 2020 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) qualifiers against Tanzania which has since been pushed forward because of coronavirus pandemic.
“My priority as the captain is to guide the national team to Awcon. We want to get there and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we are keeping in touch as a team following up on individual training routines to keep fit,” she says.
Now a role model for other upcoming young women seeking to play in the national team, Shikobe who envies Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga dreams of playing professional football in South Africa and Europe.
“Every player’s dream is playing abroad. The same goes for me. A chance to play football in South Africa or Europe will be an achievement for me.”
Although Oserian is yet to win the Women’s Premier League title, Shikobe remains optimistic that the club will soon win the league.
She said her main objective is to make sure Oserian regains its lost glory, which was popular with the men’s team in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Oserian clinched the Kenyan Premier League crown in 2000 before finishing second the following year and qualifying for the Caf Confederation Cup, a fete that is yet to be repeated at the Naivasha Club.
Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma praised the team captain as a hardworking and powerful player while on the pitch but a humble and loving character off the pitch.
He said Shikobe is Starlets' standard-setter and a leader.
“Shikobe is outstanding. Her mental strength under pressure is remarkable. She is focused and has proved her talent. Furthermore guiding Starlets to their first-ever Cecafa Cup was fantastic,” he said.
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