Kenya’s calls to CAF go unanswered as Harambee Starlets leave camp

Harambee Starlets captain Corazone Aquino (on phone) and her teammates during yesterday’s press briefing at Kasarani Stadium. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The Confederation of African Football’s decision to rubber-stamp Uganda’s Crested Cranes qualification to 2022 African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) finals in Morocco at the expense of Harambee Starlets has thrown Kenyan football into jeopardy.

Even though the Retired Justice Aaron Ringera-led Football Kenya Caretaker Committee put on a brave face yesterday as they disbanded the national women team’s camp at Kasarani Stadium, Starlets’ failure to participate in the final round of the qualifiers could just be the tip of the iceberg.

With the world football governing body Fifa and CAF having stood with the disbanded FKF officials since the Caretaker Committee was installed by Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed on November 11 2021, Kenyan teams risk being locked out of upcoming Fifa organised competitions.

While Starlets dreams of returning to AWCON after their 2016 debut in Cameroon has been shattered, the fate of Kenya’s participation in the 2022 African U-17 Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament as well as producing teams for both the Champions League and Confederation Cup hangs in the balance if CAF’s recent move is anything to go by.

Kenya was to face Uganda away in their first leg match today before a return leg on February 22, but the two-legged fixture was cancelled last month after CAF Secretary General Veron Mosengo-Omba received a letter from former FKF CEO Barry Otieno claiming that, the Kenyan FA is unable to independently plan and successfully execute any international matches.

And after the government’s effort to convince CAF rescind their decision to lock out Kenya out of the tournament failed, yesterday, Ringera said they had no option but release the players from training camp. Each player received Sh5,000 per day for the 21 days they have been in camp.

While revealing that he has written to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to grill Barry Otieno over the ‘withdrawal’ letter, Ringera revealed that the Cairo-based body has not responded to the letter they wrote to them on January 30 regarding the Caretaker Committee’s ability to host the match.

“To the best of my knowledge, Barry Otieno will be appearing before the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on Monday next week for sabotage.  That letter by Barry has ensured that Kenya doesn’t take part in the Qualifiers and we as a Caretaker Committee view that as a selfish act,” said Ringera.

“Having exhausted all the avenues as a Caretaker Committee, we are now sadly left with no other option than to disband the camp and allow the girls to go back home. Harambee Starlets will not be in the Africa Women Cup of Nations Qualifiers.

“To Harambee Starlets players, you are our heroes. You put in your best and we appreciate your efforts and even as we release you from camp, be rest assured that the committee is working to secure your future and a communication on the same will be issued in the new future.”

Harambee Starlets coach Alex Alumira and his players Corazon Aquino (captain) and Samantha Akinyi couldn’t hide their frustrations after the missed opportunity to grace the continental showpiece.

“I take this opportunity to express my displeasure to whatever has happened. But again, I want to raise a lot of hopes to the girls here because they are still young. The World Cup is played after every two years and my urge would be to everybody in Kenya to stand strong. But whoever did this doesn’t have a human heart and may God punish that person properly,” said Alumira.

Aquino said: “It’s unfortunate what we have been preparing for will not take place, but we will keep our focus and hoping for the best in the future. And to whoever did this, may thunder strike you.”

“It’s a huge disappointment to us, but I believe God is going to lead the way. We had hopes of playing that match, but too bad it has come to an end. We won’t give up. We will keep on playing with the hope to meet Uganda in future,” added Samantha.

But for former FKF Secretary General and presidential candidate Lordvick Aduda, Kenyans should brace themselves for the worst insisting that both CAF and Fifa will not recognise anything related with the Caretaker Committee.

“FKF Premier League teams are just playing friendly matches, what has happened to Harambee Starlets should be a wake-up call to everybody. When Barry wrote the letter, CAF reacted because they received a communication from their member association. The same thing is going to happen in the World Cup qualifiers,” said Aduda.

“When you read Barry’s letter, the last paragraph was the catch. He was very explicit when he said they will keep CAF informed should the situation change and FKF Secretariat regains access to the FKF premises.”

He continued: “Serving as FKF SG gave me an opportunity to work with Fifa and CAF and I kow if we had a Normalisation Committee we wouldn’t have gone through all these. Lastly, let those in authority know that as we continue with the Caretaker Committee we will not go anywhere. The onus is on the actual stakeholders to sit down and map out a recovery road.”

 

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