Harambee Starlets can dare dream of WAFCON glory

Kenya Harambee Starlets Cynthia Musungu(right) and Cameroon Achta Toko Nduoya battle for the ball posseion during their Women's Africa Cup of Nation 2024 qualifier at the Nyayo National Stadium on September 26, 2023.[Boniface Okendo, Standard]

In a historic turn of events on Tuesday, Kenya national women's football team, Harambee Starlets, etched their name into the annals of African football by defeating Cameroon 1-0 during the return leg of the first round of the 2024 Women's Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) qualifiers.

This remarkable victory, achieved in front of an electrified home crowd at Nyayo Stadium, saw Kenya level the match to a 1-1 aggregate scoreline, setting the stage for a nail-biting penalty shootout.

Cynthia Shilwatso, Violet Nanjala, Mwanahalima Adam, and Sheryl Andiba displayed nerves of steel as they converted their spot-kicks, securing a 4-3 win on penalties.

The journey to this historic moment was not without its challenges. Kenya had lost 1-0 to Cameroon in Douala during the first leg just a week earlier.

However, the Starlets' indomitable spirit and determination came to the fore, with their resilient performance symbolising the essence of women's football in Kenya.

In a stunning turn of events, Kenya knocked out Cameroon's formidable Indomitable Lionesses team, consisting of players plying their trade in major European leagues, including France, England, Portugal, and Italy.

One cannot overstate the significance of this victory, as it marked Kenya's first-ever win against Cameroon in women's football.

In previous encounters between the two sides, Cameroon had emerged victorious on five occasions. Notably, in 2006, Cameroon dominated with a crushing 9-0 aggregate scoreline after a 5-0 win in Nairobi followed by a 4-0 triumph on their home turf. In 2016, Kenya suffered two narrow defeats, losing 2-1 and 1-0.

However, this time, Kenya reversed the tide by losing the away leg 1-0 but securing a crucial 1-0 victory in Nairobi.

As Kenya basks in the glory of this monumental achievement, the focus now shifts to the upcoming second and final round of WAFCON qualifiers, where they are set to face Botswana.

Botswana earned their place in this showdown by trouncing Gabon 10-1 on aggregate. The two sides will clash on November 27 in a highly anticipated matchup.

Starlets coach Beldine Odemba couldn't hide her joy for making the impossible possible on

"I am immensely proud of the team's performance. This victory is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our players. We came into this match as underdogs, but we believed in ourselves, and that belief paid off. We are taking it one step at a time, and our focus now is on the next challenge," she said.

The next challenge for Harambee Stars is the showdown with Botswana, but Odemba has set her sights on further success.

Coming from a Fifa ban that lasted a year before being lifted last year, Kenya is in the midst of rebuilding, and their recent triumph over Cameroon has given them renewed hope and confidence.

As Kenya's national women's football team continues to defy the odds and dream big, fans eagerly anticipate the next chapter in their remarkable journey, hoping for more history-making moments on the road to the 2024 Women's Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.

Football
FKF-PL: No love lost as Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards face off in Mashemeji Derby
Athletics
800 athletes set sights on glory at Eldoret race
Football
FKF-PL: Police seek to close gap on leaders Gor Mahia
Athletics
Bednarek confident ahead of showdown with Omanyala