Kempes hails Junior Starlets, says women's football should now be taken seriously

Former Harambee stars and Gormahia midfielder Sammy Owino 'Kempes' during an  inetrview with the Standard. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Former Kenya international Sammy Owino “Kempes” says women football should now be taken more seriously with the national Under 17 side Junior Starlets on the verge of qualifying to the World Cup.

Kenya holds a 3-0 advantage over Burundi as the two sides head to the final qualifier match at the Ulinzi Stadium on Sunday where a win, draw or loss of less than two goals will make the Starlets the first footballing side in East Africa to make it to a FIFA world cup.

And now Owino says women football must be given more support by both the government and the federation.

"The young girls have worked hard to get to this level by eliminating Ethiopia and hammering Burundi 3-0 in the first leg of the final round of qualifiers,” said Owino.

“Personally, I have been quite impressed by the individual brilliance of the Kenyan girls. I am indeed proud of each and every one of them,” he added.

“Their performance thus far is a clear testimony that the women’s game in Kenya has come of age and our ladies are fighting for equal space in our football scene just like the men.”

Owino says the performance of the Under 17 team and previous ones by other women’s teams send a strong message that time has come for us as a country to invest in women’s football and related competitions.

He opines that while we must appreciate that the existing federation has done better in terms of exposing our female talent by entering the youth and senior teams in continental championships, there remains a lot to be done by all stakeholders involved.

“We must agree that there is very little investment in women football development. FKF has failed to convince corporate investment in the Women Premier League, even after the women’s game had been dubbed the next big thing in Kenyan football.”

He says that starved of sponsorship, most of the teams rely on their pockets to survive and live from hand to mouth.

“There must be change, recognition and respect for women in Kenyan football. Time has come for us to think about the welfare of women in football and create a semi-autonomous unit within the federation that will professionally run the women league and national teams and independently source for sponsorships and funding,” Owino observes.

He says the semi-autonomous body will receive funding and manage the same on behalf of women football as opposed to now where the National Executive Committee is dominated by men who control how funds are used and what is channeled to women football.

Says Owino: “As we push our Under 17 girls to the World Cup, we must focus our energy on taking the women’s game to the next level.”

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