SUCCESS-starved Kenya urged on their women’s soccer side at the Cecafa championships but their expectations were oblivious of the fact that the best team in the tournament was Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Queens.
The Queens beat Kenya’s Harambee Starlets 2-1 in the final in Jinja Uganda on Tuesday afternoon the result being what Tanzania expected from their experienced team which had played in the 2010 [women’s] Africa Cup of Nations [AFCON].
Despite being the only Cecafa region team in November’s women’s AFCON [in Cameroon]; the Kenyan women are greenhorns taking part for the first time. But when they started the Cecafa championship with high scoring results, they fancied they would win the title. Ethiopia, three-time AFCON participants and fourth in 2004 were also in the Cecafa tournament and indeed gave Kenya a hard time in the Starlets 3-2 semi-final win.
When pundits gave Kenya the “red-hot” favourites tag for the Cecafa title after huge group ‘A’ stage wins — 4-0 v Burundi, 4-0 v Uganda and 11-0 v Zanzibar — Tanzania Football Federation [TFF] President, Jamal Malinzi, cautioned the Kenyans that the Tanzanians had the best team despite their group ‘B’ record — 3-2 v Rwanda and 0-0 v Ethiopia.
When the headlines on September 14 said: “Kenya girls riding waves in Cecafa tournament in Jinja,” an apparently well versed Malinzi tweeted: “Not exactly. Kilimanjaro Queens are!” The Kilimanjaro Queens 4-1 rout of Uganda in the semis and a commanding 2-0 by half-time display over Kenya in the Final vindicated Malinzi’s prediction capped with the 2-1 result at the final whistle.
The Starlets were back to a good reception in Nairobi on Wednesday and even if crest-fallen for not having won, in hindsight, they played to the expectation of the knowledgeable.
Kenya have a long way to go to affirm themselves as the best team in the region. After all, even Uganda, beaten to fourth place by Ethiopia on Tuesday, had more AFCON experience that Kenya having taken part in the 2000 AFCON finals.
Previously Kenya tried unsuccessfully to reach the AFCON finals in the qualifiers of 1998, 2000, 2010, 2012 before finally making the 2016 event.
Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye described the women’s even as “very successful, under the circumstances,” referring to the fact the event did not have a sponsor. He hopes there will be enough man for Kenya to host the Cecafa Kagame Cup Club Championship in November and the Cecafa Challenge Cup in December.
The women’s event in Jinja captured the attention of the whole region whose national teams [mainly men) are mostly idle after early eliminations in international tournament qualifiers.
Musonye said that, instead of the regions soccer associations throwing their energy to activity outside “actual football”, they should be mindful of club and international players by laying on for them sustainable international activity in the region.
The only engaged soccer team — national or club — in current continental football is Uganda Cranes, qualified for the 2017 AFCON in Gabon