Women coaches inspire

Coach Beldine Odemba leading national women’s football team Harambee Starlets in their slim 1-0 loss to hosts Indomitable Lioness of Cameroon last Friday in the first leg of the first round of the 2024 Women Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) qualifiers in Douala was uplifting. She was the first female coach to lead the senior team in an international match.

Formed in 1985, Starlets has had more than 10 coaches with only two women—Jacky Mwangi in 2008 and Florence Adhiambo (2013). The renowned and experienced Odemba replaced Godfrey “Solo” Oduor on September 2. Odemba will also be the only female coach in the upcoming 2023/24 Kenya Women’s Premier League that is expected to feature 12 clubs. She coaches Kenya Women’s Premier League team Kenya Police Bullets FC, which was previously known as Thika Queens.

No team in the ongoing 2023/24 Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKF-PL) is under a female coach.

Odemba was impressive leading Highway Secondary School, Nairobi, in the Kenya National Secondary School Games last year and on to East Africa Secondary School Games. She had been team manager of Mathare United women’s team and also coached Kenya Under-18 women’s football team.

Globally, female coaches have proven their mettle in the male-dominated sport. At the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, 12 of the 32 participating teams were under female coaches. They were England, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Switzerland, Brazil, China and Panama.

England’s Sarina Wiegman was on the verge of history when her team lost by a solitary goal to Spain in the final.

More Kenyan girls and women with an interest in football should aspire to join the ranks of Odemba and take advantage of the coaching courses being offered by FKF.