What you need to know:
- Jentrix Shikangwa Milimu, 20, is one of the most outstanding Kenyan female football players.
- She is on a journey to change the perception of women’s football in the country.
- JJ, as she is popularly known by her teammates, was born in Mulundu Village in Kakamega County as the second last born in a family of two boys and three girls.
1. How did you get into football?
I think football has always been around me. I used to play with my siblings and friends in the village and in school since I was very young. I don’t think there was any other game that I put so much time into. But, what has enabled me reach this level is continuously drawing inspiration from my older siblings, including my sisters who gave me the confidence to enjoy football as a young woman. My brother Anami particularly taught me how I could use football to make a living. That aside, football comes almost naturally to me and that’s why I play the way I do.
2. What was your experience playing in the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League last month?
The qualification journey was one I’ll never forget. We had good support from fans and that hype pushed us to do our best while enjoying every moment of that historic competition. At the tournament in Egypt, I could feel the positivity within myself and also in the team. That was the biggest competition so far in my professional career and I embraced it wholly, from the moment we started training until we left for Egypt. Knowing that this was not only my first time to play in a continental contest but also my team’s first, added on the pressure I already felt to perform. But, I’m grateful that although we didn’t come back with the title, we still made our mark in Africa. I can’t wait for more of such competitions.
3. You played for both Vihiga Queens and Harambee Starlets while in high school. What can you say has been the highlight of your football journey so far?
Well, joining the best team in women’s top league was more than my teenage self could ever ask for. It was like being thrown into an ocean full of sharks and being expected to stay alive. Luckily, I passed the test. My team has exposed me to great opportunities that have moulded me both as a player and as a human being. One of the highlights of my career was during the 2019 Cecafa Senior Women’s Challenge Cup when I won the Golden Boot with 10 goals. The second one is definitely the 2021 CAF Women’s Champions League qualifiers where I was named Most Valuable Player. These achievements gave me recognition, bargaining power, and exposed me to football scouts.
4. What are some of the challenges you have encountered in your journey in local football?
I was not prepared to handle hate from fans. It was a culture shock for me. They will praise you one day and then tear you down the next. But I’ve adjusted to that and understood that it is part of the game. You can’t always please everyone. The other challenge is lack of proper training facilities and kits. Lastly, I don’t have too many training buddies, so I find myself frequently training with men.
5. What should we expect from you in the next three years?
I have seen women’s football growing all over the world over the last three years, and I know I will be part of that change. In the next three years I hope that the women’s leagues in Kenya will offer players better pay, better training regimens and playing facilities, and attract more fans and sponsors so that more young women can see football as a sustainable career. I also hope to lead my team to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and that more female players will get to play abroad because we are working hard to break those barriers.