All guns blazing: How Kenya Police Bullets shot their way to the women's league title

Kenya Police Bullets

Kenya Police Bullets players celebrate after beating Zetech Sparks 6-2 at Police Sacco Stadium in Nairobi on May 25, 2024 to be crowned champions of the FKF Women Premier League.

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • Last June Police FC acquired Thika Queens, and rebranded the team Kenya Police Bullets FC.
  • Eleven months later, the team has won the 2023/2024 women’s league title under Beldine Odemba.

Two years ago when Football Kenya Federation reminded local clubs to comply with CAF Club Licensing Procedure which has been in place since 2017, most local clubs saw it as a step that would overburden the already cash-strapped entities.

But Kenya Police Football Club put in place measures to comply with the procedures, and the effort has paid dividends.

CAF Club Licensing Procedure has been in force since 2017 and is aimed at promoting and improving the quality and level of all aspects of football in Africa.

It covers sporting, infrastructure, administrative and personell, legal, and financial guidelines.

To illustrate the heavy price of non-compliance, CAF ordered FKF First Instance Body, the local entity in charge of club licensing in Kenya, to withdraw the licence it had issued to Gor Mahia last year when the 21-time Kenyan champions failed to settle debts owed to three of their former players within the set deadline.

That cost Gor Mahia a chance of competing in 2023/2024 Caf Champions League.

Among other things, CAF Licensing Procedure compels clubs participating in CAF competitions and African leagues to have a women’s team.

In June last year at the start of the 2023/2024 FKF-PL season, Police FC acquired three-time FKF Women Premier League champions Thika Queens, and rebranded the team “Kenya Police Bullets FC.”

Kenya Police Bullets

Kenya Police Bullets players and technical bench celebrate after clincing the FKF Women Premier League title on May 25, 2024 at Police Sacco Stadium in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Courtesy

Eleven months later, the team has won the 2023/2024 women’s league title under Beldine Odemba, the only female coach in the league.

Bullets secured the championship with a 6-2 victory over Zetech Sparks at Police Sacco Stadium in Nairobi on Saturday.

Coach Odemba reckons Bullets secured the title with a match to spare “because we played every match like a final.”

“We were expecting to emerge league champions , but the fact that we secured the title so early caught us off guard. The competition for the league title was intense, especially with just a single match left in the season. Our focus has now shifted to the upcoming Cecafa Championships in August. We want to start preparing early, and to bolster the squad ahead of the championship,” Odemba, who worked closely with a new civilian-dominated technical bench since the beginning of the season, said.

They dethroned their rivals three-time champions Vihiga Queens, who drew 0-0 with Nakuru City Queens at the ASK Grounds in Nakuru on Saturday.

In a thrilling turn of events, Bullets claimed the championship and qualified to represent Kenya in the fourth edition of Cecafa Women Club Championships that will be held in Ethiopia in August.

Vihiga won the inaugural Cecafa Women Club Championships in 2021 in Nairobi, and have competed in the tournament twice, most recently last year in Uganda, where they were eliminated 2-1 in the semi-finals by CBE of Ethiopia .

Bullets took a decissive step towards securing the league title with a 1-0 win against Vihiga Queens, thanks to Lydia Akoth’s penalty in the 7th minute on February 10 at Police Sacco Stadium.

That defeat was Vihiga’s first of the season, and allowed Bullets to take a three-point lead at the top of the table.

With a match to the end of the season, the law enforcers top the league standings with 46 points from 18 matches, achieving 14 wins and four draws without a single loss. Bullets have so far scored 51 goals and conceded 15.

The team turned their home ground into a fortress, winning all their home fixtures.

Vihiga are second on the log with 41 points from 18 matches, having won 12, drawn five, and lost one.

Bullets will face Bunyore Starlets at Mumboha Stadium in Vihiga County on June 25 in their final match of the season, after which they will be presented with the league trophy, medals, and a cheque of Sh1 million.

“Our experience throughout this journey has been incredible. We approached every match like a final, taking each game as it came. The men's teams and the entire Police FC community have displayed incredible support, and we thank them for standing by us throughout the season,” Odemba, who is also the Kenya women’s national football team coach, said.

In Thika Queens, Police FC acquired a good side which had won the FKF-WPL title thrice - in 2014/15 season, 2016/17 campaign, and in the 2020/21 season.

Thika Queens was sister team to Thika United that competed in the men’s top tier but got relegated in 2018 and is now defunct.

Beldine Odemba

Kenya Police Bullets and Harambee Starlets coach Beldine Odemba.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

In the 2022/23 season, Thika Queens finished fifth with 35 points in the FKF-WPL under coach Benter Achieng, the sole female coach in the women’s league that season. This marked their worst finish since joining the FKF-WPL from Division One in 2009.

In June, Police FC announced a mutually beneficial agreement to assume full control of Thika Queens as their female team.

“This groundbreaking partnership marks an exciting chapter in the history of both clubs. Kenya Police FC, a renowned institution with a rich footballing heritage, and Thika Queens FC, a highly respected women’s football club, have come together to foster unity, inclusivity, and enhanced opportunities for players, staff, and fans alike, the statement read in part.

The primary objective of the partnership was to empower and promote women’s football in Kenya as Thika was at the forefront of women’s football, consistently delivering outstanding performances and nurturing young talent, some who have played for both junior and senior national women’s teams.

Strikers Mwanahalima Adam of Turkish side Hakkarigücü Spor and Esse Akida of PAOK in Greece started their careers at Thika Queens before going to Europe to play professional football.

Kenya Police Bullets FC now consists of 26 players and a technical bench of 10. The team recruited professional players, retained some, and released others, each player signing a five-year contract.

The retained players from the old outfit include defenders Juliet Ondibo (captain), Nelly Sawe, Grogina Mulati, strikers Chris Kach, Rebecca Okwaro, and goalkeeper Mishi Mbaru.

Mbaru has kept five clean sheets this season and is among the top local goalkeepers in the league alongside Sophy Akinyi of Vihiga Queens has 10 clean sheets.

The team’s defence, led by Ondibo, Quinter Owiti, Stella Oduor, and Sawe, has benen instrumental in their title run, giving strikers a hard time.

In midfield, Diana Wacera, Lydia Akoth, Lydia Waganda, and Mercy Njeri, who joined the team from relegated Gaspo Women, stood firm.

Strikers Okwaro, Puren Alukwe (formerly with Zetech), and Lucy Kwekwe (joined from Basco Othukkungal in India), scored crucial goals. Alukwe and Okwaro are also chasing the Golden Boot award, and winger Alukwe is second in the goal scorers' chart with 14 goals, one behind top scorer Tumaini Waliaula of Vihiga Queens. Okwaro is in third place with 13 goals.

“We are chasing the Golden Boot award, and we could bring it home as my strikers have all been scoring. But we are not going for anything individual; we are going for everything as a team,” said Odemba.

Every player at Kenya Police Bullets is paid a salary directly to her account by the club’s board of trustees.

The players are paid salary of Sh15,000 and a winning allowance of Sh2,500. No other club in the league pays as much.

Police FC, under the leadership of Senior Assistant Inspector General of Police (S/AIG) Munga Nyale who is also the club’s chairman, Superintendent with Kenya Police Chris Oguso who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Police FC, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr Fred Akama have led both teams to success.

Police teams have been one of the biggest spenders in the league, and their investments have yielded positive results. Their teams have been formidable title contenders this season.

Kenya Police Bullets
Photo credit: Courtesy

“On the day we formed this team, we were confident in our ability to win the league. We brought in a skilled coach whom we fully supported, allowing her to choose her technical staff and players without any interference.

"Despite interest from top clubs, we persuaded her to stay with us. Following her advice, we began paying the players, a decision we readily embraced.

"Our focus now shifts to Cecafa tournament, with all players equipped with necessary travel documents as we prepare to represent our country," Oguso told Nation Sport on Sunday.

“As we head to regional competitions, we have organized multiple sponsors who will partner with us for financial support as we represent our country next season. Women's football has become a powerhouse in Kenya and needs to be taken seriously. There are plans for exchange programmes with clubs from Tanzania for player exchanges, and friendly matches in future,” Dr Akama said.

Early this season, the contractor finished work on the brand new Police Sacco Stadium at the CID Training Center in South C, Nairobi.

The construction was funded by the Kenya Police Sacco, with sponsors Betika, Air 748 services, and DTB Bank also on board.

It was launched by President William Ruto on February 3. The stadium has relieved the club of the ned to hire match venues, and has generated revenue. Some of Police FC players have been recruited to the National Police Service, and there are similar plans for members of the women’s team.