Dorcas Shikobe: A tale of dreams and love for football

Harambee Starlets Captain Dorcus Shikobe (with the trophy) leads teammates in celebrating winning Cecafa Women Championships at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on November 26, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

What you need to know:

  • She is a gem in national women’s football team, Harambee Starlets, and has rekindled memories of the once-thriving men’s side Oserian FC

Just a mention of the name Oserian evokes memories of football made in Naivasha.

Once a powerhouse in domestic league, Oserian FC put the dusty Naivasha town, popularly known for floriculture and tourist sites, on the national and international football map.

Oserian is the first ever club from Naivasha to qualify for the prestigious Premier League in 1998.

The then flourishing club gave the big boys of Kenyan football in Kenya a memorable scare by breaking the monotony of the city clubs dominating the Kenyan Premier League title.

Oserian clinched the league crown in 2000. The following year they finished second and qualified for the Caf Confederation Cup.

Oserian became the second club from South Rift Valley, after the defunct Scarlet FC, to represent Kenya in continental matches. However, they were eliminated by Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel.

BEST TALENTS

The team also played in Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (Cecafa) Club Cup but lost to compatriots Tusker in the final.

Oserian produced stars who went on to wear the national team Harambee Stars’ colours.

These are goalkeeper Noah Ayuko, John Luchuku, Anthony Shikubu, Sammy Simiyu, John Baraza and Mike Mururi among others.

Other former strong players who left a mark in the team include former internationals Francis Baraza and the Ambani brothers, Fred and Boniface.

The club also attracted some of the best local coaches such as Twahir Muhidin and Edward Manoah.

The Oserian of the 1990s may have withered, but national women’s team Harambee Starlets skipper Dorcas Shikobe is keeping the flame burning at the Oserian Stadium.

Shikobe, 28, who hails from Kakamega is a rising star. She is rekindling the good old days when Oserian Stadium was a slaughterhouse for top dogs in the Premier League.

Shikobe is a role model for other upcoming young women seeking to play in the national team. She was named captain this year in a move that caught her by surprise.

“I least expected to be selected as Harambee Starlets captain. I am happy the management of the team has bestowed on me the onus. It is a clear indication that my talent is growing because it never crossed my mind that at one time I will ever become the captain,” said the mother of one.

“My appointment as the captain of Starlets is an opportunity to develop my leadership skills as I perfect my playing skills.”

But what did the management of Starlets see in her?

“I think what they saw in me is hard work, self-discipline and total devotion to the game among the other factors,” Shikobe said, adding that the armband comes with a lot of pressure.

“After the coach has done his part, the remaining critical part goes to the captain who must guide the team to victory on the pitch,” said Shikobe.

She decried the low support the team is receiving from the government. “The government should release money for national teams so that players can go to camp early and gel.”

PRO DREAMS

The sixth born in a family of 10 – five boys and five girls - said her dream is to play professional football in South Africa and Europe.

“I don’t want my God-given talent to go down the drain. I want more than just playing in the domestic league and a few international matches. I want to exploit my full potential and I can only do that by playing in top-flight leagues in countries with established women football leagues. That is my ultimate dream. I hope it comes true before I reach the peak of my career in the next couple of years.”

Shikobe said her most memorable moment was when Starlets won this year’s Cecafa Senior Women’s Challenge Cup in Tanzania. Starlets scored a record 24 goals and guided the team to victory without conceding a goal.

Harambee Starlets Captain Dorcus Shikobe (with the trophy) leads teammates in a trophy parade of the Cecafa Women Championships along Mombasa Road on November 26, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Starlets beat Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Queens 2-0 to win the regional trophy in the final match played at Chamazi Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

“There is joy of winning a Cup as a player. There is long-lasting joy when you win a coveted Cup as a national team captain. The Cecafa win remains my happiest moment as a player,” Shikobe said.

Since the inception of the Cecafa Women’s Senior Challenge Cup tournament in Zanzibar 33 years ago, Kenya had never won the title and their best position was runners- up in 2015 in Uganda.

It was a historical moment in the young player’s career when the glittering Cup came home under her captaincy.

“I am so delighted that when the history of Harambee Starlets and women Cecafa tournament would be finally written, I will occupy a chapter as the first ever captain to lead the team to victory,” Shikobe said.

“I felt my qualities as a captain were working well for the national team after the Cecafa win.”

PRESSURE

Shikobe said as the captain, she takes the flak when the team is underperforming.

“The coach is on your neck when the team is performing poorly. When the team loses matches, you are required to answer tough questions,” she said.

Shikobe said her lowest moment was last month when Harambee Starlets were knocked of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifying phase after losing 1-0 (3-2 on aggregate) to Zambia’s Shepolopolo.

“After drawing in the first leg in Nairobi, I was upbeat that come the return leg in Lusaka we shall win but lady luck did not smile on us. I have never been so crestfallen and I took a long time to come to terms with the reality that we are out of the Olympic qualifiers,” she said.

Starlets drew 2-2 in Nairobi but in a return match in Lusaka their dreams to secure a final round to the Olympics were dashed when Zambian striker Lushomo Mweemba struck the winner.

“Our training was not well coordinated. We went to camp for four days yet we had not been together for a long time like our Zambian opponents who were in camp for a long period.” said Shikobe.

Harambee Starlets defender Dorcas Shikobe (left) vies with Zambia forward Barbra Banda during their fourth round Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifiers at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on November 8, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Starlets booked a place in the fourth round after shocking Ghana with a 0-0 win in Accra and in the return match they won 1-0.

Earlier, Starlets had drawn 1-1 with Ethiopia in the first leg in Addis Ababa and in the return leg in Nairobi they won 1-0.

Shikobe said that the 4-0 thrashing by Nigeria Super Falcons in the Africa Cup of Nations campaign was the most embarrassing defeat as a national team player.

Shikobe started playing competitive football at Thika Queens after completing her Form Four studies at Kilingili High School in Kakamega County.

She has been one of Harambee Starlets core defenders. Her shielding, heading and tackling abilities pushes offensive players off the ball.

Shikobe was a dependable player at Thika Queens and at one time she was unanimously named the team’s best player.

She caught the eye of scouts from Oserian who recruited her to the club in 2015.

Initially, she was an attacking player.

“It’s not easy to accomplish what I have a done. In my opinion, when you have a dream and you really pursue it and focus ahead, then it becomes a reality in the shortest possible time,” Shikobe told Nation Sport in an interview at Oserian Stadium.

“If you want something and tirelessly work for it, then it is just a matter of time before it happens. After all, they say, God’s time is the best.”

The football bug bit Shikobe while at Emulunya Primary School in Kakamega County at the tender age of 10.

“I was the only child in my family who fell in love with football. After school, I would join boys and play football and that is how I sharpened my skills early,” she said.

When Shikobe started playing football, little did she know that one day she would rise to the position she holds. The player, who earned her first national call-up in 2015, has been a regular in the national team.

“Prior to making a ‘permanent’ slot in the national team, I had received many call-ups but I was dropped at the last minute. It was not easy to get a position in the team due to stiff competition,” said Shikobe.

She attributes her success to support she has been receiving from her employer - Oserian Company.

“I have managed because the company takes the welfare of its workers at heart and gives me support to train and time out to join the national team,” she said.

This was supported by her team manager Alfred Otieno who said Shikobe is a very disciplined player with a bright future.

“Her commitment enabled her employer Oserian give her a permanent job and she has never disappointed,” said Otieno.

Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma praised the team captain as a diligent and formidable player.

“Shikobe is outstanding. Despite being young, she is focused. She has proved her talent. She guided Starlets to their first ever Cecafa Cup. She has a bright future,” he said.

Ouma said Shikobe’s work ethics are top-notch. “This is one player I would wish to make it to the professional ranks. She has what it takes to make it.”

Although Oserian is yet to win the Women’s Premier League title, Shikobe remains optimistic that the club, which is the flagbearer from South Rift Valley, will clinch the title. She said her main objective is to make sure Oserian regains its lost glory.

Shikobe starts her training programme at 5pm and ends it at 6.30pm. “It is not easy to balance the work schedule and my training,” she said.

Shikobe is a great admirer of Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga who currently plays for Japanese second-tier team Kashiwa Reysol.

“One day I would love to be a star like Olunga and score classic goals like him. I love his goal poaching skills.”

She said she is motivated as she is seen as a role model by young players. Her mother Mary Christine Afwande is her biggest fan.

“My mother has encouraged me to pursue football. I keep her updated. I believe her prayers have shielded me from injuries,” said Shikobe.