In our days we only gathered for friendlies, says ex-Starlets captain Nabwire

Doreen Nabwire
Doreen Nabwire
Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation

Former Harambee Starlets captain Doreen Nabwire says the women's game in the country has grown in leaps and bounds and it is not surprising that Kenya's Junior Starlets qualified for the 2024 Fifa Under-17 Women's World Cup.

Junior Starlets wrote history when they thrashed Burundi 2-0 in their fourth round qualifier return leg at Ulinzi Sports Complex, Nairobi for an emphatic 5-0 aggregate win to secure the first ever ticket to a Fifa World Cup for Kenya.

Speaking at NTV sports talk show SportOn! hosted by Bernard Ndong and James Wokabi on Monday, Nabwire said that it was fulfilling to see the juniors achieve what she and her peers could not.

"I played football for 18 years but only represented the national team six times, a modest record for a professional player. We were overlooked back then, with our efforts often unnoticed," said Nabwire, who is also the Head of Leagues and Competitions at Football Kenya Federation. 

She made her debut for Starlets in 2001 at the age of 15 in a friendly match against Ethiopia.

"During our days, we only gathered for friendly matches with no clear objectives. We had considerable talent, but without the opportunities these young players have today," added Nabwire, who made history in 2009 by becoming the first Kenyan woman to play professional football in Europe.

She said qualifying for the World Cup is a turning point for many of the players. Parents have also sacrificed to allow their daughters in the Junior Starlets team to attend camp when they should be in school.

As the federations chief of leagues and competition, Nabwire, 36, is responsible for all competitions, including the Women's Premier League and Women's Division One League.

She also sits on the Fifa Technical Advisory Committee representing women in football development matters.

To help grow women football in the country, Nabwire reckoned: "We need partners to come on board and support women's sports to ensure continuous success and the league's sustainability. Starting from the 2024/2025 season, if the head coach is male in the men's premier league, they must have a female assistant coach, a women's team, and appoint a female coach as well," said Nabwire.

Nabwire made her professional debut for SV Werder Bremen in the Germany Second Division in 2009. 

Before transfering to PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands's Eredivisie Women the following year.

She doubled as a player and team manager for Harambee Starlets at the 2016 Cecafa Women's Championship. The teamn lost to Tanzania in the final.

She was part of the Starlets squad that qualified for the 2016 Wafcon in Cameroon for the first time in the country's history.

Since 2016, she has been holding a key administrative role at the FKF, including working as the Women's Football Development Officer and Director of Women's football.

Notably, Nabwire is the elder sister of Eric Yohanna, who plays for Harambee Stars, and Christine Nafula, who plays for Harambee Starlets and Kastoria GPO in the Greek A Division.

Her elder brothers, Felix Oucho and Anthony Kadudu, have played for several local teams including FKF Premier League side Tusker FC.