Kenya Junior Starlets through to Fifa U-17 World Cup

Junior Starlets

Junior Starlets players after their victory over Burundi in a Fifa U-17 Women World Cup qualifiers on June 16, 2024 at Ulinzi Sports Complex.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

Kenya Under-17 football team has made history, becoming the country’s first football team to ever qualify for the Fifa World Cup.

On Sunday, June 16, Junior Starlets beat Burundi 2-0 in the return leg match of the fourth round of 2024 Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup qualifiers for a 5-0 aggregate win. The team has qualified for the 2024 Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup, which will be played from October 16 to November 3 this year in the Dominican Republic.

With a healthy 3-0 lead from the first leg played at the Abebe Bikila Stadium in Addis Ababa on June 9, the Junior Starlets, coached by Mildred Cheche, went into the match as heavy favourites.

Kenya has now joined Zambia and Nigeria in qualifying for the 2024 Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup after a 5-0 aggregate win against Burundi in the return leg match of the fourth round of the qualifiers played at Ulinzi Sports Complex in Nairobi on Sunday afternoon.

Kenya won 2-0

In the first leg of the match that was played on June 8, 2024, at Abebe Bikila Stadium in Ethiopia, Kenya won 3-0 with goals from Lorna Faith, midfielder Marion Serenge, and substitute Susan Akoth scored in the 11th, 43rd, and 71st minutes respectively.

In the second leg, Kenya won 2-0 on Sunday with goals from strikers Marion Seerenge and Valarie Nekesa in the 16th and 20th minutes respectively.

Kenya started the match strongly as Lorna Faith tested Burundi goalkeeper Clairia Nshimirimana with a stunning shot early on in the first minute, only for her goal to be disallowed for offside.

Another chance for Kenya came in the eighth minute from Marion Serenges’ cross but striker Nekesa was called for another offside.

Kenya Junior Starlets

Kenya Junior Starlets at Ulinzi Sports Complex in Nairobi on June 16, 2024, ahead of their match against Burundi.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

Despite some promising moments, Burundi struggled to break through Kenya’s defence consisting of Captain Elizabeth Ochaka leading the defence of Christine Adhiambo, Kimberly Akinyi, and Lorine Ilavonga.

The Kenyan goalkeeper, Velma Auma, had an easy afternoon with no significant scoring chances for Burundi. Kenya remained strong in the attack, preventing any Burundian comeback in the second half.

Dominate the match

In the second half, Kenya made a first substitution as Mitchel Waithera Muthama made her debut as a substitute for Nekesa. Two minutes later Burundi made a substitution bringing in Chanceline Akimana for Daniella Kahindo, but Kenya continued to dominate the match.

Starlets coach Mildred Cheche now becomes the first ever football team to qualify to play in the World Cup for the first time in the history of women's football, the attendance at Complex which accommodates 10,000 fans was full to the brim.

 ‘’I am absolutely thrilled and deeply honoured for this remarkable achievement of being the pioneering team in Kenya to secure a spot in the World Cup. My heartfelt congratulations go out to the players, the coaching staff, and all those who stood by us throughout this incredible journey. This milestone holds tremendous significance for our nation, and we view it as a true blessing,” said Cheche.

Cheche added, “At this moment, we will take a break but generally we want to improve tactically ahead of the tournament. We want to go there to compete and not only to participate with the biggest teams in the continent.” Jacqueline Munezero, the assistant coach of Burundi, asserted that the state of the field hindered their ability to secure substantial points against Kenya.

 “The poor condition of the field made it challenging to maintain control over the ball. Nonetheless, we remain undeterred, as we will return home to address the areas that require improvement in our preparation for the tournament,” stated Munezero.

Valeries Nekesa

Kenya Junior Starlets' Valeries Nekesa celebrates her goal against Burundi during Fifa Under 17 Women World Cup qualifiers match on June 16, 2024 at Ulinzi Sports Complex.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

 Kenya had received a bye in the first round but proceeded to the second round to face the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who later withdrew from the tournament before kicking a ball.

In the third round, Kenya won 3-0 on aggregate against Ethiopia last month.

Speaking after the match on Sunday, Sports Cs Ababu Namwaba said they already have in place to have a good training before heading to the World Cup.

“We needed a confirmation, demonstration that Talanta works and that investing in talent works and the Junior Starlets have given us that confirmation. It is four months down to the World Cup and I want these girls to enjoy the moment. We have been invited to a dinner Gala with their parents tonight so that we can celebrate together. We have identified a place for three weeks of training, and we want to make Africa proud,” said Ababu.

“This work has been ongoing for 10 years. It’s unusual for a women’s football match to attract such a large crowd. I hope that fans will continue supporting women’s football, as their support is crucial for its success. In September, we will send them to Spain for three weeks of training,” said Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa.