Why we must all support Junior Starlets

Midfilder Joan Ogola of Junior Starlets of Kenya (right) vying for the ball with Ethiopia defender Mahelet Mitiku during the 2024 Fifa Under-17 Women's World Cup qualifier match at Ulinzi Sports Complex in Nairobi.
Photo credit: Pool

If you have hope in surplus and are looking for a place to place it, try the Junior Starlets. This team is made up of girls aged no more than 17 years. This weekend, they will launch their campaign for a place at the Under 17 World Cup, which will be played in the Dominican Republic in October this year.

Yes, you heard that right. That’s the World Cup and Kenya in the same sentence. And I'm asking you to place a bet on the Kenyans. No, I didn’t forget myself. I know, I know. There is nothing groundbreaking that would suggest that Kenya’s performance at that level is about to change for the better. No modern, world-class facility has recently been built for the benefit of these teenagers, and the team has not undergone any intense incubation or special talent development over the years that would make one believe that they are suddenly World Cup material. 

Indeed, they have been through the same struggles as every other team and only got into a residential camp a little over a week ago. But hear me out. Only two rounds stand between the team and qualification to the coveted global showpiece, meaning if they can get past Ethiopia today, they will have one leg in. This is probably the closest our country has ever gotten to qualifying for a football World Cup. And if you’ve been following the local game, you know that Kenyan women’s football teams have performed better than the men, especially in such big competitions. 

The Junior Starlets entered this competition alongside 24 other African teams and were to go through four rounds to qualify. The first round was played only by the two lowest-ranked teams in football in the continent - Mauritius and Central African Republic. All other teams received byes to the second round, where Kenya was paired against DR Congo. 

The Congolese opponents withdrew from the competition at the last minute, and Kenya advanced to the third round, while Ethiopia qualified after eliminating South Africa on a 3-0 aggregate.

That is where the luck ends. Today, they will have to put up a good show, and Burundi or Djibouti, ranked below Kenya, will be waiting in the next and final round. See why I am so confident? You should be too. 

The strategy is simple and has remained the same since the Neanderthal man. Try for a win away by all means, then defend that win with everything you’ve got at home. Simple. But not quite. The problem is that Kenyan football has a culture. The culture of average. The gospel preached is mediocrity. Good enough are the two most quoted words in that unholy book, so you never know. That said, the return leg is scheduled for May 19 in Nairobi, so go support this World Cup-bound team.