Will Kenya’s Junior Starlets take us to the Promised Land?

Kenya vs Ethiopia

Kenyan defender Valarie Nekesa (right) tackles Mitike Astatke of Ethiopia during the 2024 Fifa Under-17 Women's World Cup third-round first-leg qualifying match at Abebe Bikila Stadium in Addis Ababa.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Kenya has arrived at its Kadesh Barnea.
  • Only one round against Burundi stands in our way.

Three thousand years ago, the Israelites picked up their horns, pipes, lyres, harps and tambourines and danced triumphantly out of Egypt.

It was the first time they tasted freedom after 358 years, during which they were treated no different from the Kenyan women’s football teams.

Like the teams in the local women’s leagues, the Israelites were exposed to hard labour with no pay - slavery.

Like these teams that are severely underfunded, Israelites were mistreated, discriminated against and condemned to a life of poverty and suffering.

Worse, they were denied an exit pass to the promised land which God had promised to their ancestors.

Under 17 World Cup

But after 400 years, God came through for them. He visited 10 deadly plagues in Egypt, and as soon as the Egyptian firstborn sons began falling dead, King Pharaoh gave in and allowed them to go.

The good Lord even opened for them the Red Sea and guided them towards the land where would dwell in freedom and happiness.

But when they reached Kadesh Barnea, on the border with Canaan, things became elephant, as we say in the streets. The spies they sent ahead returned with startling news.

The people who occupied Canaan were giants, and there was no way they could defeat them and take the land. Anxiety and fear swiftly took over, and they started wailing, “The Lord should have allowed us to die in Egypt!”

In anger, God caused them to wander in the wilderness for another 40 years until that ungrateful generation had all died before allowing them to enter the Promised Land.

Kenya has arrived at its Kadesh Barnea. Junior Starlets have one foot firmly in the Under 17 World Cup, which will be played in the Dominican Republic in October.

The Promised Land

Only one round against Burundi stands in our way. This is probably the closest our country has ever gotten to qualifying for a football World Cup.

The question is whether the team will rise to the occasion and make a maiden appearance at the World Cup – our Canaan – or go back to the wilderness of stagnation, half victories, and inconsequential wins.

All other top teams received byes to the second round, where Kenya was paired against DR Congo. The Congolese opponents withdrew, and Kenya advanced to the third round, where Ethiopia lay in wait.

The Ethiopians had qualified by eliminating South Africa on a 3-0 aggregate, but against Kenya, they showed no teeth. Starlets held them to a 0-0 draw in Addis and hammered them 3-0 in Nairobi.

Burundi is our Kadesh Barnea. Will we proceed with courage to the Promised Land or head back into the wilderness?