Women’s football forgotten as the game resumes

Oserian Ladies midfielder Milah Sungu (left) vies with Kayole Starlets midfielder Hellen Akinyi during their Kenya Women Premier League (KWPL) match at Nairobi Stima Club on July 21, 2019.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • It must be heartbreaking for local female footballers, I imagine, to view such posts knowing well that no similar plans have been made for them
  • Without an ongoing league and with no plans whatsoever to keep the female footballers fit and active, do we expect them to perform well in the qualifiers?
  • As Margaret Omondi gets her feet properly under the table, I hope she will prioritise this issue and ensure that female footballers are not forgotten


All indications are that the local men’s top football league, the Kenyan Premier League, will commence before end of this year, but are there similar preparations for the resumption of the women’s game?

Across social media handles of most KPL teams, there are pictures showing players taking Covid-19 tests, teams doing pre-season preparations in isolated locations and getting in tip-top shape ahead of the start of the league.

It must be heartbreaking for local female footballers, I imagine, to view such posts knowing well that no similar plans have been made for them. It must be even more disheartening to know that even when the league finally begins, sometime in the unforeseeable future, they will have to go back to the grassless pitches they are accustomed to and wear the same oversize playing kits from last season, and that they will not be whisked away to a secret high altitude location for pre-season training.

I have attended a number of grassroots football tournaments, the latest being the farewell tournament for departed national women’s team coach Rosemary Adhiambo a fortnight ago where I thoroughly enjoyed watching the likes of Mwanalima Dogo and other national team players doing their thing on the pitch.

That was exactly a week after the men’s national team hosted Zambia in a friendly match, and although Dogo didn’t directly address the issue of discrimination in our brief conversation, it wasn’t hard to see that she yearned to get back to playing competitive football. Many will argue that the men’s team had to be kept active in light of the upcoming Afcon qualifiers against Comoros, but this doesn’t wash because qualifiers for the maiden Caf Women’s Champions League are just around the corner.

Without an ongoing league and with no plans whatsoever to keep the female footballers fit and active, do we expect them to perform well in the qualifiers?

I have been greatly impressed by organisers of the Nigerian women’s football league, who announced this week that the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) will start on December 9, and will be played in a straight league format for the first time in five years. Winners of the 2020/21 season will represent Nigeria at West African Football Union qualifiers for next season’s Caf Women Champions League. All sporting activities in Nigeria had been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the announcement, NWFL becomes the first league body in Nigeria to release the season fixtures since the ban on contact sports was lifted early this month. Now that’s a federation with a plan and a vision for its women footballers.

Luckily, as of October 17 when the Football Kenya Federation elections were held, Kenyan female footballers now have a point guard at the National Executive Council. As Margaret Omondi gets her feet properly under the table, I hope she will prioritise this issue and ensure that female footballers are not forgotten as the federation prepares for the resumption of football activities.

colilo@ke.nationmedia.com

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