Harambee Starlets set to face Cameroon in high-stakes Cup of Nations qualifier


FOOTBALL Harambee Starlets set to face Cameroon in high-stakes Cup of Nations qualifier

Festus Chuma 09:00 - 22.09.2023

Kenya face Cameroon in a pivotal WAFCON qualifier, seeking to rewrite history and secure a spot in the tournament.

National women's football team, Harambee Starlets, is set to take on Cameroon in the 2024 Africa Women's Cup of Nations (WAFCON) qualifiers. 

The first leg of this pivotal encounter is scheduled for Friday, September 22, at the renowned Reunification Stadium in Douala, Cameroon.

Harambee Starlets have been absent from the international stage since their 2022 WAFCON qualification match against South Sudan in Nairobi. Initially, they were slated to face Uganda, but that match was called off due to Kenya facing suspension from the world governing body FIFA. Furthermore, a friendly match against Albania in March was canceled, citing logistical challenges.

Despite these setbacks, Starlets' coach Beldine Odemba remains optimistic about the team's prospects in Cameroon.

"We are very much prepared for our first leg match. I'm highly impressed with the players' performance during our two weeks in camp. My squad consists of both experienced and inexperienced players who have blended well. We are determined to secure victory in both matches,” she told reporters.

The upcoming encounter holds special significance for Harambee Starlets, as they aim to rectify historical disparities in their head-to-head record against the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon. 

The two teams have met four times previously in international friendlies and Women's AFCON Qualifiers, with varied outcomes.

Their first meeting occurred on July 22, 2006, during the African Women's Championship qualifiers at the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi. Harambee Starlets faced a daunting defeat, succumbing to the Indomitable Lionesses with a 4-0 scoreline.

 A few weeks later, on August 4, 2006, the return leg in Yaounde Omnisport Stadium saw Starlets endure a crushing 5-0 defeat, marking their most significant loss in football history.

On October 22, 2016, the Indomitable Lionesses continued to dominate, securing a 1-0 victory against Harambee Starlets in a friendly game at the Kasarani Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi. 

However, on November 6, 2016, Harambee Starlets celebrated their first-ever goal against the Lionesses in another friendly at the Yaounde Omnisport Stadium. Nevertheless, their joy was short-lived, as the Lionesses mounted a comeback to secure a 2-1 victory.

As the anticipation builds for this crucial encounter, all eyes will be on Harambee Starlets to see if they can turn the tide and emerge as the aggregate winners of the two-legged qualifier. 

Should they achieve this feat, they will advance to the second round, where they will face either Gabon or Botswana. This second round is scheduled to take place between November 27 and December 5.

The ultimate prize at stake for the victor of the second round is automatic qualification for the Grand Finale, which will be hosted in Morocco for the second consecutive time. 

Morocco, as the North African host nation, has already secured a place among the final 12 teams vying for the coveted title. These teams will be determined to dethrone the defending champions, Banyana Banyana of South Africa.