Junior Starlets coach Mildred Cheche's huge worry after sealing maiden U17 World Cup qualification

Junior Starlets coach Mildred Cheche's huge worry after sealing maiden U17 World Cup qualification

Mark Kinyanjui 12:33 - 17.06.2024

The World Cup will be taking place in October, but the KCSE exams will be taking place in November, which is likely to cause problems as most of the team consists of form four students.

Coach Mildred Cheche Raises Concerns as Junior Starlets Make Historic World Cup QualificationThe Kenya National U-17 women’s team, the Junior Starlets, has made history by becoming the first Kenyan football team to qualify for a World Cup. 

They secured their spot in the U-17 Women's World Cup, set to be held in the Dominican Republic in October, by defeating Burundi 2-0 on the day and 5-0 on aggregate.

 First-half goals from Marion Serenge and Valerie Nekesa at the Ulinzi Sports Complex sealed their dominant performance, completing their journey to the World Cup without conceding a single goal.

However, amid the celebrations, head coach Mildred Cheche has voiced a significant concern regarding the timing of the tournament and its clash with the national education calendar. 

The spine of the team consists of several form four students who are scheduled to sit for their KCSE exams in November, raising fears that the team might be decimated just like the U20 side coached by Beldine Odemba last year.

In her post-match sentiments, Coach Cheche addressed the potential impact of the exam schedule on the team’s World Cup participation. 

“I think the Ministry of Education is working on something with the Football Kenya Federation,” Cheche said. 

“They have remedial classes. They are going to have to do some special exams. We are hoping to see if the form fours in the group will be able to sit exams after the rest [of the country] so that they can be able to participate at the World Cup.”

To prepare for the World Cup, the Junior Starlets will spend three weeks in Spain. This preparation period is crucial for the team as they aim to compete at the highest level in the Caribbean later this year.

Cheche also praised the spirit and determination within the camp, highlighting the unique camaraderie that has propelled the team to this historic achievement.

 “Most of them come from very different backgrounds and they are very spiritual. They come together, pray to God, sing so much. They motivate each other on and off the pitch,” she explained.

The coach emphasized the players' drive to make history, noting that the desire to be the first Kenyan team to qualify for a World Cup fueled their performances.

 “They had the urge to be the first team ever to qualify for the tournament. They have never qualified for anything before. They have never been on a platform as high as the World Cup before.”

Cheche believes that this historic win sends a powerful message to other Kenyan teams about the possibilities within reach with proper structures and investment.

 “This win will be able to tell the other teams that anything is possible. With proper structures and investment, I believe we will be able to qualify for the World Cup,” she concluded.

The Junior Starlets' journey to the World Cup is a landmark achievement for Kenyan football, but it also highlights the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that young athletes can balance their academic and sporting aspirations effectively. 

As the team prepares to take on the world in the Dominican Republic, the hope is that a solution will be found to allow all players to participate without compromising their education.

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