Kenya's women's team a 'victim' of conflict

2 months ago 3171
Kenya flagKenya's hopes of playing at the African Women's Cup of Nations in July are over

Kenya's women's football team is a "victim" of an ongoing conflict between Kenya's Football Federation (FKF) and the Kenyan government, according to players' union Fifpro and its Kenyan counterpart KEFWA.

The Women's Nations Cup takes place in Morocco from 2 to 23 July.

The Harambee Starlets were set to face neighbours Uganda in qualifiers on 17 and 22 February, but the FKF secretary general Barry Otieno informed the Confederation of African Football (Caf) that Kenya would not be able to fulfil the fixtures.

In a letter dated 20 January, seen by BBC Sport Africa, Otieno told Caf "the federation is unable to independently plan and successfully execute any international matches." Caf responded by confirming that Uganda would be handed a walkover, earning a ticket to the finals in Morocco.

There has been uncertainty over who is running Kenyan football since an interim committee was appointed by the government in November.

Sports minister Amina Mohamed set up the caretaker committee after an investigation revealed financial irregularities at the FKF.

The FKF say that decision has 'incapacitated the federation's operations' since staff were denied access to their office.

Fifa does not look kindly at government interference and has banned countries from all forms of football in the past as a result.

Harambee Starlets' disappointment

Players expressed disappointment at missing out on the qualifiers through no fault of their own, after their camp was disbanded on Wednesday.

"It is unfortunate what we've been preparing won't take place," Kenya's captain Corazzone Aquino said, having been in camp with the team since 26 January ahead of the Uganda double-header.

The FKF caretaker committee chairman, Aaron Ringera has accused Otieno of lacking patriotism after his letter to Caf, calling it a "selfish act and an afront on our women who worked so hard to be where they are today."

"Immediately after that letter went to Caf, the FKF caretaker committee wrote to Caf on 30 January 2022, indicating its readiness to host qualifiers and requesting for the decision to be rescinded, but Caf is yet to get back to the caretaker committee.

"Having exhausted all avenues, as a committee, we are now sadly left with no other option but to disband camp and allow the girls to go back home," Ringera added.

The committee, who say they will not let something like this happen again, have now asked Kenya's Directorate of Criminal Investigations to question the FKF secretary general over the saga. Otieno is set to appear before the DCI on Monday 21 February.

Kenya last played at a Women's Nations Cup in 2016 and despite missing an opportunity for a potential second appearance, team captain Aquino says they will not give up.

"We keep our focus and keep our hope for the best in future," Aquino said.

11 teams will qualify from this round of matches and will join Morocco for the July tournament which will be the 12th edition after the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.

The top four teams from the women's tournament will earn automatic qualification to next year's Fifa Women's World Cup.

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