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Kenya Junior Starlets make history by qualifying for FIFA U17 Women's World Cup

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-06-17 09:57
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NAIROBI -- The Kenya Under-17 women's team made history on Sunday by becoming the first national team ever to qualify for a football World Cup.

This achievement followed their 5-0 aggregate victory over Burundi in the fourth and final round of the 2024 FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup qualifiers played in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

Anticipation filled the air as a sellout crowd packed the stadium, with Kenya carrying a commanding 3-0 lead from the first leg played in Addis Ababa a week ago.

The crowd erupted when Marion Serenge opened the scoring in the 17th minute, giving Kenya an early lead. Just four minutes later, Valerie Nekesa doubled the advantage for a 2-0 lead at the break.

The Junior Starlets kept Burundi at bay in the second half, ending the match 2-0 for a 5-0 victory over two legs.

"It's a big moment in Kenya, being a part of the team that makes history and being the first team to qualify for the World Cup. It's a big moment for the players, for us as the technical bench and the country," Starlets head coach, Mildred Cheche said at the post-match press conference.

"This is the first time we are experiencing this. We are more motivated to even go and perform better at the World Cup," she added, noting her side had the depth to do well at the global tournament finals.

The historic qualification was a moment to savor for embattled Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa, who stated the achievement was a reward for his administration's focus on women's football.

"It's a great day, it's been in the works for ten years. In 2016, we took our women to the Africa Women's Cup of Nations (AWCON) for the first time. Women's football in Kenya is the single biggest area of growth," Mwendwa said.

"We missed the last (senior women's) World Cup in Australia and New Zealand because we were suspended. The girls are not there yet but they know how to win," the federation chief added.

Kenya joins Nigeria and Zambia as the three African teams that will play in the Under-17 Women's World Cup in the Dominican Republic in October. The Junior Starlets are the second East African team to qualify for the Under-17 Women's World Cup, following neighbors Tanzania, who made the 2022 finals in India.

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