•When he was elected into office in 2016, President Nick Mwendwa remained adamant that Kenya will make it to the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
•Twenty players were then selected to form the U13 national team, which was drafted into the annual Southampton Cup in England in August 2017
An elaborate structure has been put in place by Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to help Kenya’s quest to qualify for the 2026 World Cup in North America.
The plan includes the constitution of the U13, U15, U17, U20 and U23 national football teams, according to Football Kenya Federation’s roadmap.
While Harambee Stars have been grouped in a reasonable pool for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers alongside Uganda, Togo and Rwanda ,the federation sees the next World Cup after the Qatar one as the most realistic for Kenya.
When he was elected into office in 2016 President Nick Mwendwa, remained adamant that Kenya will make it to the 2026 Fifa World Cup. The Mwendwa-led administration, which has been in office for four years now, planned to achieve the tall order by starting the U13/15 Youth Leagues.
Upon coming into office in 2016, the new FKF regime resorted to sorting out youth structures that barely got attention in the past. The federation established U13 and U15 youth leagues in close to 56 of the 84 sub branches. Close to 30,000 players from 1,500 teams across the country had a chance to showcase their talent.
These leagues gave birth to the U13/15 Youth Championship, whose first edition was held in Nakuru in April 2017. The championship, won by a Nairobi Select team, brought together the top performing players from eight regions across the country.
Twenty players were then selected to form the U13 national team, which was drafted into the annual Southampton Cup in England in August 2017. The team came up against top European academies and came back home with the Shield trophy as well as an experience of a lifetime.
Following the junior stars’ exploits in England, there was need to keep the players actively playing football. This necessitated the conceptualisation of Centres of Excellence, where the players would not only play together but also study together.
In 2018, the players were enrolled at the Juja Preparatory School and the Laiser Hill Academy, courtesy of a partnership between FKF and the institutions. Come January 2019, FKF resorted to putting in more resources for the National Centre of Excellence, where 30 players are housed on a homeschooling program.
The players hold daily training sessions at the Wadi Degla Club in Runda, a state of the art facility that boasts of an 11-a-side astro-turf pitch, fully equipped gym and swimming pool among other amenities. The players also partake online classes during the day.
“I have always wanted to be a professional footballer, Joining the Centre of Excellence is a dream come true for me. Last year, I was invited to Tottenham and for sure ,I'm looking forward to soon joining the Tottenham Academy and to play for the senior team in future,”said Teddy Sirma, a key player in the national youth set up.
“It’s always a pleasure going for sessions under top conditions with my fellow players. It is also good that I am able to further my studies while pursuing what I love,” concluded the gifted youngster.
The team came second at the 2019 Cecafa U15 Championships in Eritrea, their first podium finish at international level.
Earlier in April 2019, the team had taken part in the Mediterranean International Cup in Costa Brava, Spain, where they bowed out in the quarter-finals of the consolation stage, at the hands of top French Academy Clairefontaine.
Locally, the team takes part in the FKF Elite League, whose first edition they won in November 2019. Up next is a second appearance at the Mediterranean international Cup in Spain in April this year,where they will be hoping to better last year’s performance.
The team leaves for Valencia, Spain on April 1, 2020, where they will have three training sessions and a friendly match before they head to Costa Brava for the tourney.
The Junior Stars will also be taking part in the Cecafa U-17 tournament as well as the Africa U17 Cup of Nations qualifiers later this year.