Women’s football club seeks to win the Zone B league

PALOS LADIES 1: Palos Ladies FC soccer team group photo before a past match. Photo courtesy of palosfc.org
PALOS LADIES 1: Palos Ladies FC soccer team group photo before a past match. Photo courtesy of palosfc.org

Football is a sport that has long been associated with boys and men especially in Kenya. As such, many are not aware that the Women’s Football League in Kenya, which was first created in 1985 exists.

Due to much concentration on the men’s football league and lack of sponsorship, the women’s league has been on and off.

The Women’s League, however, got a new lease of life, when Nick Mwendwa was elected chairman of the Federation of Kenya Football (FKF) in February last year. The League is now up and running with a total of 16 clubs taking part.

Zones

The League is divided into Kenya Women Premier League Zone A and B. Zone A comprises of Thika Queens, Makolanders, Mombasa Olympic, Soccer Queens, Mathare United, Spedag FC, Kayole Starlets and Soccer Sisters.

Zone B consists of teams from the Western region namely  Vihiga Queens FC, Oserian, Kisumu based Palos Ladies FC, Wadadia, Eldoret Falcon, Vihiga Leeds FC, Bulemia FC and Nyamira County Starlets.

Kisumu based Palos Ladies FC is the only team from Luo Nyanza participating in the women premier league. The team’s head coach Juma Saidi is a man on a mission. He wants to win the Women Premier League Zone B title this year.

“We want to win this league. We are not here to be taken as pushovers. We want to win it despite the fact that this is our maiden season in the league,” said Juma confidently.

By the time of going to press, Palos Ladies FC had played six matches in the Women Premier League Zone B, winning three and drawing three. They were lying third on the log with nine points, behind leaders Vihiga Queens FC with 15 points and second placed Oserian Ladies with 13 points.

“We are doing well in the league. These girls are willing to go all the way as far as winning the league is concerned,” said the coach.

The team which was formed almost two years ago was promoted to the Kenya Women Premier League, after being among the best performers in the Maisha County League launched by Federation of Kenya Football last year.

Founder

According to Palos FC.org, the name Palos is derived from the name of the late Pius Alois Okello, who together with his wife Dr Elizabeth Mary Okello founded Makini School, a leading educational institution in Kenya.

Apart from the ladies team, there is Palos FC men team. The male team is taking part in the Kenyan second tier league dubbed National Super League (NSL).

The Club’s site say that Palos FC President Mr Joseph Okello — Director of Makini School — together with the Club Chairman Mr Patrick Imbuga — Head teacher Makini School Kisumu — felt the need for the disadvantaged and vulnerable youth to be re-integrated as productive members of society.

Most of the youth in Palos come from under privileged background and, therefore, have had limited access to higher education. Palos Football Club creates a platform for the youth to nurture and showcase their talent.

It also gives them an opportunity to gain knowledge and acquire life skills. The players also get training on entrepreneurship, technology and wellness.

Coach Juma Saidi said that ‘his girls’ have undergone top notch training, insisting it is even difficult to differentiate them from the male team whenever they descend on a football pitch.

Players

Palos Ladies FC captain Winnie Okelo during a past training session at the Jomo Kenyatta stadium.  Photo courtesy of palosfc.org

Palos Ladies FC captain Winnie Okelo during a past training session at the Jomo Kenyatta stadium. Photo courtesy of palosfc.org

They decided to form the ladies team after realizing the need to give girls talented in soccer a chance to nurture and grow their talent.

He said his team currently has 24 players all from within Kisumu County. Twenty two of them are form four leavers, while two are still in high school. “One of them is a student at Magadi High School while the other is a student at Highway High School,” he said.

Palos Ladies FC players train at the Kisumu Jomo Kenyatta Stadium between 11am and 1pm every week day, while weekends are dedicated for league matches. The team hosts home matches at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu.

The coach said that due to lack of sponsorship, the players do not get salaries but receive winning allowances.

“The winning bonus has been increasing with each win. When we won the first league game, each player received a bonus of KSh500, the second win came with a KSh1,000 bonus while the third match attracted a KSh1,500 winning bonus and this is set to increase if we do win the next match,” he explained.

Support

He said that they can call themselves Palos Ladies FC because parents of the players they have support them. However, they blame Kisumu County government of not doing enough to uplift sports especially ladies football in the county.

He thanked Federation of Kenya Football leadership for ensuring that there’s an active Women Premier League in the country. “My only appeal to them is to invest in ladies soccer academies so that we can have a pool of female soccer players in the country not only to represent various clubs, but also the Kenya Women National Soccer team (Harambee Starlets),” he said.

Last November, Harambee Starlets participated in the Africa Women Cup of Nations held in Cameroon. It was the first time Kenyan women were taking part in a major African soccer tournament.

The team which was on learning mission lost all the three group B matches against continental powerhouses Mali, Nigeria and Ghana.

Winnie Achieng Okello is the captain of Palos Ladies FC. She has been with the team since early last year. She said that her love for football started when she was in Standard Three.

“I started playing football while in Standard Three at the Joel Omino Primary School. I later joined St Theresa Girls” School in Kisumu and played for the school team up to form four,” she said.

After form four, she joined Palos Ladies FC through the aid of a close friend. She used to be a midfielder before she converted into a centre half (central defender).

She became the team’s captain after fellow players unanimously voted for her. “Being voted to wear the captain’s armband means my colleagues trusted my ability to lead them. I owe them a lot,” she said amid a smile.

The captain idolizes Harambee Starlets player Essie Akida and Tusker FC midfield maestro Humphrey Ochieng Mieno. “I like the two because of their confidence on the ball,” she said.

Her long term goal is to don the jersey of Harambee Starlets in future. The captain urges parents to help nurture their children’s talents. “I am here today because my parents supported my football journey,” said the captain.