Shikangwa’s rising star looking to shine brighter in Cairo clouds

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When she lands in Egypt and struts her feet across the tarmac at the Cairo International Airport, Jentrix Shikangwa, 19, will have her eyes pegged on one prize, showing the world what her, and her team, Vihiga Queens can do at the Continental Stage.

Cool as ice, Shikangwa slotted an 89th minute penalty as Vihiga Queens booked a slot to represent the CECAFA region in the first ever edition of the TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League, with a 2-1 victory over the highly fancied Central Bank of Ethiopia in the qualifiers held in Nairobi.

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“We were playing at home and we wouldn’t have allowed the trophy and the ticket to go anywhere else. We lost to CBE in the first game because we had panicked at what we heard about them, but as soon as we regrouped and re-strategized, we had everything in the tank to beat them,” Shikangwa recalls.

The striker was not scoring a vital goal for the first time. For the national team, Shikangwa’s extra time penalty against Ghana sent the Harambee Starlets to the penultimate qualification round for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2019.

She has been a star on the rise who has been playing for the national team since she was 16.

“For me football is in the blood. I think it is something I was born with. My eldest sister (Jackline Ashiza) played for the national team and my elder brother (Derrick) Anami also plays professional football for Zoo Kericho FC. I think I naturally picked it up from them,” Shikangwa says.

She jokes; “Even my dad tells me he played football when he was a youth though he has never said where he played or even shows trophies he won. But let me just believe him. The way he explains it you can’t even doubt.”

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Born 19 years in Vihiga County, Western Kenya, Shikangwa started football when she was in Primary School. But it was not until she joined Wiyeta High School, famed for producing some fine football talent and ruling national school games, that her talent really shone.

In her second year of High School, she helped Wiyeta to the final of the national school games and that same year, she was called up to the national Under-20 team. A year later, she was spotted by Vihiga Queens, then playing in the Kenyan Women’s Premier League.

She would play league football when on school holidays and she ended up winning the league title in four successive years.

“It was a great challenge for me. Though I was only playing during the school holidays, I believe it really helped nurture me to the person I am today. Playing at such a level and getting exposed to competitive matches early builds one’s confidence and it is the reason I am where I am today,” explains Shikangwa.

Her trajectory has been impressive and the qualification to the Champions League in Egypt is just another feather on her already decorated hat. But for Shikangwa, she says she has only but just started.

“I believe that football is what God has given me to make the best out of my life. I want to reach the greatest heights and also make my mum and dad proud. They always support me and push me to become my best and that is a motivation for me when I step on the pitch" Jentrix Shikangwa

“It is something huge for us as a team and I as a person to qualify for the Champions League. This is a big stage for us and it is an opportunity to show that Kenyan and at large East African women’s football has grown. We have an opportunity to battle the best in the continent and we know it will not be an easy outing,” she says.

“As a team, we target to get at least to the semi-final and from there, we see what we can do. Personally, I want to come out as the top scorer of the competition and above all, showcase my talent to the whole world,”

“My dream is to play professional football out of the continent. I would one day want to play for Chelsea in England because they are my favourite team. I believe it is possible with hard work and determination,” she added.

She adds that her desire is to make the best out of her career and above all, make her parents proud.

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“I believe that football is what God has given me to make the best out of my life. I want to reach the greatest heights and also make my mum and dad proud. They always support me and push me to become my best and that is a motivation for me when I step on the pitch,” she confidently states.

Shikangwa also believes that the TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League is a perfect platform for women football in Africa to spring up and reach great heights.

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“I really want to thank CAF for coming up with this idea because it is so important. For women football to grow, we need such platforms because how else will the rest of the world get to know about us? It provides a good platform to grow the women’s game in the continent and now, everyone will notice teams from every region. We will have more players moving abroad and at the end of it all, national teams will improve,” added Shikangwa.

Meanwhile, she hopes that her team prepares in the best way possible to tackle the rest of the continent and just like she did in Nairobi, she wants to take Cairo by storm.