Shikangwa - Teenage Kenyan with a heart of a lioness 

Gentrix Kenya

When she stepped off the bench with ice cold feet to slot in an extra time penalty to send Kenya into the penultimate round of the qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, 17-year old Gentrix Shikangwa did not mince her words.

Confident as ever, with the roar and confidence of a lioness, Shikangwa declared; ‘We will stop at nothing to qualify for the Olympics. We have the confidence and we don’t fear anyone. We have beaten Ghana and this has given us confidence. We want to be in the Olympics.”

Kenya’s Harambee Starlets beat giants Ghana 1-0 after extra time to book a ticket to the third round of qualification against Zambia.

If you told me some years back that I would be where I am today and at such a young age, I wouldn’t believe. It is like a dream come true for me and I am so glad. I don’t want this to be the end. Gentrix Shikangwa
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Kenya coach David Ouma was equally in awe of the confidence of the young girl and the fact that her teammates trusted her enough to leave the responsibility of a last gasp penalty, one that would possibly send them on a date with destiny on the shoulders of a young girl, barely done with High School.

“It is very encouraging when you see young players take such responsibility. She has a great future and is a very important part of our squad. I love her confidence and her never say die attitude,” Ouma said.

It was only the second time that Shikangwa was stepping off the bench to score a winner as she did the same during Harambee Starlets’ friendly match with Ethiopia in Machakos prior to the start of the Olympic qualifiers.

“I think it is the way I have grown up. I have been brought up in a family of footballers because everyone in our house is or has been a footballer. Even my father tells me he was a great footballer in his days, though I don’t know how true that is,” jokes Shikangwa whose elder brother Derrick Anami turns out for Kenyan Premier League side Zoo Kericho.

She said her elder sister Jacqueline Ashiza motivated her to take up football, something she did straight after finishing her class eight exams where she joined the Shinyalu Youth Sports Academy in Kakamega, Western Kenya.

Upon joining Wiyeta High School where she is currently in Form Three, she immediately earned a spot in the school team where she helped them to the National School Games title in 2016. It is at this time that her talent was noticed by national selectors and was called up to the Harambee Starlets U-20 team.

“I think it is the way I have grown up. I have been brought up in a family of footballers because everyone in our house is or has been a footballer. Even my father tells me he was a great footballer in his days, though I don’t know how true that is," Gentrix Shikangwa

After sometime, Kenya's Women’s Premier League champions, Vihiga Queens, also noticed her talent and signed her up towards the end of the 2018 season. But due to school commitments, she has only played three games, during the school holidays and scored four goals in the process.

Her national team chance came at the start of the Olympic qualification process.

“If you told me some years back that I would be where I am today and at such a young age, I wouldn’t believe. It is like a dream come true for me and I am so glad. I don’t want this to be the end. My sister always tells me that she wants me to be a big player and play in Europe. That is what I want to achieve,” the soft spoken assassin with a ferocious left foot states.

She says that head coach Ouma is one of her greatest influencers. “He believes in me so much and when I go to the field, I want to do my best for him and the team.”

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Qualifying for the Olympics would mean a lot to Shikangwa who believes that will open more doors for women football in the country. “People will know that women football in Kenya is great and I think more people will be interested in us. The players will also get opportunities to play outside. Above making history, I think this is something all of us as players want to achieve to improve our lives,” she stated.

Shikangwa hopes she can have the same influence against Zambia who they face in the first leg of the penultimate qualifier in Nairobi on Friday.

“We know that there is no easy team and we are ready for battle. We are starting at home and so winning here is a priority. If we can win with a clean sheet, I know we will have the upper hand heading to the return leg.”

It is the same sentiment shared by coach Ouma. “We want to ensure that we have the best situation heading away from home. We have been solid here in Nairobi and if we maintain that form then we can always finish the job in Zambia. We have the belief and these girls really want to make history.”

Fixtures (Fourth Round)

First Leg

08.11.2019  Nairobi Kenya vs Zambia

09.11.2019  Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire vs Cameroon

Second Leg

11.11.2019  Lusaka Zambia vs Kenya    

12.11.2019  Yaounde Cameroon vs Cote d’Ivoire