The Harambee Starlets forward speaks on life in Israel, KWPL and the national team dreams
In October 2018, Esse Akida became the first Kenyan female player to feature in the Israeli top flight division (Ligat Al Women) when she signed for Ironi Ramat HaSharon.
The player who has scored 15 international goals in her 33 appearances for Harambee Starlets provide five assists and scored four goals in a new role in her stay in Israel and according to the player it has not been an easy ride but one she has enjoyed.
“It was always my dream to play professional football and I achieved it this season. I can’t take it lightly and I appreciate everyone who has helped me through the journey. I arrived as forward (winger) but I was turned to a defender.
“It was a new role but one that I took with both hands. Being at the back requires some sort of intelligence since you are not allowed to make many mistakes unlike when you are a forward. It is a position that improved me as a player.
“It’s not been easy here as people think. You face challenges every day you wake up, some that I can say with some unsaid but they have never been a distraction towards achieving my dreams,” Esse tells Futaa from her base in Israel.
Arriving at HaSharon, Esse was joining a team that in two years ago had represented Israel in the UEFA Women Champions League but this season has seen her team finish at position five something she pinned on the club injury woes.
“Actually, we had a good team because the club had retained a chunk of players that had done well the previous season. They lost dependable players though who had been spotted in the Champions League. When I arrived most of them had injuries and we had to do with makeshift players in different players. It got worse at one point that we had to promote academy players to the first team. The inexperience showed and when everyone was fit, it was too late to salvage our season but I’m confident we will do good next season,” she adds.
On the reception and adaptation, Esse said: “You expect to struggle a bit in a new environment. I did struggle in a few weeks but the weather wasn’t bad here. The food was different though but with time everything went well. I think the reception was good too. I found players from Brazil who related well with the African concept of football and I think we made a bond and they helped a lot.”
On the difference between the league in Israel and Kenya Women Premier League Esse said it is a different level from what she experienced during her stint in Kenya.
“Here they take football seriously. We have a gym, rooms for players after the gym, team bus and everything you need as a professional football. Your work is to play. When injured you well taken care of with qualified medics and it makes your work easier in just concentrating on football. It's different in Kenya, it's hard down there and you find most ladies giving up on the game. Its something I hope changes,” she opines.
And what of Harambee Starlets dreams: “I will play for my national team until my legs can’t move any more or if the coach sees I’m not in her plans. I’m always available for my team. We had a good group that went to the 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations but you realize new blood is coming in too so it is a challenge to most of us to keep working hard if we are to maintain our spots. We are a talented nation and after playing a season here I know what we can do. Players here are just normal human beings but I feel they just had proper football upbringing. They are spotted at a tender age and that helps them a lot but we not that far much behind in matters talent,” the MTG product opines.
On her ambitions as a player: “I still have a dream in featuring in the Champions League. It’s something I won’t get tired of achieving. With proper pre-season planning I know we can come good next season. I’m now just waiting to get back home and have a good holiday before embarking on a new season. I have missed home so much.”
The 24-year old Akida started out at Kilifi-based NGO Goalposts (MTG) before moving to National Youth Talent Academy (NYTA) then joining Kemu Queens and later Spedag FC.
In August 2018, she ditched Spedag and moved to Thika Queens, but barely six weeks later, left for trials for HaSharon where she signed after an impressive outing.
She scored Starlets first goal in the AWCON after netting in their 3-1 loss at the hands of Ghana in the 2016 edition.