Mbeyu Akida: The Starlets gift that continues giving
With Harambee Starlets continuing to ride on the crest of nationwide popularity as they embark on their debut Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon) in Cameroon, forward Esse Mbeyu Akida has risen from obscurity to become one of the poster girls of the team.
Her fame shot up when she emerged the top-scorer at the 2016 COTIF Women Football Tournament in Valencia, Spain where plundered in five goals in four matches- a hat-trick against Portuguese outfit Benfica and a brace against Spanish side Espanyol.
Her journey to Starlets started in 2014 when Akida got a scholarship from MTG Pathways Project to join Kenya Methodist University (KEMU) where she is studying for a Business Management degree.
After joining KEMU, Akida, 23, continued pursuing her football passion and joined the institution’s team and last year she was selected to join Starlets.
Her talent first came to notice in 2007 when she was voted best player in the Uwezo wa Kipekee (Unique Talent) Under-17 tournament, earning her selection to attend a football clinic in Netherlands.
Earlier in the year, Akida competed at the All Africa Games in Algiers as a young athlete under the Moving the Goalposts (MTG) program and continues to star for her club Spedag FC.
Akida is in Cameroon for the Awcon that runs from November 19 to December 3 with drawn in Pool B alongside champions Nigeria, Ghana and Mali.
Citizen Digital’s Geoffrey Mwamburi caught up with Starlet’s gift that continues giving before they departed for Cameroon where they are preparing to launch their Afcon campaign on November 20 against Cameroon, two days after her birthday.
CD: Share with us how the Akida story all started?
MA: I was born on November 18, 1992 in Kaloleni, Kilifi County. I went to Kilimo Primary School and later St. Jude’s in the same County before joining St. John’s Kaloleni in 2008, where I featured in their football team and won several honours including back to back Most Valuable Player awards in 2011 and 2012.
I was later selected to join the national youth talent academy after participating in the Sakata Ball tournament in 2010.
CD: How did you discover your talent?
MA: It was discovered when I joined MTG, a girls youth sports and development Non-Governmental Organization in my home County in 2002 when I was only eight years.
By then, I was among six players who joined the organization during its inception. I have been active in representing the organization at various tournaments within and outside Kilifi and Kwale counties including the Kenya Premier League that MTG participated in 2014.
In the 2012 I featured in the UNICEF/Moyas women’s league playing for Matuu FC, a centre of the National Youth Talent Academy where I was the runner-up to the Golden Boot with 37 goals besides winning the league with the same club that year.
CD: What is your unforgettable career highlight as a footballer thus far?
MA: The match against Algeria last year when I was credited with the two assists which gave my team Starlets hopes for the Awcon in a 2-2 draw after I came off the bench in the away match in Algiers. It was so memorable, I can’t forget.
CD: And the worst moment?
MA: Performing poorly against Cameroon in our friendly two weeks ago at Safaricom Sports Centre, Kasarani.
CD: Did being feted as a heroine by Kilifi County during Mashujaa Day inspire you?
MA: Yeah I was heard the news from my friends. My mother Esther Katche was the one who received the award while I was in Morocco for our friendlies. I want to thank MTG for giving me opportunity to nurture my talent and I want to grow my career. I dedicate the Mashujaa Day award to all my family including dad and mum.
CD: What’s next path for your career?
MA: I want to play internationally besides finishing my degree and practising Business Management.
CD: What’s your favourite dish?
MA: (Laughing) I love various foods, but my heart is in Pilau Biriani (a coastal rice spiced dish).Sometime I also prefer Sukuma Wiki (Kales), Pork, Beef and Liver. If you prepare for me any of those, then you will make me happy.
CD: What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
MA: When I am not in class or the pitch, I spend a lot of my time watching movies and partying with friends. I am not that selective, I can watch and enjoy any kind of flicks, horror, action, series, and romance, name them.
CD: Akida, are you hot or mild tempered?
MA: (Shying) I get angry very fast. I’m not the type of person who keeps things in heart, If I feel you have wronged me then I will tell you immediately-hate me or love me-but it’s a fact. I can hold my emotions a bit depending on the person who has wronged me. The last thing I can do is to raise my hand and beat someone. I don’t engage in fighting.
CD: Favourite dress code?
MA: I love trousers casual or official. My friend tells me I look smart when I put on them although I do all type of clothes from skirts, dresses, Vitenges (East African, West African and Central African fabric similar to sarong) etc.
CD: Are you dating?
MA: (With a shy grin) I don’t think this is the right forum to discuss that, but anyway yes, am dating someone.
CD: Akida, who’s the lucky guy?
MA: (Laughing) No let it be my secret. I can imagine how it can create a lot of drama if I mention his name.