Twiga Stars on the Rise

By Nisha Ligon (www.nishaligon.com)

The Tanzania women’s national football team, affectionately known as the Twiga Stars, have qualified for the African Women’s Championship for their first time, and will be touring the USA in preparation for the competition.

In the preliminary qualifying round the Twiga Stars beat Ethiopia 3-1 away and tied them 1-1 for a aggregate win of 4-2. After this impressive performance, Tanzanian businesswoman Rahma Al-Kharoosi stepped in to provide sponsorship for the team, which has struggled with preparations due to a lack of funds for women’s football. Ms. Al-Kharoosi also offered to send the players to train and play friendly matches in the USA if they managed to qualify for the African Women’s Finals Tournament, to be held in South Africa in September.

The Tanzania ladies answered this call by crushing Eritrea 8-1 in the first leg match, played in Dar es Salaam’s Uhuru Stadium on May 24, 2010. 19-year-old winger Mwanahamis Omary (Mburahati Queens F.C.) scored four goals during the match, and striker Asha “Mwalala” Rashid (also of Mburahati Queens F.C.) bagged a hat trick.

Eritrea however, put in a brave showing on the return leg played in Asmara on May 4, 2010. The Eritrean ladies managed to put three goals past Tanzania, however Asha Rashid came back to score another incredible hat trick and level the match off 3-3. This 11-4 aggregate victory guarantees them a spot at the finals in South Africa… and a trip to the USA this August to prepare. They will be hosted by the Washington Freedom, who play in the USA’s Women’s Professional Soccer League.

This will be Twiga Stars’ first time in the continental championship, and the first time since 1980 that a Tanzanian team of any gender has made it to the African championship tournament. The top two teams at the African Women’s Championship will qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany.

The Twiga Stars are also the subject of a feature length documentary film titled “Twiga Stars: Tanzania’s Soccer Sisters,” by Thai-American filmmaker Nisha Ligon. www.twigastars.com

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