Voice of Sport

Malkia Strikers’ elimination debacle hits Kenyans; KVF maintain ‘too many factors working against us’

Local opinion is that crucial events like Olympic qualifiers will hardly be assigned to Kenya because of the heavy vested interests f other teams or nations


KENYANS are heartbroken over the failure of their successful women’s national team to make it for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Malkia Strikers lost to Egypt in the semi-finals of the African qualifiers in Cameroon on Monday.

Kenya Volleyball Federation [KVF] vice-chairman Martin Makokha said: “it’s so sad” but added that the stakes in the Olympic qualification were so high that many factors arose to militate against their chances.

Home support

One was of the selection of the qualification venue which Kenyans failed to clinch in order to maximize on home support. He said Kenya was at an obvious disadvantage when they sought to host such qualifiers. “Crucial events like Olympic qualifiers will hardly be assigned to Kenya because of the heavy vested interests [of other teams or nation].”

He added: “It’s becoming difficult beating North African teams in events hosted in either West or North Africa Countries.” Officiating in this particular qualifier also comes into focus and the KVF official said: “There was a neutral referee from Italy who was supposed to have officiated this match [Kenya v Egypt semi-final] but instead the organisers chose to have a referee from Tunisia and Algeria.”

Unfair

He said Kenyans had in the past complained about unfair treatment away from home: “You will also remember that during last year’s Africa Club Championships in Cairo, Kenya team, Pipeline, were equally frustrated in the final against a home team.”

Kenya are current and nine-time champions of Africa in the biennial competition. This includes wins in Nairobi every tournament [four] since 2007.

Favourites

This time in the Women’s African Olympic Qualifier Kenya’s surprise knock-out came from Egypt in the semi-finals. The Egyptians won 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 16-25, 25-20, 19-17) and are favourites for the Gold medal.

Cameroon, beaten by Kenya in the pool stage but who qualified with Kenya for the knock-outs, had a life-line when they contested they semi-final beating Algeria 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-17). They face Egypt for the sole African place in Rio. Contesting the Bronze medal at the qualifiers against Algeria will hardly be a consolation for the shattered Kenyans.

Cameroon completely dominated their semi, a great advantage being in their blocking (7/1) and serving (4/1 aces). Opposite Nana Tchoudjang as usual played a crucial role in the victory with her unstoppable hits. She led her team scorers with 12 points followed by Moma Bassoko eight. Yasmine Abdelrrahim led the losers with six points.

Fully fledged

Kenya, fielding basically a second-string side won the 11th All Africa Games Gold medal in Congo Brazzaville last September, after victory of Cameroon in the final. The Kenyans apparently thought their only rival for a Rio place was Cameroon. And with a fully fledged team Malkia Strikers were confident of steam-rolling past Cameroon in the Olympic qualifiers; which they did in the pool games 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 25-9) to top Pool A. But were they contemplating the strength of traditional arch rivals Egypt?

The make-shift Kenya team at the All Africa Games stopped Egypt 3-2 in the semi-finals in Brazzaville but after that Egypt’s apparent single-minded focus was the contest for the Olympic place. Currently in Cameroon they are sharp and clear favourites for Brazil. The Kenyans, to their consternation, found this out. In a match lasting 127 minutes Egypt showed extra-ordinary performance with the middle blocker Mariam Metwally and spiker Aya El Shami playing the greatest role in the victory.

Changes

El Shami scored impressive 34 points making the competition best scoring performance so far, while Metwally closed the ways of the Kenyan attacks with her stuff blocks scoring 10 points. Among other scorers for the winners, Nada Meawad contributed also crucial 14 points. Mercy Moim led the Kenyan scorers with 19 points followed by Lydia Maiyo and Kibor Chelagat 16 points each.

From the All Africa Games in Brazzaville, Kenya made changes in their team management replacing the winning coach Paul Gitau with Japheth Munala a former deputy of the then long time head coach Edward Lung’aho. Prior to the Olympic qualifiers, other distractions in the volleyball set-up in country included the sudden resignation of the KVF secretary general Evans Wasike and complaints by the KVF that the country’s management for the Olympic Games in Brazil were not giving attention to the needs of the team training for the qualifiers.

Sports Kenya

The responsibility and general co-ordination of the team that will be composed for the Olympics lies between the National Olympic Committee of Kenya [NOCK] and of course the Kenya Government through Sports Kenya a legal body that the Government is taking too long enable its operations.

The Olympic Games in Brazil run between August 5-25 and so far the Government has not outlined the mandate of Sports Kenya in its first major responsibility are the mangers of sport in the country.