Analysis: We sowed sparingly in Malkia, we reaped as much
- Buoyed by last month’s African Games triumph in Morocco, national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers had warmed up in style for the just concluded FIVB World Cup.
- There was nothing to be proud of for the nine-time African champions at the global stage after finishing 11th out of 12 teams.
- The Kenyan queens lost 10 successive matches with straight sets against world-beaters picking a consolation win
- Poignantly, no senior government official was present in Japan to show support for Malkia, as it has been shown in other teams competing in global competitions.
Analysis, Stanley Mativo
Buoyed by last month’s African Games triumph in Morocco, national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers had warmed up in style for the just concluded FIVB World Cup. Expectations were high and excitement enveloped the Kenyan queens but the reverse was the reality following a forgetful outing in Japan.
There was nothing to be proud of for the nine-time African champions at the global stage after finishing 11th out of 12 teams.
The Kenyan queens lost 10 successive matches with straight sets against world-beaters picking a consolation win and their only one against fellow Africans Cameroon on the final day of the tourney played in a round-robin format.
Malkia were meant to go there and make a mark in their long-overdue great performance at the global stage sojourn, but in the end, disenchantment and bewilderment was what was left of this beloved team of ours.
Before the kick off, head coach Paul Bitok had lifted the pressure of winning the title off his charges but Malkia Strikers failed to attain their target; of improving their previous world cup record.
In 2015, the African Games champions under David Lungáho defeated Peru and Algeria to finish 10th out of 13 teams.
Basing on the just concluded Games in Morocco, pundits had touted Malkia to post a fair performance at the global scene.
The great always cast a shadow even in their absence, but given Malkia’s performance in Japan, it surely left great emptiness that will take a while to fill.
It was a case of broken promises, shattered dreams to some and utter disappointment to others. This was not meant to happen, but it surely did.
So, what went wrong with this side, really?
Malkia Strikers left the country ‘empty stomach’ after the government delayed to wire their African Games and World Cup allowances to their accounts.
The government still owes the queens monies for the Intercontinental Olympic qualifiers held in Catania, Italy two months ago.
As a way of expressing their displeasure, the players had to ‘summon’ team manager Ismael Chege in a Hamamtsu hotel just after two matches in Japan, to demand their unpaid allowances for the three championships.
With the team relentlessly continuing to fly the Kenyan flag high at international competitions with a record nine African titles under their belt, the players feel overlooked. This cannot be dismissed among the reasons behind their dismal performance.
Poignantly, no senior government official was present in Japan to show support for Malkia, as it has been shown in other teams competing in global competitions.
At the point of penning this account, Sports Ministry officials led by Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed have already visited Team Kenya in Doha for the World Athletics Championship, underlining the double standards that leave the volleyball queens asking why not them.
Poor Preparations and Investment
The amount of investment that other countries Kenya competed against have poured into developing the sport is incomparable. From sporting infrastructure to player development programs, Kenya is way far, and it cannot be surprising the results are as much poor. It simply points to the naked truth that with this kind of apathy towards the sport, no guarantee that Malkia Strikers will continue reigning supreme in Africa, as other countries are fast coming up.
Prior to the championship Malkia Strikers camped in Kasarani playing against men teams for their build ups while fellow Africans Cameroon trained in Europe for over a month. Big contrast!
The government has never funded them or organised a friendly outside the country but they only board the plane when going for competitions.
The team needs to participate more in international matches or competitions such as the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and Junior FIVB competition. This exposure ought to be a regular occurrence as it will expose players on how to handle pressure, understand each other while building composure and character at a global stage.
In the just concluded World Cup championship and African Games, there were some notable good performances from young players led by fast-rising left attacker Sharon Chepchumba. These changes that expose young players in the biggest stages possible should continue, and Bitok should not shy away from this.
With the Japan outing now on the back burner, Bitok will train his guns ahead of the Africa Olympic Games qualifiers to be held in January where a single ticket is at stake for the championship to be held in Tokyo 2020.
This will be the second bite at the cherry for Malkia Strikers after failing to capture the ticket in Italy during the Intercontinental Qualifiers in Italy.
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