Kenya up against giants in fight for World Cup tickets


City Park Hockey Stadium at a glance during the Kenya Hockey Union men's Premier League ...
(FILE)City Park Hockey Stadium at a glance during the Kenya Hockey Union men's Premier League final match between Butali Sugar Warriors and Strathmore University at the venue on December 03, 2016. The City Park was the training venue for the national teams prior to jetting out for the continental championship to take place in Egypt beginning Sunday. Photo/Stafford/Sportpicha

The die is cast for the Kenyan men and women hockey teams as they gear for a bruising challenge in the Africa Cup of Nations championship which begins on Sunday in Ismailia, Egypt .

The Kenyan teams have had intense training in the last four months in preparation for the championship and the men’s coach, Meshach Serenge, is oozing confidence ahead of the competition.

The teams flew out of Nairobi on Friday evening with a squad of 36 players (18 for each gender) with the hopes soaring high that they can star in the competition which also acts as a qualifier to the 2018 World Cup finals.

For the men, only the champions qualify for the global showpiece to be held in India next year.

In the women’s category, South Africa have already qualified for next’s year’s show piece through a different route and the champions in the tournament will join them in securing the ticket.

In the event that South Africa emerge as champions as is widely expected, then the runners up will join them in securing the ticket for a place in next year’s finals to be held in the United Kingdom.

Calvince Kanu (L) and Constance Wakhura of Kenya hockey team trains at City Park stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on October 08, 2017. Kenya Hockey Union named both the men and women national teams to the Africa cup of nations in Egypt in October 2017. Photo/sportpicha.
Calvince Kanu (L) and Constance Wakhura of Kenya hockey team trains at City Park stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on October 08, 2017. Kenya Hockey Union named both the men and women national teams to the Africa cup of nations in Egypt in October 2017. Photo/sportpicha.

Senge is however adamant that the opposition notwithstanding, they will do their best in the tournament.

“We have been training for the past four months and we are now ready in all spheres; tactically, physically and technically,” Senge said.

Kenya will have to fight it out with other five nations  including South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, and Ghana. Hosts Egypt are also in the group.

The men’s team open their campaign against Ghana on Sunday before taking on hosts Egypt on Monday. They’ll then face Nigeria on Wednesday after Tuesday’s rest, after which they test the resolve of Zambia on Thursday before winding up with South Africa on Saturday.

On the other hand, the Kenyan ladies will start their campaign on Sunday against South Africa at 2pm then face Ghana on Monday.

Caption 2(HOCKEY TWO)- Allan Iningu of team Kenya during morning training session at City Park stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on October 08, 2017. Kenya Hockey Union named both the men and women national teams to the Africa cup of nations in Egypt in October 2017. Photo/Oliver Ananda/Sportpicha

The Kenyan queens will then collide with Nigerian on Wednesday, tackle Zambia on Thursday, then wrap up the group with hosts Egypt on Saturday.

Though the challenge is enormous, Senge who doubles up as Strathmore University head coach maintains that he knows what to expect in the competition.

“Apart from Zambia which I’ve not faced before, I am very much aware of the other teams,” Senge said, adding that they will treat each match with the seriousness it deserves.

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Story By Gilbert Kiprotich
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