Malkia Strikers still hopeful of Olympics qualification

Malkia Strikers in a file photo.
Malkia Strikers in a file photo.

Malkia Strikers kept slim Olympics qualification hopes alive after outclassing North African rivals Algeria 3-0 in the third place play-offs on Tuesday night in Yaounde, Cameroon to advance to the World Olympics Qualifiers in Japan.

Kenya who lost their semifinal to Egypt 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 16-15, 25-20, 19-17) on Monday night to miss out on automatic qualification as winners of the continental showdown raced to a 2-0 sets lead of 25-19 and 25-21.

The North Africans pushed the third set to a tie break before the African Champions prevailed 26-24 in a keenly contested set.

Malkia hopes of returning to the Olympics since the 2004 Games in Athens are pegged on bagging the remain slot of the world qualifiers in Japan staged for sides who failed to bag automatic tickets by winning their continental events.

Should they honour the World Olympics qualifiers, the team will face sides including Colombia and Puerto Rico for the last chance of joining the Rio party.

Cameroon stunned Egypt 3-2 (25-14, 25-27, 21-25, 25-23, 15-7) in the tournament final played later Tuesday night to qualify for their first Olympics Games with the beaten finalists joining Kenya at the World qualifiers.

The team is expected to return home Wednesday with conflicting reports about their expected arrival with some saying its in the afternoon and others insisting its at 8pm local time (+3GMT) in the evening.

Kenya Volleyball Federation and the technical bench are under pressure to explain failure to bag the automatic ticket.

The team travelled to Cameroon under a cloud of controversy when experienced campaigners captain Brackcides Agala and her deputy, setter Janet Wanja, missed selection to the Africa Olympics qualifiers.

The team’s new coach, Japheth Munala, said he opted to select some players who have impressed recently and that the move was part of a natural generational change.

Munala recently replaced David Lung’aho, arguably Kenya’s most successful volleyball coach, as national team coach. The latter has since been promoted to Technical Director of the KVF and was part of the travelling contingent to Cameroon.

Agala and Wanja helped Kenya to their ninth African title earlier last year before starring as Malkia gained promotion from Group 3 of the FIVB World Grand Prix to Group 2 as champions.

Kenya also finished 10th at the FIVB World Cup in September but it is reported they fell out with senior KVF officials over whether to feature at the Grand Prix or the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville where a largely under 23 side won gold.

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Story By Mutwiri Mutuota
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