SWILA: President Kenyatta, our teams need facilities, not just congratulatory messages
- Malkia’s victory, earned in style, saw them win all their matches in the penultimate qualification phase including beating sworn rivals Cameroon 3-2
- By sealing the Olympics ticket, the Kenyan queens will be making a return to the global multi-sport event for the first time in 16 years. Their last appearance came in 2004 in Athens, Greece
The national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, sealed an emphatic victory in Cameroon beating Nigeria by straight sets of 25-15, 25-21, 25-12 on Thursday to seal a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Malkia’s victory, earned in style, saw them win all their matches in the penultimate qualification phase including beating sworn rivals Cameroon 3-2.
The Paul Bitok coached side also swept Botswana 3-0 en route to bagging the Olympic berth, and also dismissed Egypt 3-1 in their first match.
By sealing the Olympics ticket, the Kenyan queens will be making a return to the global multi-sport event for the first time in 16 years. Their last appearance came in 2004 in Athens, Greece.
Remarkably, the team’s towering soft-spoken coach Paul Bitok needs to be credited for this feat.
Taking over the reins of the team in August last year, Bitok inherited a deeply divided squad, with camps pulling in different directions, but he brought stability into the team and injected team work and unity – pillars of their success.
Icing on the Cake
Remarkably, in his short-stint with the squad, Bitok has already led the girls to retaining their Africa Games title in Morocco last year, and bagging the Olympic ticket is an icing on the cake.
What makes the victory sweeter is that it was achieved without the input of veteran setter Janet Wanja who snubbed a call up in the run-up to the qualifiers.
Bitok, in building a team for the Olympics thus needs not to look behind but pick a squad driven by dedication, passion for the team, and a desire to serve the county and die for the flag.
Importantly, continuity is key and Bitok needs to infuse the squad by making it a blend of experienced and young players to ensure the team does not suffer talent drain in the coming years.
In the same vein, Malkia’s feat is down to hard work as the government has in the past showed little interest in supporting the team financially.
However it did not come as a surprise as top politicians led by the President himself, his Deputy William Ruto and Opposition chief Raila Odinga picked the cue to shower the team with praise after their heroics in Cameroon.
According to President Kenyatta, Malkia’s success is a sign of Kenya’s rising profile as an African sporting powerhouse.
Be as it may, the President needs to lace his words with action. The team does not just need congratulatory messages, they need unwavering government support and commitment.
The girls should be able to see this support. Feel it. Smell it. Touch it. And above all, be proud of it!
It’s however a shame that with boundless successes over the ages, the squad, to date, lacks a team bus of their own, and are at times locked out from accessing the Kasarani Indoor Arena, the dilapidated but only meaningful indoor training facility available in the country for their trainings.
Time has thus come for the government to walk the talk.
Kenyatta’s Jubilee administration should prioritize building proper sports facilities if at all talent is to be nurtured, and our national teams are to perform well.
In Rwanda for instance, President Paul Kagame recently unveiled a state-of-the- art Kigali Arena, a magnificent 10,000-seater facility built by Turkish firm Summa and which meets the international benchmarks. It will host NBA Africa finals in March this year and it’s a shame Kenya does not have any.
While at it, President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto need to be reminded that despite promising five-ultra modern world class stadia upon assumption of power in 2013, nothing has come of this pledge.
With only two years left before their 10-year reign comes to an end, it continually looks unlikely that this promise will be honoured.
Our sportsmen and women have suffered for ages and time has come for the government to turn a chapter, not through congratulatory messages but by acting.
With just five months and a few weeks left to the Summer Games, the Government and respective sports federations must ensure that Kenyan teams to the Games are accorded maximum support through the provision of quality training facilities, kits, accommodation and prompt payment of allowances.
Malkia which became the third team sport after Kenya rugby teams Shujaa and Lionesses to seal Olympic berths should on the other hand shift focus to the tourney and plot on how they can post good results.
Bagging the single Olympic slot reserved for Africa was a hard task but competing in Japan will be thrice as harder, and the girls and the technical bench led by Bitok must thoroughly plan for this.
We do hope that all the concerned parties will aptly play their role to help the girls fly the Kenyan flag higher.
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