KHU turn to vulnerable youth players to avoid dissent by senior players

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Oct 15, 2015
  • Betsy Ommala was stripped of the captain's arm band when in her capacity, she requested for ourstanding allowances to be paid. This struck a wrong chord with KHU.

  • Tracy Karanja (L) was named as the new women's captain. She replaces Betsy Ommala.

When the names of hockey players for the Olympic qualifiers was released earlier this week, the Kenya Hockey Union included many young and 'fresh' players.

They argued it was time to revamp the team. Perhaps what they did not explain was why some of the senior players were apprehensive of donning national team colors. Players and coaches interviewed by sportsnewarena.com had mixed reactions.

But, what emerged was sublime move by the KHU to selectively leave out some of the senior and experienced players simply because they have been vocal and often put KHU in check. KHU turned to youthful players after the senior players downed their tools demanding payment of outstanding allowances.

The issue is yet to be resolved. So rather than call the same players, KHU opted for an open house trials where anybody and everybody could walk in and put up a case for being selected. KHU also cited age as a factor when dropping some of the players.

On Tuesday, some of these 'older' players ran rings against the national teams in training matches at the City Park Stadium which left one of the coaches openly asking whether it was wise to make 'wholesome change' by excluding some of the experienced players.

While this is happening, the future of any sport has for years depended on the youth. Many associations that don’t have proper development structures have looked upon schools and academies to get players that get them to that level.

Among the associations that have gone have depended on the schools to aid their growth is KHU. For years now, KHU have tapped talents from schools and the players have gone on to play for the national teams.

Apart from the players being drafted into various clubs that take part in the local and in the end find a place in the national teams, a few of the players have also been able to land scholarships in the universities.

It’s not a coincidence that the same players that have been tapped from school have gone on to play for the national team.

Surprise as teams are named

But when the KHU announced the squad for the upcoming Olympic Games Qualifiers in South Africa set for next week, many were surprised when familiar names that were hoped to be the future of were missing from the squad.

Some of the players missing from the women's national team were Pauline Naise, Margaret Rotich and Cynthia Anyango. The three have been the most outstanding players recently in the league and have also not failed whenever they were called up for the national duty.

But when KHU called up the players to prepare for the qualifiers, the three players didn’t honor the invite. Sportsnewsarena.com has reliable learnt that the women team management tried whatever is in their means to have the players turn up for training but to no avail.

“These are some of the best players we had in the country and we knew they will play a key role in this team. But when we called up the players they didn’t not turn up,” manager Alice Mashedi explained. “We did all that we can but we were not successful."

Sportsnewarena.com has learnt that, Anyango who was taunted to be the good replacement for retired Josephine Ataro has never stepped on hockey pitch since the national team came back from Uruguay for the World League Two.

“Since we came back from Uruguay, Anyango has not picked a call from anybody-both the coaches and players including her team mates at Telkom Orange,” Mashedi said. Mashedi who is also a former national team player said Anyango’s absence angered head coach Jos Openda that to date he has not come to terms with her absence.

“Her absence is a big blow to the team and a double blow to Openda who doubles as coach at Orange. She is a player that we had hopes in her to be the best keeper. Openda has made personal efforts to have the player come and tell us what could be the problem but that has not worked out,” Mashedi said.

Her absence at Orange has left the club with no second keeper after Ataro retired late last year. Rotich opted to quit the sport early last year and decided to take up athletics.

“With Rotich, she decided to take up athletics. Unlike Anyango who doesn’t communicate, we talked to Rotich and she changed her mind and took up another sport. Just like the other players, Rotich was a talented player that we had high hopes in her and she could have made it in this team easy,” Mashedi told sportsnewsarena.

Just like her two colleagues, Naise was taunted to be another top player in the country but she too opted to take up football where she is believed to have sustained an injury. Before missing in action, Naise had left her club USIU-A where she was on scholarship.

Landed a better scholarship

She left the club saying she had landed a better scholarship with a top university side in the league but she has not stepped on a hockey pitch since then. Mashedi said the situation is worrying for the Kenyan hockey.

“I hope this issue will be tackled quickly so that we cannot lose more players in this manner, Mashedi revealed that veteran Jackline Jow Wangeci was left out of the team because of her fitness.

“The selectors felt that Wangeci was not up to the fitness level and that is why they left her out,” she said.

On the stripping of Betsy Omalla as the captain, the former national team defender said, the selectors thought of having a new person as the captain for the event and not that they were unhappy with her.

Omalla had led the team in both the World League One and Two. Sportsnewsarena.com established she was dropped because of standing up for the players as captain when allowances were unpaid.