Malkia ready to strike as Zone Five qualifiers serve off

By alex wafula
Jul 28, 2017
  • Kenya's Malkia Stars have singled out Egypt as the main threat but are wary of Uganda and Rwanda. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Kenya’s Malkia Strikers begin their campaign to the 2018 FIVB World Championships in Japan next year when the Zone Five qualifiers serve off in Nairobi on Friday evening.

Kenya will battle out for the single ticket to the second round of qualification during the African Championships later in the year, battling against perennial rivals Egypt as well as neighbors Uganda and Tanzania.

While the Egyptians are expected in Nairobi early Friday morning, Uganda and Rwanda are already in the country and had a feel of the Kasarani Gymnasium on Thursday.

Malikia Strikers meanwhile did their final workout on Thursday morning with the squad confident they will clinch the sole ticket to the second round.

Coach Japheth Munala says he is impressed with the work put in by the team over the last three weeks of training and is confident they will put in their best.

“We have worked on so much over the last few days, improving our weaknesses and ensuring we perfect our strengths. We have concentrated on service and reception which were some of the grey areas and now I can confidently say we are ready,” Munala said.

The tactician has named a lean blend of youth and experience in his final squad of 14 and is confident they will deliver.

Though he says competition will come from Egypt, Munala has admitted they should also be wary of Rwanda and Uganda who have vastly improved over the past few years.

It is the same sentiment shared by skipper Mercy Moim. “Yes Egypt is the team to watch, but we can’t afford to go easy on Rwanda and Uganda. We know how far they have come and we should take them seriously. We need to give 100 percent in every match and I am confident we can win,” the Kenya Prisons maestro noted.

Moim will anchor the team alongside other experienced players, left attacker Evelyne Makuto as well as setters Janet Wanja and Jane Wacu.

Wanja persuaded by Munala

Wanja had announced earlier in the year her decision to quit the national team but says she rescinded after being persuaded by Munala.

“The country is bigger than an individual and when the coach told me the country still needs me, I had no choice. As always I will be back here giving my all to the team if given a chance in the court and hopefully we get to win,” she noted.

The three have called on fans to come out in large numbers in the three-day championship, mirroring their hopes on the country’s turn out during the IAAF World Under-18 Championships.

“We know the fans are our strength. When they come out, we do well. It will be great for us if they come out and we promise we will not disappoint them,” Munala offered.

Meanwhile, Kenya Volleyball Federation Technical Director David Lung’aho hopes the team will be reinstated in the World Grand Prix next year after missing the 2017 edition due to lack of funds.

Lung’aho said participation in the Grand Prix improved the level of the game in the country and it was a huge heartbreak when they failed to participate this year.

“We have a chance to show that we can do it with these qualifiers and hopefully FIVB can consider us again. We hope we can be taken into Group Two because that is where we reached last time but even if they say we have to go back to Group Three, we will do it. We all so the impact it had on us,” Lung’aho who coached the team during both their stints in the Grand Prix said.

Kenya missed out on a chance to go to the Olympics after losing to Cameroon. At club level as well, Kenyan clubs have failed to dominate as it was in the past. Kenya has not won a continental title since Kenya Prisons in 2013.

The last four years have been dominated by teams from North Africa. The Zone Five Qualifiers give the team a clean slate to start on and they have vowed to take the chance with both arms.