Dan Obongo

Wazalendo forward Dan Obongo (right) battles for the ball with national team player John Kaloti during their friendly match on November 14, 2021 at City Park Stadium, Nairobi.

| Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

Failure to restart hockey leagues came at big cost to clubs, players

What you need to know:

  • Federation cites non-cooperation by teams for stalled plans to resume competitions
  • Butali Sugar Warriors, Wazalendo , Blazers, Wycliffe Ongori,Fidhelis Kimanzi,

The local hockey scene remained relatively quite in  the 2021 season.

Save for Kenya’s Test matches against Uganda that saw Kenyan men and women play in Federation of International Hockey (FIH) in March, a five-a-side hockey tournament in August and the recently concluded Daikyo Japan Motors Jamhuri tournament at the Mombasa Sports Club in Mombasa,  there was little hockey action locally.

The Kenya Hockey Union (union had a bad year in office, occasioned by failure to restart local leagues in the context of health protocols provided by the government.

Wazalendo men's club saved Kenya the blushes by attending the African Clubs Championships in Accra, while Butali Sugar Warriors (men) , Blazers and United States International University of Africa (USIU-A) women's teams failed to honour the annual event citing financial constraints.

While other sporting disciplines like football, rugby, volleyball, handball, among others implemented the health  protocols that included testing of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and Covid-19 vaccination of players that saw their leagues resumes, hockey leagues failed to take off.

A majority of local hockey clubs shot themselves in the foot by failing to cooperate with KHU.

"We had communicated to the clubs to present their players at the arranged facility that offered PCR tests and vaccination at friendly price but most clubs gave the arrangement a cold shoulder," KHU Secretary General Wycliffe Ongori stated.

"There was nothing we could do as the clubs didn't show up for the tests. Although we really wanted the leagues played, our hands were tied," he added.

A PCR test costs Sh6,800 on average, and KHU runs a three-tier competition involving 54 teams. There are 10 teams in men’s top league and eight in women's top competition, 12 men’s teams and eight women's squads in the second-tier (Super League) competition, and 11 men’s teams and five women's clubs in the third-tier KHU National Leagues.

In the men’s premier league, Kenya Police, Strathmore University, Wazalendo and Western Jaguars got their players vaccinated. In the women's teams, Strathmore University, Sliders and Blazers had their players vaccinated.

Blazers coach Jos Openda and Butali Sugar Warriors team manager Kamal Sembi said KHU invited the teams for PCR tests and vaccinations but the cost was prohibitive.

Kenya's men's team played second fiddle to less fancied Uganda, losing 1-0 and 2-0 before  drawing1-1 in a three-match series that highlighted how low the team has sank.

Kenya men's team coach Fidhelis Kimanzi acknowledged that the defeat at the hands of Uganda, which was seeking a higher FIH ranking prior to the event, left the country with an egg on its face.

"The results show that all is not well. Things must change if we are to get back to our winning ways," Kimanzi offered.

On the flip side, the women's team, under the guidance of Jacqueline Mwangi, humiliated Uganda 11-0, 6-0 and 5-0. Kenya is placed 49th as at November 3 FIH rankings, while Uganda is 91st.

In Daikyo Japan Motors Jamhuri tournament, the men's team failed to sparkle, finishing third behind Western Jaguars and defending champions Kenya Police.

The women's team beat Blazers 2-1 on penalty flicks in the final match of the tournament.

"The team is on the right track. We can't wait to participate in the next month's African Cup of Nations Championships in Ghana. There is a lot of hope in this team," Mwangi said.

It has become a norm for the Kenyan teams to skip the annual African Clubs Championships,  and the ending year was not any different.

Kenyan clubs registered the best participation in 2016 when it was held at the City Park Stadim in Nairobi.

Kenya Police finished second behind Eastern Company of Egypt in the men's category,  Butali Sugar also competed in the 2016 edition of the tournament. Blazers and Sliders represented Kenya in the women's category at the City Park Stadium in Nairobi. Blazers outshone Ghana Revenue Authority 2-0 in the final.

Kenya has since had poor representation in the tournament, something KHU has blamed  on lack of proper planning by clubs.

During this year's edition  staged in Accra, a self-supporting Wazalendo side held a fundraiser to enable them honour the championship.

Wazalendo were returning to the event after a 13-year hiatus.

Wazalendo finished last in Pool ''B'' that also had eventual winner Tairat and Zamalek of Egypt, and home team GRA.

Wazalendo’s poor performance was partly blamed on the fact that there were no ongoing league competitions in Kenya that would have helped the team gauge its preparedness.

"We might not have won a match or posted the results that we wanted to, but we now know what to expect at this stage going forward, "Wazalendo’s coach Kimanzi Ndungu stated.

On a positive note, Kenyan umpire Peter Obalo officiated at the FIH men's Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India in November.

Obalo has officiated previously at the 9th Sultan of Johor U-21 International Invitational Competition in Malaysia as well as Youth Olympics U-18 competition in Argentina in 2019.

Other Kenya umpires Esther Adolwa,Jackline Okumu and Tina Agunda were also appointed to the Technical Panel for the African Road to delayed Tokyo 2020 women's Competition in South Africa by FIH.

In the meantime, the national women's team captain Gilly Okumu linked up with Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany while Kenya Police and national team player Willis Okeyo and Danston Barasa of Wazalendo are with German side VfB Stuttgart for professional stints.

While the performance of the national teams at the previous African Nations Cup have continued to dwindle, we await to see how their performance will pan out at the next month's event in Ghana.

In 2017, in South Africa, the men's team finished fourth in the five-nations event that saw South Africa emerge overall winners ahead of Egypt, Ghana finished third while Nigeria finished last.

In the women's category, the East Africans also came in fourth in the five nations event.
South Africa won the title against Ghana, while Nigeria shockingly finished third ahead of Kenya as Egypt finished fifth.

Ahead of the quadrennial event scheduled for January 17-23, the Kenyan sides have been placed in tough pools.

The men's team are in pool 'A' together with champions South Africa and Namibia, while their women's counterparts are in pool 'B' that has the hosts and 2017 runners up, champions South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia.

Men's pool 'B has 2017 runners up Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. Champions South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Namibia form pool 'A'.

The union will be going to the elections next year, will the status quo remain? only time will tell.