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Moses Kagochi: Kenya’s hockey brain rejected at home, revered in Europe

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Kenya’s Moses Kagochi on as duty technical manager at the Hockey Club Delta Venlo which competes in the Royal Dutch Hockey Association leagues. 

Photo credit: Pool

Moses Kagochi is a typical reflection of the Biblical saying – in the Book of Luke Chapter 4 verse 24 - that a prophet is not accepted in his hometown.

Kagochi, former Kenya international hockey star who played his club game for Daystar University and Kenyatta University, was also once the national men’s hockey team assistant coach.

But after years of trying to get Kenya’s top coaching job, the 49-year-old Kagochi took flight to Europe.

And he has no regrets as he currently is the technical manager at the Hockey Club Delta Venlo which competes in the Royal Dutch Hockey Association (Koninklijke Nederlands Hockey Bond, or KNHB) leagues.

Kagochi designs and oversees trainers’ and coaches’ training programmes of the Venlo men’s and women's senior teams, the juniors (under-18 years to under-14 years) as well as youngest youth (under-12 years and under-16 years

The Venlo clubs play in the second tier (Jupiler) league. 

But why did Kagochi, who boasts a respected International Hockey Federation (FIH) High Performance Level Four coaching certificate, move to the Netherlands?

And why did he pick Delta Venlo?

“I enrolled for the Level Four coaching course in the Netherlands in 2018,”

“It was while there that I met coach Sigfried Aikman from the Netherlands, with whom we had undergone a development course in Ghana in 2016.

“He helped me network and his instructors and coaches in attendance fell in love with my personality and my communication skills.

“They wanted to know me better, considering I was black and had a lot of ideas on hockey despite coming from a developing country," recollected Kagochi during the interview at Nation Centre recently. 

“In 2017, Aikman invited me back to the Netherlands where he attached me to Amersfoort Hockey Club for three months. Luckily, during that period, the FIH offered me a scholarship to attend an Intercontinental High Performance course in Amsterdam.

“While there, I met Venlo Club president Jeroen Bakkers. That would be my turning point.

“Bakkers invited me for three months every other season just to show me how things are done in the Netherlands.

“Little did I know my contribution to the club was being noticed.

“I wanted to be an information-based coach. I had a vision for the sport but I never thought it would be actualised here.

“Since there was goodwill between me and the officials from the Netherlands, I embarked on ways that I would move there and launch my professional coaching career,” he added.

The Netherlands is one of the most successful hockey nations in the world having won the Summer Olympic Games twice (Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000), the World Cup three times (1973, 1990 and 1998) and the Hockey World League once (in the 2012/13 season).

The Netherlands occupies the top position in the International Hockey Federation’s men’s (followed by Belgium and Australia) and women's (followed by Argentina and Germany) rankings.

In stark contrast, Kenya doesn’t feature in the top 20 in the men’s or women’s standings with South Africa (18th) the best placed African nation in the women’s rankings and also in the men’s rankings (14th).

Growing up in Ngara, Nairobi, and while studying at St Peter’s Cleavers Primary School, Kagochi fell in love with hockey.

“The hockey stick was a compulsory requirement when joining Jamhuri High School.

Hockey Kagochi

Kenya’s Moses Kagochi on as duty technical manager at the Hockey Club Delta Venlo which competes in the Royal Dutch Hockey Association leagues.

Photo credit: Pool

“And so my mother (Josephine Wanjiku) got me the stick. I remember two teams (Karate Axiom men’s team and Inter-Capitale women’s team) used to train at the school’s facilities.

“After classes, I would walk to the fields just to have a look of how the sport was played. I grew fond of the game and within no time, I formed part of the school team.

“Although we didn't win titles, we reached the national school games finals  where we were runners up in 1992 and 1993,” says the father of three (Jesse, Jadyn and Joelle) 

Jesse, a striker, played hockey at Upper Hill School before turning up for Kenyatta University while Jadyn, a defender, is a Matuga Girls High School alumna.

Kagochi would automatically become a hockey enthusiast after finishing his high school education at Jamhuri High School in 1993.

“I played for Kenya Breweries, which was a force to reckon with, although, in 1995, Breweries was 

disbanded and some players formed Wazalendo Hockey Club, while others joined to Park Road Hockey Club.

“I played for Karate Axiom from 1995 to 2008 and then  I decided to venture into coaching.

“As player, I didn't get the best guidance and knowledge from the tacticians then, and I thought taking up the coaching course would help me better the upcoming players by sharing the knowledge I didn't get at the time,” said Kagochi, who worked as Country Manager Representative at Sameer Africa from 2001 before he moved to Malawi in 2007-2010 as the sales representative for Sameer Africa.

Kagochi says the move to Malawi was the eye opener.

Although he interacted with people from all walks of life, he says his decision to go for a coaching course (Level One) in Malawi set him up for coaching opportunities back home.

“I had stopped playing hockey, but the passion and determination to help the upcoming players be better at what they did pushed me into coaching.

“It’s in Malawi that I met Allistar “Ally” Fredricks from South Africa who later became my mentor, encouraging me to enroll for more coaching courses and until his death in 2021, I had a FIH High Performance Level Four certificate. I owe this achievement to him,” said Kagochi, who was the Kenya men's hockey team assistant coach working under Meshack Senge during the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa and World League One in Accra, Ghana.

Kenya’s men's team finished third in Johannesburg and runners up in the Accra show.

Fredricks was the first player of colour to play for the South African national hockey team during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, a legend of the game who brought hope to many.

After Kagochi resigned from Sameer Africa in 2010, Daystar University were shopping for a coach and he jumped onto the offer.

He later joined Kenyatta University in 2015 before he left for the Netherlands in 2021.

“Although my stay at KU was more successful than at Daystar, I'm happy I left good structures at both universities, but I wanted to be information based -coach, armed with principles, culture and values,” he explained.

Among his coaching accolades, Kagochi led Kenyatta University’s men’s and women's teams to win the East African University Games titles in 2016 before clinching the Kenya University Sports Association (KUSA) national titles the following year.

"In between 2016 and 2021, I was being invited to the Netherlands for three-month sessions, just to learn and see how teams performed at high level.

“I requested the FIH to link me up with a dutch club and the international body wrote a letter requesting Venlo Delta if I could be attached to their club.

“Oliver Kurtz, the chairman Venlo Club, agreed and the club has become a home since 2021.

“I have learnt a lot since I moved to Netherlands and I hope some day I will get chance to share with people back home. Kenya has talent but they lack technicalities, governance and vision,” revealed Kagochi in no-holds-barred fashion.

He has renewed his one-year contract with the Dutch club with more responsibilities that include mentoring and educating coaches as well as coming up with club policy.

Kagochi say Venlo Delta hierarchy wanted a neutral coach considering three clubs from the Venlo City had been disbanded to form one team.

He was better placed to get the job.

Venlor, Bletick and Teglen, all from Venlo City, participated in the League, but the stakeholders of the three teams decided to merge to form one team in 2020 for the betterment and growth of the sport, but more so for the city to be more competitive.

"The club's hierarchy than decided to get a neutral coach. Remember these were three clubs which had their own ways of doing things and now that they had been merged, it was only fair they get a neutral manager who had no links with clubs.

“It would have been difficult to chose one manager from the three clubs to steer the club and that's how I got the nod from the President Bakkers,” recalls Kagochi.

From coach, technical co-ordinator and now technical manager, Kagochi is extending an olive branch to the Kenya Hockey Union to consider his interest, qualification and experience.

“I'm always ready and willing to work with the union for the common goal which is to promote and help the sport to grow and return back to the golden days.

“I would love to share the knowledge that I have acquired in the Netherlands which is a powerhouse in sport.

“I also intend to get local players to come to the Netherlands for trials and if they impress then, who knows, they might be picked for professional stints,” concluded Kagochi.