How Roll ball teams overcame all odds to succeed
What you need to know:
- By virtue of being the defending champions in the women’s category of the biennial competition that attracted 27 countries and held at Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Balewadi, all eyes were on the Kenyan ladies.
- They lived to the billing by winning all their matches – flooring Egypt 5-0 in the final.
- Their male counterparts ensured that it was a double joy for Kenya by beating hosts India 7-4 in a tough men’s final to claim their first ever world title at the global games. And alas, some people back home had been following their performance in Pune.
Emily Amimo was part of the Kenyan roll ball teams that secured victory at the sixth edition of the Roll Ball World Cup in Pune, India from April 21 to 26.
But as her team mates revelled in the success on their journey back home, she was immersed in deep thoughts.
Why? She did not have bus fare from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to her place in Kariobangi South.
When the Kenyan contingent (both the national men’s and women’s roll ball teams and their officials) left JKIA for Pune on the evening of April 22, Amimo’s M-Pesa balance read zero.
On their flight back home, she only had Sh 10 in her pocket - a balance for her bus fare to town (Nairobi) on the day they jetted out for the games.
“I had spent all the money I had for training (for the World Cup),” said a visibly dejected Amimo.
By virtue of being the defending champions in the women’s category of the biennial competition that attracted 27 countries and held at Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Balewadi, all eyes were on the Kenyan ladies.
They lived to the billing by winning all their matches – flooring Egypt 5-0 in the final.
Their male counterparts ensured that it was a double joy for Kenya by beating hosts India 7-4 in a tough men’s final to claim their first ever world title at the global games. And alas, some people back home had been following their performance in Pune.
Different from how they jetted out, the Kenyan contingent was given a raucous welcome at JKIA by their family members, friends and the Ministry of Sports officials, before being hosted for dinner at Weston Hotel. This treatment, Amimo said, for some time saw her forget about her transport woes.
But that moment of joy was short lived by the “very little” token of appreciation promised to them by the head of delegation from the Ministry of Sports.
Luckily for the skipper and goalkeeper, her teammates, whom she had opened up to about her woes, lent her bus fare.
Together with the Kenya national men’s roll ball assistant captain Moses Atenya, they said that they were thrilled to have led their troops to victory in the global tournament, despite a myriad of challenges that they faced.
For that huge feat and as it has been the norm, Glory Outreach Assembly (GOA) in Kahawa Wendani, Nairobi, which is headed by Bishop David Munyiri held thanks giving prayers for the teams on April 30.
He later hosted them for lunch and gave them a token of appreciation. GOA is home to several sports clubs including the GOA roll ball team, which Atenya plays for in the Kenya Roll Ball National League.
"It really felt nice to be appreciated. We are the only Kenyan sports team who are World Champions so we wish there were more," said Atenya, with Amimo adding that "it was a nice gesture".
Were it not for the sympathy by the International Roll Ball Federation, Kenya would not have taken part in the sixth World Cup.
Despite having submitted their budget early last year, the Ministry of Sports delayed in releasing funds for the trip, forcing the Kenya Roll Ball Federation (KRBF) officials to plead with the world roll ball governing body to reschedule their group matches.
They left Nairobi for Pune two days after the competition had begun. When they landed in India after more than a seven-hour flight, the teams headed straight to the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Belewadi for their rescheduled group matches - a journey that took about three hours by bus.
Any further delays would have seen their opponents awarded walkovers.
From the airport to the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Balewadi the teams traveled in batches.
With the first batch of the ladies team arriving at the games’ venue with only a few minutes remaining before their opponents Nepal could be awarded a walkover, they had to start the match with two players less.
Also apart from having not taken any proper meal save for the one they were served during the flight, they were still grappling with jet lag.
But still, the holders and African champions ensured that they made a bright start to the games with an 8-1 win over Nepal.
“We were very tired but the determination to win in order to prove the point (that they mean business is what kept us going,” said Amimo.
Before they checked in at their hotel later that evening, the Kenyan ladies thrashed France 10-0 in their second match of the day, which again they played on empty stomachs.
It was the same predicament for their male counterparts, who won all the three matches that they played that day.
The Kenyan men thumped Sierra Leone 16-0, Iran 8-2 and France 18-0. They ran riot against Latvia in the semis, winning 14-1.
“We are not that tough. It is our mindset, strategy and team work that makes us perform well amidst the challenges,” said the goalkeeper of their dominance of the World Cup. She singled out their semi-finals clash against Poland, which they won 2-1 as their toughest in the games held in Pune.
Atenya admits that seeing their female counterparts successfully defend the title gave them pressure to bag their first ever title.
“They (national women’s roll ball team) had not just defended the title but won their third trophy of the competition so the pressure was there (on the national men’s roll ball team) but not too much. I saw us winning the match even when we tied 4-4,” said the assistant captain.
They were successful after five failed attempts. Even in their preparations for the World Cup, the team was always dodged with challenges. With lack of their own training and playing ground, they were at the mercy of different universities in Nairobi.
On some occasions, they had to cope with being rained on while in training while also not every player turned up for the training due to lack of transport.
"Roll ball players really love the game. People might think that we get a lot of money but players really play their hearts out no matter what challenge they are facing. It is that hard work and determination that has propelled the national teams to where they are now," said Atenya.
As a result of not being kitted properly, goalkeeper Amimo picked chest and hand injuries at the World Cup. She is yet to get proper treatment due to lack of funds. The two players had a word to the government.
"Players take seriously the duty of representing the country, so the government should not discriminate against teams. It is sad that for us, we were not even flagged off but most importantly is that we need our own playing ground where we can even hold major tournaments. They should help us spread roll ball across the country,” said Amimo.
Atenya said: "Athletes represent the country, so the support that the government accord to them should be much more. It is very sad and embarrassing that most of the time, we cannot offer support (back home), yet we represent the country at international level and are the world champions."