Counties should lead from front, build indoor arenas

General Service Unit players Obadiah Kiptoo (left) and Emmanuel Kogo block an attack

General Service Unit players Obadiah Kiptoo (second left) and Emmanuel Kogo block an attack during their match against DOD CAU at the second edition of Eldoret City Volleyball Tournament held at Eldoret Polytechnic grounds on December 2, 2023. 

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Prior to the tournament, the second leg of the KVF National League was played on Thursday and Friday meaning the athletics-crazy town of Eldoret witnessed four days of high level volleyball action.

The second edition of the Eldoret City Volleyball tournament held last weekend was a big success with thousands of volleyball fans thronging Eldoret Polytechnic grounds to watch the two-day competition unfold.

General Service Unit (men) and Kenya Commercial Bank (women) emerged champions in the senior clubs category that was fiercely contested with Ugandan teams Nemo Stars and KAVC among those in attendance.

Prior to the tournament, the second leg of the KVF National League was played on Thursday and Friday meaning the athletics-crazy town of Eldoret witnessed four days of high level volleyball action.

It’s important that Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii aka Koti Moja was in attendance during the Eldoret tournament and witnessed first hand the huge following volleyball commands in his county.

Even more important was the fact that almost all National League teams have players who hail from Uasin Gishu further underlining the region’s importance to the Kenyan volleyball fraternity.

Former Kenyan internationals Paul Bitok and Philip Maiyo remain leading volleyball figures in Uasin Gishu and a testament that the region is home to world class volleyball talent. Their legacy, which featured successful professional stints in Croatia and Bulgaria, is being continued by the younger generation led by setters Brian Melly and Kevin Kipkosgei who were part of the tournament’s dream team.

While Bitok and Maiyo honed their volleyball talent in the tiny village of Simat before going on to dazzle in the local league, it’s a big shame that the boys they nurtured are playing in similar conditions over 20 years later.

At this age and time, volleyball especially in regions considered to be hotbed of talent like Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Nyeri and Bungoma should no longer be played outdoor.

It’s high time that the governors of these counties take it upon themselves to build indoor arenas when putting up sports infrastructure. In the football mad regions of Kakamega, Kisumu and recently Homa Bay, the governors have done a brilliant job in building the Bukhungu Stadium, Jomo Kenyatta Stadium and Raila Odinga Stadium respectively.

And they are now reaping the fruits with tournaments like Cecafa being staged in these stadiums.

It would be befitting for the indoor arena at Uasin Gishu is named after big players like Bitok or Maiyo. Nandi County could also build one of their own and name it the Elphas “Boiyo” Biwott arena after the legendary GSU and Kenya outside hitter. It would be a no-brainer naming the one in Bungoma after the great Dorcas Ndasaba or the one in Nyeri after Jane Wacu whose careers with the national team spanned over a decade.

These regional indoor arenas at the grassroots will not only ensure that the KVF National League is played indoors throughout the year across different venues in the country but also improve Kenya’s chances of hosting international competitions in future.

And they don’t have to be as grandiose as the one at Kasarani. With a lean budget of Sh100 million, these county governments can easily put up arenas that will meet the bare minimum requirements for volleyball to be played indoors; good lighting, sufficient height, wide playing area and shade. Once they are up and running, the county government can allocate some funds annually to gradually elevate the arenas to the required international standards.

It’s a shame that our volleyball legends played outdoors and in 2023, some of the kids who looked up to them in their heydays, are playing in the same conditions.

County governments have a big role to play in ensuring volleyball is played indoors all season here in Kenya by setting up these indoor halls. The time to start is now! Kama si sasa, ni sasa hivi!