Malkia Strikers seek to rewrite history as they return to World Championship

Malkia Strikers in action during Women's African Nations Championship in Kigali, Rwanda, in September 12-20, 2021. [CAVB]

From late August through to early September, Malkia Strikers will step to the biggest volleyball stage, this year – the FIVB World Championship, seeking to pen another piece of history.

The team will head to the event, held after every four years, with the sole purpose of securing a second consecutive win at the Worlds.

Kenya’s maiden win at this stage was a rare triumph against Kazakhstan, a match where Captain Mercy Moim topped the score chart with 24 points as she led the nation to a historic straight sets (25-23, 25-22, 25-21) victory in 2018.

Just like the last edition, this year’s will be a historic one. For the first time in history, World Championship will be staged in two different countries - Poland and Netherlands from September 23 to October 15.

Russia will host the men’s edition.

Malkia Strikers assistant coach Japheth Munala says they will step out in search of another rare win.

“We need to continue from where we left off in 2018 and get a second victory,” Munala told Standard Sports.

Kenya first broke the jinx of not winning a match outside Africa in 2014. That was against Mexico, in their opening Group Q match of the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix. The following year, they won her first and only international trophy –the FIVB World Grand Prix Group III, in Australia.

That very year, the team also picked another rare win at the FIVB World Cup. But they would have to wait for another six years to register another major milestone – a maiden win at the 202World Championship, the one and only one at the stage.

The first match of the 2022 edition will be played at the GelreDome in Arnhem. The event will run from August 26 to September 11.

Organisers have already unveiled a lightning bold, symbolising just how electrifying this mega event is going to be.

“Most of the time we start the game on a good footing but we end up losing the match because of lack of endurance. The good thing is that we have new and young players coming up so I think it is possible to grind a win or two this year,” Noel Murambi, one of the senior players noted.

But despite the excitement of returning to the world, there will be little action for both men and women national teams this year with just two major assignments lined up in 2022.

In addition to the World Championship, which Kenya is yet to qualify as a men’s team, another major event on the calendar is the inaugural CAVB Challenge Cup.

The CAVB Challenge Cup, open for both men and women, will act as a qualifier for the FIVB Challenge Cup set to be staged in late July. CAVB is yet to announce the host nation and city.

Sadly, though, these are the only international assignment for the senior national team, according to the 2022 Confederation of Africa Volleyball (CAVB) calendar.

Since 2015, the men’s side has taken part in just one major international event – the Africa Nations Championship held last year in Rwanda.

And despite lack of international exposure, the men’s team still managed a historic victory against the top-ranked African side – Egypt, whom they beat for the first time in continental volleyball history.

Gideon Tarus men thrashed the Pharaohs by three sets to two (19-25, 25-22, 25-20, 18-25, 15-12) at the Kigali Arena.

The victory was a huge statement for the Kenyan side that went into the competition having last played at a major stage way back in 2015.

They now have another chance to better their ninth-place finish in Kigali should they be entered at the inaugural CAVB Challenge Cup.

At the club level, some players will be grace the Africa Club Championship (men and women), also a qualifier for the FIVB World Club Championship. According to CAVB calendar, the club championship will conclude before May 22 to pave way for the Challenge Cup (FIVB international window for senior teams). The host nation and cities are yet to be decided.

The 2022 volleyball action will, however, serve off with an age group competition – the African Youth Games for boys and girls aged 14-18, in Ethiopia. The event, according to CAVB communication officer Justin Sadik, will take place in the first quarter of 2022.

“The official dates are yet to be confirmed,” said Sadik, the Gambian who works as CAVB press officer.

Also lined up this year is the Africa Youth Championship for boys aged 19 years and below and girls – Under 18 in between July and August, as well as the Youth Africa Nations Championship for women (Under 20) and men (Under 21) also lined up in early August.

Locally, the ongoing Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) national league is expected to conclude on June 26 after a two-day National Playoff.

“I lost so many players at the start of the season and we still trying to build the cohesion. We will use the league matches as preparations for the (Africa) Club Championship,” Munala added.