It is over. It was coming. This was bound to happen; the question was when.
Well, the guessing time is over. Kenya’s most decorated and Kenya Pipeline setter Janet Wanja has had enough of international volleyball, and retired on Tuesday.
Wanja, 33, ended her illustrious 14-year national team career after Pipeline’s fifth-place finish at the recently concluded African Women’s Volleyball Club championship in Tunisia.
Wanja debuted in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Greece and was the remaining player in the current Kenyan side from those Summer games.
Apart from several individual accolades, Wanja has won five Africa Nations Championships, two All African Games titles and the first ever World Grand Prix (Group 3) title in 2015 with Malkia Strikers.
No going back
“For me, my time with the national team is over. It is now time to concentrate on my club career and allow young players to come through. It is has been an incredibly difficult decision, but I think it is good for everyone. There is no going back even if I get a call-up,” Wanja told The Standard Sports moments after arriving from Tunisia.
“I have been criticised several times and asked to leave the stage for younger players. As much as we want young players, most of them are not working hard to prove themselves. Just because I started playing volleyball early doesn’t mean I am old. We have proved that age is just but a number. I am still strong, but will now focus on Pipeline where they still need my services. Save for the national team hustles and axing sideshows, it has been an awesome journey.
“Personally, being in the national team has not helped me financially. I have not gained anything financially; it was just for the love of the game. We never used to get allowances during my earlier times with the national team. That explains why the current generation is in a comfort zone.”
But the Mukumu Girls alumnus, who joined the national team in 2004 after sitting her Form Four examinations, was quick to slam the Kenya Volleyball Federation for treating them unprofessionally.
“Having been unceremoniously dropped twice together with my captain Braxcides Agala prior to international competitions, I think this is the right time to call it a day. KVF got all the recognition because we used to play our hearts out. So, they should at least appreciate the efforts of the old players and not to overlook their contributions,” said Wanja.
As Wanja plans to enroll for refereeing courses, she is worried about the future of the women’s team after it withdrew from the upcoming FIVB World Grand Prix due to an estimated Sh8 million outstanding debt.
“I am not ruling out on a coaching career, but for now, I want to be a referee,” she said.
“It is unfortunate the team has pulled out of the Grand Prix. I understand the federation doesn’t have money, but that is one of the best tournaments to expose our players.”