Malkia Strikers look prepared to defend title
Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok has earmarked Cameroon as their main threat in the women’s volleyball tournament of the 2019 African Games that officially kicks off in Morocco tomorrow.
Having broken Kenyans’ hearts on international scene on numerous occasions, Bitok, who was recently reappointed the national team head coach after a ten year stint in Rwanda, will be aiming to help his home country retain the title and consequently end Cameroon’s recent dominance.
Kenya and Cameroon have been drawn in the same Group B of the Morocco tournament together with Senegal and Algeria. The West Africans have been giving Malkia Strikers sleepless nights for the last four years.
Just a month ago, Cameroon defended their continental gong after seeing off Kenya 3-2 (17-25, 27-25,23-25,25-23,13-15) in the African Nations Championship final in Cairo, Egypt.
This was the second consecutive final defeat to the top-ranked West African side after Kenya lost by straight sets (25-22, 25-19, 29-27) in an emotional 2017 final in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Prior to dethroning Kenya in 2017, Cameroon had denied them a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics Games in Brazil.
Interestingly, it is the Kenya B team that overcame the Cameroonian side in the final of the 11th edition of the African Games in 2015 in Congo Brazzaville before their standards started stagnating.
The record African champions qualified for the Morocco showpiece after winning the Zone Five qualifying tournament in Kampala, Uganda in May with an unbeaten record.
Though expectations are high from Bitok and his team that has produced some negative publicity in the last two weeks, he is determined to help Malkia Strikers to restore their lost glory on the continental stage.
“Of course, expectations are high and everybody wants us to retain the trophy. We really need to work hard. There is some sort of pressure creeping in because of the tough task lying ahead of us but as an experienced coach I will handle that. The girls are in high spirits and ready to prove their worthiness. We will give our best,” Bitok told Standard Sports.
“ As you all know, Cameroon have been giving us difficult times in the last few years but I believe this the moment to show the continent what Kenya is made of. We don’t have a choice but bring smiles back on our fans. We are slowly going to start making changes in the team. It will be a painful experience, but we must embrace it.” [Rodgers Eshitemi]
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