When what was left for fans were blank stares

By Elizabeth Mburugu: Friday, December 20th 2019 at 07:00 GMT +3 | Hockey
Lucy Wangeci is Telkom hockey team defender on Tue, 15. October 2019 4:10 PM. [The Standard Group]

Kenya’s most decorated women’s hockey coach Jos Openda is hoping for better days in 2020.

Openda, who has had a successful coaching career with 10-time Africa champions Blazers formerly Telkom, says this has been a bad year for Kenya, on and off the pitch.

From a disastrous show at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Africa qualifiers to Kenyan clubs giving a wide berth to the annual Africa Cup of Club Championships (ACCC), it has indeed been a tough year for players as well as hockey enthusiasts in the country.
“Bad is how can I sum up 2019 because we performed poorly in international duty and there is also nothing to write home about in the local scene,” said Openda.

“We sunk to a new low as far as our hockey standards are concerned. Our national teams failed to secure a podium finish and we even struggled against countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia I think we hit our rock bottom,” Openda said.

The national teams also faltered in the only international assignment they had this year

The women and men teams failed to excel, finishing fourth and fifth in the 2020 continental Olympic qualifiers held in August in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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While history favoured South Africa and Egypt over Kenya, Kenyans never saw Zimbabwe as a threat in any competition.

However, Zimbabweans stunned the once hockey powerhouse defeating the men and women’s team and finished above them in the final ranking.

Kenya beat Namibia 3-1 and 1-0 in men and women’s ties respectively.

The men finished a distant fifth behind winners South Africa, Egypt, Ghana and Zimbabwe. The Kenyan women did not sparkle either, finishing above bottom-placed Namibia.

Once again, shoddy preparations and lack of exposure were blamed for Kenya’s dismal show.  

The men’s team was under the tutelage of long term coach Jos Openda while Tom Olal was in charge of the women.

At club level, Blazers were forced to relinquish their continental title without a fight. This is after they failed to travel to Ismailia, Egypt where they were expected to defend the ACCC trophy early this month owing to financial constraints.

The 22-time Premier League champions joined the long list of Kenyan clubs without sponsors after Telecommunications service provider Telkom Kenya withdrew their sponsorship mid this year.

“It has been the most difficult time for me as a coach and a top official at the club on and off pitch. Having to withdraw from the ACCC and surrendering our trophy was the biggest blow for us (Blazers),” Openda added.

It was not only Blazers who failed to honour the continental championships, Strathmore University Scorpions who had qualified in the women’s category also pulled out of the tournament.

Premier League champions Butali Warriors and Kenya Police once again gave the annual tournament a wide berth.

The two sides have for years given the event a cold shoulder with their last participation being in 2017 when Kenya hosted the event at City Park.

Locally, Butali and Blazers extended their dominance of the Kenya Hockey Union men and women’s Premier League respectively. The two sides were unrivalled successfully defending their titles on an unbeaten run.

Wazalendo finished second qualifying for next year’s Africa championship.

 

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