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Hockey: Ludiali upbeat of African Cup of Nation dream

Last updated 2 months ago | By Washington Onyango

Western Jaguar's Ivan Lufiali (right) in action during a past KHU Premier League match against Sailors. [Courtesy]

The 20-year-old represented Africa at the World Youth Olympics in 2018

He is a Bio-systems Engineering student at the University of Nairobi and plays for Western Jaguars in the KHU Premier League.

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Ivan Ludiali is a dedicated young hockey player who strives to get the best out of himself every time he suits up to play.

Despite his age, he's only 20, and with only five years’ experience of playing hockey, Ludiali has already made strides in the sport.

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He signed for Kakamega-based Western Jaguars Hockey Club, which plays in the Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) Men’s Premier League, immediately after leaving Maseno School in December 2017.

He won a bronze medal with the Kenya national under-17 men’s team that finished third at the Youth Olympic Qualifiers in Algiers, Algeria, in July 2018.

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Ludiali then represented Africa at the World Youth Olympics in Argentina, in October the same year.

“Playing for the national team is always a dream for any sportsman or woman. I am privileged to have made it to the team at the age of 18, a feat which am proud off,” he said.

He made his senior national debut last year during the Tokyo Olympics Qualifiers in South Africa, where Kenya was knocked out.

However, Ludiali says he is not ready to give up on representing Kenya at a major international stage saying his eyes are fixed on helping Kenya qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

“Missing the chance of going to the Olympics was a tough one for us especially with the wealth of talent Kenya has in hockey. To be at the Olympic would have been a privilege and therefore giving up is never an option for me when it comes to hockey.”

The 20-year-old youngster started playing hockey while in Form Two at Maseno School in 2015.

Western Jaguar's Ivan Lufiali in action. [Courtesy]

“I was influenced by Ian Keganda, who was a senior player in our school. We also shared a dormitory,”

At that time, Maseno School had lost both the national and East Africa secondary schools titles to Friends School Kamusinga.

There was stiff competition as players chased a place in the Maseno team. This, however, did not deter an amateur Ludiali.

“I really wanted to represent the school so when I was presented with the opportunity of playing hockey, I decided to take up the challenge even though it was my first time,” said the first born in a family of four.

In 2016, Maseno made it to the nationals at Kamusinga but were eliminated at the group stages.

During his final year in 2017, they were again eliminated at the regional games after losing to Kisumu Day in the final.

Nevertheless, Ludiali kept his inner fire burning and signed for Western Jaguars in December the same year, thanking his then high school coach Frankline Odayo for encouraging him to keep working hard.

“Everything was new at Jaguars. The level of competition was different and everyone was expected to perform at a high level. Thanks to head coach Mike Malungu and captain Willis Malesi, I settled in well,” he said.

In 2018, he went for the national under 17 trials at City Park in Nairobi and was lucky enough as he made the team to the Olympic Qualifiers in Algeria, his first outing with Kenya.

“The experience was great. To play in Algeria made me realise that I must work hard and believe in myself, for I could achieve more,” he said.

In the premier league, Ludiali has been an instrumental key midfielder for Jaguars and head coach Malungu believes he has a bright future.

“The boy has a magic touch. He is still young and he will win trophies; if not for Jaguars then for Kenya. All he need is to continue training hard and believing in himself,” Malungu said.

Ludiali, who idols Butali Warriors head coach Zack Aura, said his dream is to help Jaguars qualify for the Africa Cup for Club Championship.