Lakers seek to stay afloat at Africa Cup tournament

Lakers celebrate during Africa Cup for Men's and Women's club's champion match against Army Ladies at City Park Hockey Stadium, Nairobi. Feb 15, 2023. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

In the vibrant city of Kisumu, Lakers Hockey Club stands as a testament of dedication and tenacity.

For years, this community-based sports club has been the pride of its neighborhood, knitting the spirit of unity through the tapestry of hockey.

As the clock ticks closer to the 2023 Africa Cup for Club Champions Tournament (ACCC) in Blantyre, Malawi, Lakers is not merely a team; it's a symbol of resilience and a beacon of hope for its community.

The journey to success for these young athletes has been anything but smooth, with each stride fraught with challenges.

However, a turning point arrived on a fateful Saturday which heralded a brighter future for Lakers Hockey Club. Now, on the brink of a new adventure, Lakers is set to embark on a journey that could redefine their place in the world of African hockey.

If nothing changes, Lakers Hockey Club will from today embark on a bus journey to Malawi, carrying not just a team but the dreams and aspirations of a community.

Moureen Auma of Lakers and Ampem Darkoa goalkeeper of Army ladies during Africa Cup for Men's and Women's clubs champion at City Park. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Their preparations have been meticulous, a reflection of the passion that fuels Lakers. Team manager John Paul Otieno, the heartbeat of Lakers, shared his thoughts on the team's readiness and ambitions.

"Our journey is not just about reaching Malawi; it's about leaving a mark. We've learned from our past, and this time, we aim to improve on our fourth-place finish in 2022. The players are ready, and we're excited about the challenges that lie ahead," said Otieno.

Coach Austin Tuju, the strategic mind behind Lakers' gameplay, echoed these sentiments, emphasising the importance of unity and perseverance.

"In the face of adversity, Lakers has always stood tall. We're not just a team; we're a family. Our strategy is built on resilience and teamwork, and we're taking that spirit with us to Malawi," Tuju remarked.

The Lakers' roster has been bolstered with the inclusion of former national team captain and Sailors forward Gilly Okumu, Twinkle forward Pauline Ochieng, and University of Nairobi midfielder Clementine Nyongesa, showcasing a commitment to strength and diversity.

"Securing the talents of Gilly, Pauline, and Clementine adds depth to our squad. We believe in a balanced and skilled team, and these players bring valuable experience to the table," said team manager Otieno.

Lakers Alice Owiti during Africa Cup For Club Champions match against GRA Ladies of Ghana at City Park Hockey Stadium. Feb 16, 2023. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Alice Owiti, Lakers' captain, arrives from South Africa where she helped the national women's hockey team finish third in the Paris Olympics qualifiers.

Her experience on the international stage lends a unique perspective to Lakers' aspirations. Alice Owiti spoke about the team's goals, stating;

"We're not just representing Lakers; we're representing Kisumu, Kenya, and African women's hockey. The journey to Malawi is an opportunity to show the world what Lakers is made of, and we're ready to seize it."

In Malawi, Lakers will join the ranks of formidable opponents, including defending champions GRA Ladies, hosts Capital Braves, Genetrix, Scorpions, Nigeria's Kada Queens and Delta Queens, El Sharkia from Egypt, and fellow Kenyan representatives Blazers. The competition promises to be intense, but Lakers is no stranger to challenges.

RentCo Africa Chief Executive Officer Robert Nyasimi (far right) after handing over a Sh1 million cheque to Lakers Hockey Club players.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

The support from RentCo Africa, contributing Sh1 million to Lakers Hockey Club, serves as a testament to the community backing that propels the team forward. The financial boost ensures that Lakers can focus on the game, knowing that their community stands firmly behind them.

RentCo Africa formally declared its commitment to supporting the Lakers Hockey Club. The announcement was more than just a financial boost; it was a declaration of belief in the power of sports to uplift communities and transform lives.

"Recently, we learned about the Lakers Hockey Team's audacious contemplation of embarking on a 2306-kilometer, 35-hour road trip to Blantyre, Malawi, for the Africa Cup for Club Champions Tournament (ACCC2023)," Nyasimi said.

"This revelation struck a chord within me. The mere thought of these young athletes undertaking such a formidable journey, facing the challenges of the road, only to compete in a tournament that represents the pinnacle of club hockey in Africa, is nothing short of inspiring," said Robert Nyasimi, the Founder and Group CEO of RentCo Africa.

Lakers Hockey Club defender Stacey Chentry in action during a past match.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

Stacy Chentry, a formidable defender in the Lakers' lineup, shared her personal goals ahead of the journey.

"Representing Lakers internationally is a dream come true. I want to contribute to the team's success, make my community proud, and learn from the diverse experiences that international competition offers," Chentry said.

Founded in 2017, Lakers Hockey Club has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. Rising through the ranks, they earned promotion to the Premier League in 2019 after finishing runner-up in the Super League in 2018.

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