Uproar over appointments of 'shame' at Malkia Strikers bench

Kenya Volleyball president Charles Nyaberi (right) and his deputy Paul Bitok. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

In the true words of former Harambee Stars coach and one of France’s 1998 World Cup winning goalkeepers Bernard Lama, ‘Abnormal is normal in Kenya.’

If the late Kenya Volleyball Federation president Waithaka Kioni was to resurrect from his grave today, he would weep at the deplorable state of the sport in the country.

From poor transition of players in the national women’s national team, Malkia Strikers, set up to decline in dominance of Kenyan teams at the continental stage, incompetence and mismanagement, one of the most loved sports in the country is literally crying for help ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics Games.

While Kenyan men’s teams appear to be slightly on an upward trajectory, their women’s counterparts have lost grip in the continent. Kenya Prisons men’s team finished third at the Africa Club Championships title in Cairo in April, barely a month after national team Wafalme secured a silver medal after losing 3-0 to giants Egypt at the African Games in Ghana.

It was the opposite for Malkia Strikers as they relinquished their African Games gong while the trio of Kenya Pipeline, KCB and Kenya Prisons failed to reclaim their club title in Cairo this month.

Prior to the African Games qualifier in Egypt, Malkia had trained for less than nine days after the Christmas break before uncertainty clouded their trip to Accra.

But it seems that abnormality has been normalised at KVF if the impropriety surrounding the recent appointments of the national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers technical bench to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games is anything to go by.

Kenya National volleyball team, Malkia strikers take on Egypt during their African Nations Championship match at the Palais polyvalent des sports Paposy Arena in Yaounde, Cameroon on August 24, 2023. Kenya won with a three-set (25-22, 25-20, 25-14). [KVF Media, Standard]

Fresh from failing to extend their partnership deal with the International Volleyball Federation’s (FIVB) Volleyball Empowerment Programme that was brought in during the late Kioni’s tenure in 2020, the Charles Nyaberi-led federation has appointed two of its National Executive Committee members in the technical bench.

Sadly, the unpleasant activities at KVF, which can be well equated to former Attorney General Githu Muigai’s mortician analogy, is a true reflection of the Kenyan federations.

The FIVB-KVF marriage, which had seen the global body invest almost CFH 600,000 (Sh88 million) in Malkia's preparations, was ended last month after FIVB refused to bow down to pressure to have an equal representation on the technical bench of the Paris-bound team.

FIVB had only offered two slots like they did at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics against KVF’s wish of three officials.

The Brazilian-team of head coach Luizomar de Moura, assistant Jefferson Arosti, Thiago Moreira (physiotherapist), Marcelo de Souza (strength and conditioning), Leonardo Barobosa (statistician), and Beto Opice (team manager) have been running the programme together with Paul Bitok, Japheth Munala and Josp Barasa on rotational basis.

But it seems KVF have indirectly found their way after talks on a deal renewal fell through.

And in a statement posted on the federation’s Facebook page on Sunday, KCB coach Japheth Munala was appointed the head coach and will be assisted by KVF’s deputy president Paul Bitok.

Malkia Strikers' Trainer Janet Wanja give instructions to Setter Emmaculate Nekesa (left) at the Nyayo National Stadium ahead of the African Games qualifiers set for January 21 to 29 in Cairo, Egypt. Jan 12, 2024. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Legendary setter Janet Wanja will serve as the team's trainer, while federation’s president Charles Nyaberi will be the team manager.

Former national team and African Games captain Dan Wanyama, who is also the Webuye West Member of Parliament, said he will engage Sports Principal Secretary Peter Tum to ensure only the right people travel to Paris.

“For Bitok, we can give him some benefit of doubt because he has the technical knowledge. But with the case of Nyaberi, he is belittling himself as KVF president. It’s not right for him to be in charge of the team yet we have very many team managers who participate in the league,” Wanyama told Standard Sports.

Celebrated tactician David Lung’aho, who coached the team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, equally decried the ‘disease of greed’ expressed by the Executive Committee.

“It is funny to see a few individuals jostle for positions in a team that we have struggled to build over the years. From the way these officials are behaving, they will make people believe that getting elected gives you a chance to enrich yourself,” said Lunga'ho.

"Since both Nyaberi and Bitok are in the Exco, whom will they report to as technical bench members? It is not the best thing to do, but if this is their way of doing things, they will be setting a bad precedent.”

Former national team captain, Dorcas ‘The Destroyer’ Ndasaba, wants the government to hold the federation accountable.

“I’m not surprised at all because that’s exactly the Kenyan way of doing things especially when it nears the Olympics or other major events period. We have been patriotic to this country for long, but when it comes to such moments, legends become useless,” said Ndasaba, who is also a nominated MCA in Bungoma County.

“This is the time to stand up and be counted, though abnormal is normal here. Unless they change their selfish traits our game will never progress. Instead of giving those opportunities to deserving individuals, they just want to reap where they never sow. The government must intervene and save this game from going into oblivion.”

Just like Ndasaba, another Kenyan legend Margaret Indakala is saddened by how the national team is being managed.

“It seems they pushed out the Brazilian coaches to pave way for themselves. We have so many qualified women coaches in the country who have been overlooked for years. We need to have a clear transition plan so that we can help the upcoming players,” said Indakala.

But a source from the national team who sought anonymity leapt to Bitok’s defence and said: “Bitok is just a victim of the situation, but he is actually the one running the training session. He was part of the team when it qualified for the Olympics. But if this office doesn’t work together, our game will continue going down.”

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