Kenya men’s deaf handball team captain Joel Kiilu says their mission at the 24th Summer Deaflympics in Brazil is to make a podium finish.
The skipper is confident the country will improve its fifth place ranking realised in Brazil four years ago in the World Deaf Championships.
“The last time we competed in the South American nation we were raw, we had no skills at all but so far the team has improved on tactics,” Kiilu said.
The 28 year-old centre player says they hope to overcome all their opponents especially Croatia who are the world defending champions.
Kenya is in Group A alongside Brazil, Germany, Serbia and Cameroon. Croatia is in Pool B alongside Turkey, Denmark, Venezuela and Ghana.
“We know our rivals are very skilled, they are experienced, but again we are ready for them going by the level of training we’ve had in the camp,” Kiilu said.
Apart from the national team, Kiilu also captains Nairobi Kaloleni estate outfit Young Cobra Handball Club.
Through elaborate training they have had for two weeks at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi under head coach Frederick Omole, Kiilu believes Kenya is capable of beating hosts Brazil and Cameroon with ease after studying the rivals on YouTube.
“Among the tactics we have learnt in training include feinting, shooting and setting up a solid back defence. Before our departure to Brazil, we will concentrate on strengthening our wing defence,” Kiilu said.
Optimistic Omole has great faith in the 15-man squad he has trimmed from the initial 24 who were given a call up.
“When we started training 14 days ago, the players lacked good coordination because they had not gelled. The good thing is they were able to find their rhythm quickly as they have played together before.
“The team now is in good shape and this has made us to be optimistic for a great show in Brazil,” Omole said.
Omole’s strategy in Brazil is to win two games in their pool which he considers very tough.
“That’s the minimum objective we have set for ourselves in the championships, reaching the medal bracket will be a plus for us,” he said.
In order to achieve this feat, Omole has subjected the players to focus on defence and speed-work he believes will put them on a level par with other world powerhouses.
“A good defence line and a fast paced game should deliver us the needed victories,” the coach said.
In his own analysis of their pool, Omole believes Germany and Brazil will be very tough to crack but is comfortable of edging out the rest of the rivals in their group.
Ahead of their departure, Omole says he will help the squad to gel even more by taking the players through movements, skills, coordination and tactical paces.
“I will take them for swimming lessons to help them build their hand and leg muscles. Swimming also helps the players to cool down after a heavy work out.
“We will also engage them in a bit of gym work,” he said.
The team’s greatest barrier is the lack of a running league where the players can gauge their might but Omole insists he will not engage his charges in any friendly matches to shield them from the Covid- 19 pandemic.
The tactician suggests that deaf teams should be incorporated in the Kenya Handball Federation leagues to play alongside the rest to improve their game.
“This will ensure there’s is continuity and talent building among the deaf, especially after coming from an event of huge magnitude like the Deaflympics,” he said.