•Kenya will be hoping to improve on their 2015 third-place finish when they face bogey boys Ghana today
•On Saturday, Kenya face hosts South Africa.
National men’s hockey team will be hoping to complete a double against Ghana as the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Africa qualifiers get underway today at Stellenbosch University, Cape Town South Africa.
The side, coached by Meshack Senge, won against the West Africans 4-3 during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games qualifiers in the third play-off after both sides fell to South Africa and Egypt in the semi-finals.
Interestingly, the team was under Senge then and the Strathmore University coach is optimistic of a better performance that will see the team return to the summer games having last featured in 1988.
“We open the event with familiar opponents and we hope to start on a positive note. We won against them in the previous event and we will be keen to complete what we started. This is a completely different squad and we are optimistic of recording good results as our ultimate goal is to qualify for the Olympic, “ noted Senge.
He added: “This is a completely young squad with few experienced players and there shouldn’t be any cause for alarm. We have trained well and I believe the players will rise to the occasion but for now, we are going to take one match at a time and see how it all pans out as the event progresses.”
However, the headache for coach Meshack Senge’s troops are the north Africa giants Egypt, whom they play tomorrow. The Arabs have made it to the last three finals of the qualifiers and Constance Wakhura’s captained side will need to be at their best to avoid a baptism of fire.
Kenya play less fancied Zimbabwe in their third match on Thursday and will be hoping to capitalise on their higher rating to send them packing.
Kenya are ranked 45th while Zimbabwe stand at 66th. However, complacency is the last thing the Kenyans need as it is likely to be counterproductive.
On Saturday, Kenyans face hosts South Africa. The continental giants boast a rich history and will keep it that way against Kenya. South Africa have beaten Egypt in the last three qualifying finals and remain bookmakers’ favourites to win the title for a record fourth time in a row. Kenya have suffered humiliation against the 7-time African Cup of Nations winners losing by more than three goals margin in all the meetings.
Kenya end their campaign on Sunday against Namibia as they seek to stamp their authority over the tournament’s weakest team.
Commenting on the team’s chances, Butali coach Denis Owoka said: “To be honest, South Africa and Egypt stand in our way and boast both quality and experience. Our chances are slim and we are disadvantaged because of inexperience with young players to look forward to. The gap in quality and class is too big.”
On the other hand, their women’s counterparts open their title hunt against Namibia today before squaring it out with Ghana tomorrow. The side, coached by Tom Olal, will then rest on Wednesday before they tackle Zimbabwe and South Africa in other matches in the round-robin format event.