FROM KABOYOWO TO TOKYO

Moim set to cap off stellar Malkia Strikers career with Olympic gold

Her entry into the world of sports was systematic, having initially discovered her path and passion as a fledgling five-year-old footballer at Kaboyowo Primary School

In Summary

•Joining Cheptil proved to be the blessing she so much needed to propel her to her ultimate prize.

•The Malkia Strikers captain believes they have finally secured the support that proved elusive and slipped through their fingers over the years.

Mercy Moim in action during a training session with Malkia Strikers.
Mercy Moim in action during a training session with Malkia Strikers.
Image: /ERICK BARASA

At the tender age of 15, most people are still struggling to discover themselves. It is at a time adolescence is at its peak and the human mind is inundated with juvenile hallucinations.

But the script reads quite differently for the Kenya national women's volleyball team ‘Malkia Strikers’ captain Mercy Moim who shook off the widespread stigma normally associated with teenage years, to fire Malkia Strikers to the 2005 Africa Nations volleyball title in Abuja, Nigeria when she was barely in Form Three.

Born on January 1, 1989, Moim’s entry into the world of sports was systematic, having initially discovered her path and passion as a fledgling five-year-old footballer at Kaboyowo Primary School.

“I began taking an interest in sports when I was 5 years. Initially interested in football, I was talked into joining volleyball by my late cousin, Mr. Kilo, who was a primary school teacher then.

“He took note of my height and suggested I make good use of it in sport, and especially volleyball. Prior to that, I was into football turning out as a goalkeeper,” said Moim.

Moim should thank her cousin for beating her path to fame and fortune. Years down the line, she turned out to be a hot cake in volleyball with high school teachers hot on her heels.

“I got quite a number of openings in volleyball as soon as I had sat for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam in 2002.

“That December, a village mate informed me there were some teachers keen to meet me. She had just completed her education at St. Philips Mukomare in Kakamega, and before clearing she told her games teacher she knew a girl in her village who would play volleyball quite well because of her height.

“The girl she was referring to happened to be me. Before long, one of the teachers visited our home and took me back with her to the school where I tried out for the volleyball team for a whole month before I was released to return home,” said Moim.

As things later turned out, her name and potential had spread far and wide like bushfire in the Amazon given St. Philips were not the only ones pursuing her signature.

“A few days later, we received more visitors at home. These were teachers who had travelled all the way from Lugulu Girls to offer me scholarship in their school. They too took me along. I stayed at Lugulu training with the volleyball team for a month as we prepared for their trip to Poland for the World Junior Championship before I went back home,” she added.

But St. Philips were keen on her progress and just couldn't allow Lugulu to grab the meat right from their teeth.

“Somehow, teachers at St. Philips got to hear about Lugulu's interest and so they moved with speed to intercept the plan by offering me Form One admission letter instantly. I stayed there for two years.

The turf wars were far from over. A couple of years later, St. Philips were counting their loses after Moim found a new home at Cheptil.

“During one of the inter-school games, teachers from Cheptil Secondary School saw me in action and were impressed with my skills. The school’s principal, Mr. Maiyo, made contact with my uncle who was working nearby and urged him to convince me to join his school, which I did,” she said.

Moi (R) with Malkia Strikers team-mates after victory in a past event.
Moi (R) with Malkia Strikers team-mates after victory in a past event.
Image: COURTESY

Joining Cheptil proved to be the blessing she so much needed to propel her to her ultimate prize.

“Our coach at the school happened to be Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok’s brother. He made Bitok aware of my presence at the school and the coach took it upon himself to attend the inter-school national volleyball finals in Nakuru where he invited me to join the national team after being convinced I had the potential.”

“I trained with Malkia Strikers for a month during which time we qualified for the Africa Games in Abuja, Nigeria in 2003 and faced off with the hosts in the finals.

Moim found herself right in the thick of a gruesome battle for continental glory.

“In an effort to deny us the title, our opponents employed uncouth means to frustrate our efforts. They ensured we were locked out of the gym on the morning of the finals. However, their attempts only proved futile given we eventually beat them and clinched the title,” said Moim.

“Since then, I have won five titles with the national team and another five at the club level while I was still featuring for Kenya Prisons before decamping to Kenya Commercial Bank.”

The Malkia Strikers captain believes they have finally secured the support that proved elusive and slipped through their fingers over the years.

“For the last six years before the government ultimately intervened, Malkia Strikers had to endure a wide range of challenges including the absence of a gym, unpaid allowances and lack of air tickets. That's because all the tasks rested squarely on the shoulders of Kenya Volleyball Federation,” said Moim.

“But things are now looking up since the Ministry of Sports chipped in. They've always ensured we get our allowances in good time through the accounts they opened for us. The situation has improved so much such that everyone is quite willing to training sessions without being pushed around, ” she added.

While at it, she still insists Kenya should take enough time to learn lessons from nations that have stamped authority in various sports disciplines.

“Playing outside the country is more financially rewarding given there are many corporate entities willing to support sports out there. You may find around 10 or 20 companies jostling to finance the same team. If you take a keen look at the uniforms they don, you'll see logos for different firms patched all over the outfits.

“Moreover, the national teams are provided with quality training facilities by government free of charge without it appearing like they are necessarily begging for them,” said Moim.

Moim has thrown the gauntlet to local federations managing sports to put their houses in order if the country is to draw meaningful support from the corporate world.

“The main reason why corporates are shunning the Kenyan sports arena is due to lack of transparency and accountability in the activities of local federations.

“Most of the companies interested in injecting money into sports would prefer seeing their money reaching the players directly. However, in most cases you'll find local federations positioning themselves as intermediaries, preferring to have the funds channelled to their accounts first before they can trickle them down to players,” said Moim.

Mercy Moim carried by Pamela Masaisai during a past training session at Kasarani
Mercy Moim carried by Pamela Masaisai during a past training session at Kasarani
Image: ERICK BARASA

To a certain extent, Moim places lack of sufficient government support at the feet of local sports governing bodies whom she says are usually not bold enough to tackle the bull by the horns.

“The federations should also be bold enough when meeting government representatives in order to lay bare all the team's requirements without leaving any stones unturned.

“Players have found themselves in awkward situations whereby they stage sit-ins over unpaid allowances only to be told later by government that the federation only requested to have air tickets and never mentioned anything to do with allowances," said Moim.

“All in all, we wish to appreciate government's commendable efforts in affording us the much needed support lately. As a matter of fact, we clinched the All Africa Games silverware purely on the back of their support.

“We also performed well in Cameroon and qualified for Tokyo because we received adequate support. The bottom line is; with enough money in the pocket, players can pull off wonders,” she said.

For Kenya to consolidate its position as Africa's superpower in women's volleyball and gain more ground globally, Moim is calling upon KVF to borrow a leaf from Football Kenya Federation.

“We need to establish leagues for different age categories as well as have junior national teams the way they’ve done with football. That's the only way we can mould future stars to fit in the shoes of the current crop of players who'll be retiring in the near future,” she concludes.

Mercy Moim stretches during a training session with Malkia strikers at Kasarani Indoor Arena
Mercy Moim stretches during a training session with Malkia strikers at Kasarani Indoor Arena
Image: /REUTERS

BIO

Name: Mercy Moim

Date of birth: January 1, 1989 Place of birth: Trans-Nzoia County, Kenya

Education

Kaboyowo Primary School

St.Philips Mukomare

Cheptil Secondary School

Height:1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)

Weight: 70 kg (154 lb)

Position: Outside HitterCurrent club: Kenya Commercial Bank

Teams

2005–2006 Kenya Commercial Bank

2007–2018 Kenya Prisons

2014–2015 Liiga Ploki

2015–2016 Oriveden Ponnistus

2016–2017 Azerrail Baku

2018–2019 Supreme Volleyball Club

2020–present Kenya Commercial Bank

National team2005–present Kenya