Amputee footballers bullish about World Cup qualification

National team skipper Otieno reiterates they are ready to battle the rest of Africa for passage to a competition in which they are perennial participants.

In Summary

•The national team have been pooled in Group B alongside Angola, Zanzibar and Rwanda for the November 25-December 5 tournament

•The event will serve as a World Cup qualifier for next year's global tourney in Turkey 

•Kenyan national amputee football team has been training at Nyayo Stadium in readiness for the continental competition

Amputee footballers in a past competition.
Amputee footballers in a past competition.

The national amputee football team believe they can excel at the Africa Cup of Nations set for November 25-December 5 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and qualify for next year's World Cup in Turkey. 

The Kenyans have been pooled in Group B alongside world champions Angola, Cecafa champions Rwanda and Zanzibar and team captain Dalmas Otieno feels they can secure easy passage into the quarterfinals. 

"Our only worry is Angola, who are the world champions and boast top quality. Otherwise, a top-two finish will be enough for us to make it to the quarters. It is realistic considering the quality of the other sides in our group," Otieno said. 

"Rwanda, despite being the regional champions, are not much of a strong team. They beat us in the Cecafa finals but that was a weaker Kenyan side than the one we have right now."

The skipper said the team's minimum target is to reach the semis of the continental competition and put themselves in a vantage position to grace the global showpiece in October. 

"Usually, the number of teams to qualify from each continent is determined by the number of teams that participate in amputee football. Africa has the most number of teams and so at least six places could be up for grabs. So, a semi-final finish would probably do it," he said. 

The 20-man team has been training at Nyayo Stadium for the past two months although Otieno concedes it has not been a walk in the park in terms of resources. 

"We have mostly been coming from our homes to train and it has not been easy. We were supposed to get into residential training on Thursday and had even booked a hotel in Nairobi West but were told in the evening that the camp would not be happening. We have some players who had joined us from Kakamega and Mombasa but are now stranded," Otieno said. 

He also said they are missing three of their key players based in Turkey who couldn't secure airfare. 

Regardless, Otieno reiterates they are ready to battle the rest of Africa for a priceless ticket to Turkey in a competition in which they have been perennial participants. 

"Psychologically...yes, we are affected by these challenges and the lack of support. But physically we are ready for the tournament. Luckily, we do not have any injury concerns and we only need to brush up on a few things and we will be good to go."