Continental and regional volleyball has over the decades largely been dominated by Kenyan women’s teams.
Of the 16 editions of the Africa Volleyball Championship that started in 1976, the Kenya women’s national team has claimed eight with Egypt and Tunisia winning three each. Algeria and Seychelles have won one apiece.
The Kenyans, who are the reigning champions, have won four of the past five championships with only Algeria coming in between in 2009 after their exploits in 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013.
Under head coach David Lung’aho, Kenya won the women’s Africa Cup of Nations (ACN) four times in a row in 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013 before they lost to Tunisia in 2014.
Kenya only missed last year’s World Championship after losing to Tunisia at the ACN qualifier. They took part in the 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Championship.
The Kenya team have taken part in four of the past six World Cup events, which take place every five years, in 1991, 1995, 2007 and 2011.
The Kenya Prisons men’s volleyball team has also dominated the continental club championships, and has represented Africa at the World Club Championships for the past five years.
However, the national volleyball team is yet to claim victory either at the World Championships or the World Cup. They are yet to win a single set at the World Championships but claimed their first three sets at the 2011 World Cup.
However, despite their strong performances, rarely do we have the national team playing build-up matches in readiness for global events due to lack of finance.
That is why the Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) chairman Waithaka Kioni said that the exodus of Kenyan players to leagues in Europe will help improve the standards of the game, especially at the national level.
National team and Kenya Prisons skipper Brackcides Agala and setter Jane Wacu moved to France in September 2014 to the Pro “B” Chamalières Volleyball Club. The side tops their Pool A with six matches to go before the play-off with Pool B winners. The winners will get promoted to topflight Pro “A” for the 2015/2016 season.
Another Kenya Prisons outside hitter/left attacker, Mercy Moim, also left for Finland in September last year where she is playing for Club Liiga Ploki in Division One League.
Kioni said the departure of Wacu, Agala and Moim is a blessing since they will boost the country’s status at the international level, especially at the All Africa Games, which will act as the 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers.
“European teams are exposed to better facilities and game time with matches every weekend,” said Kioni, adding that the competition in Kenya has been reduced to just two teams, Kenya Prisons and Kenya Pipeline.
Kioni said their good performance will encourage agents and managers from European clubs to come to Kenya on scouting missions.
The Kenya Prisons coach said the players’ presence in Europe will be a big boost to his Africa Championships and All Africa Games campaign this year.
“I am certain they are getting good exposure and confidence at the highest level,” said Lung’aho, adding that they will share their experience with the other players.
Both Wacu and Moim said that exposure is instrumental in any sport, and that is what is making the difference for them in Europe. “The facilities are good and we get to play more matches than in Kenya,” said Moim.