Kenya confident of sealing 2018 world cup places
Kenya’s men and women’s national hockey teams are confident of sealing their places at next year’s World Cup, even with the qualification tournament being moved from South Africa to Egypt.
The North Africa nation was confirmed as the new host for the 2017 African Cup of Nations by the Africa Federation of Hockey (AFHF).
The field hockey tournament, which had previously been scheduled to be played in South Africa last month, will now be held in Ismailia next month.
The biennial competition will feature men and women’s teams that will do battle from October 19 to 29 with the winners of both categories booking their places in the World Cup.
Inspite of that, Kenya men and women’s provisional squads have been in non-residential training since July.
The squad comprising of 29 players on both sides is expected to be whittled down to a final 18 later this month. Men’s team manager Godfrey Bila is confident the country will seal a berth at the World Cup.
The team played at two World Cups (1971 and 1973) although their female compatriots have never been to the global showpiece.
“We have been training for the last two months only breaking during the election time and we intend to intensify as the competition nears,” Bila told Sunday Nation Sport.
Both teams won bronze at the last edition of the event held in South Africa in 2015. With South Africa women’s team already through, Kenya will fancy her chances of reaching her maiden World Cup.
Team Manager Jane Mashedu says the time is ripe for the country to feature at the global stage.
“We now have to overcome our biggest rivals Ghana and Nigeria to ensure we nick the only spot,” she said.
However, it will be a different ball game in the men’s competition with South Africa seeking to win the competition to qualify for the World Cup.
Some of the countries that have so far confirmed participation include defending champions South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia and hosts Egypt.
The South Africa Hockey Association (SAHA) wrote to AFHF in late July to withdraw from hosting the competition.
It is believed that SAHA withdrew from hosting the competition because the South African national hockey teams had other engagement around the same time and, therefore, did not want to stress their players.