Why Malkia Strikers cannot relax ahead of clubs event
Malkia Strikers’ Elizabeth Wanyama. [Stafford Ondego]

The perennial tinkering of the CAVB Africa Club Championship has come to bite the fragile hands of Malkia Strikers as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.

The team’s preparation has been thrown into a ‘cocktail of confusion’ that might result in ‘war’ with three top clubs.

League champions Kenya Prisons, 2019 Africa bronze medallists Kenya Pipeline and KCB are all set to take part in the Africa Clubs Championships due to serve off from April 19 to May 1 in Sousse, Tunisia.

The event has since been moved back and forth four times, since March 2020 and the national team has been affected by all the back and forth on the dates.

These top clubs produce 17 of the 20 players called up to the Malkia Strikers squad that is currently preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

These players might only get to leave the bubble camp for the first time, on May 1, when they are expected to depart the country for Brazil.

The players include Joan Jelagat, libero Elizabeth Wanyama, setter Joy Lusenaka, Pamela Masaisai, Emmaculate Chemtai, Lorine Chebet all from Prisons while Pipeline has three players in Gladys Ekaru, Agrippina Kundu, and Pamela Adhiambo.

KCB has Mercy Moim, Edith Wisa, Sharon Chepchumba, Leonida Kasaya, Violet Makuto, Noel Murambi, Jemimah Siangu and Immaculate Nekesa.

To make matters worse, the national team’s technical bench headed by Paul Bitok is made up of members of the technical benches from the affected clubs.

Bitok also doubles up as the KCB Technical Director. He’s assisted by Japheth Munala, who is KCB‘s coach alongside Prisons head coach Josp Baraza.

But these players and the three members of the technical bench are currently confined in a bubble camp at the Kasarani meaning that they are prohibited from interacting with the public.

Why Malkia Strikers cannot relax ahead of clubs event
From left: Janet Wanja, Noel Nasimiyu and Brackcides Khadambi celebrate after winning the 2018 FIVB World championship qualifiers women match at Kasarani Stadium Gymnasium on July 30, 2017. Kenya team won 3-0. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

This is one of the health measures taken up by the National Olympic Committee (NOC-K) to cushion all Olympics-bound players from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The normal FIVB calendar is set to lapse on May 2, paving way for the national’s team assignment, a period of which Malkia Strikers plan to travel to Brazil for a couple of build-up matches ahead of the Tokyo trip.

They are to leave for Brazil on May 1, the same day that the Club Championship will conclude in Tunisia.

“How can we train as a club and yet the same players are with the national team?” posed Munala.

The former Kenya Pipeline coach added: “I can’t say that we are out of the event yet. We will know the true position in the next two to three weeks. We can’t train at the moment because of the directive by the president.”

Malkia Strikers’ Team Manager Alfred Chedotum said no player will be allowed to leave the camp until they depart for Brazil for a month-long tour.

That statement technically meant that those clubs will have to use fringe players for the inter-club competition.

But Baraza was evasive when asked how he plans to wade through the clash of the programme.

“I can’t say anything because we are here (bubble camp) and you can’t leave. Maybe you talk to the chair (Waithaka Kioni) for a clear direction on how things will unfold,” added Baraza.

Baraza, however, admitted the grave situation that the clubs and national team have found themselves in.

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