Kenya will on Friday night in Yaounde, Cameroon begin their quest to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games.
The five-day qualifiers that have attracted seven strong nations namely hosts Cameroon, Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda, Botswana, Egypt and Kenya will be held at the Palais des Sport gymnasium in Yaoundé.
The tournament will be played on a round robin basis.
The top ranked team will automatically qualify for the summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.
The second and third placed teams will, according to a bulletin from the sport’s continental body CAVB, earn another chance for making the Rio sports extravaganza through the World Olympic qualification tournaments next month.
Kenya is considered favourites on the premise of their impressive performances last year including winning at the Africa Cup of Nations in Nairobi, Africa Games in Brazzaville and Group Three FIVB Grand Prix in Australia.
This is the first assignment for the team’s new coach Japheth Munala.
The Kenya Pipeline coach has picked a relatively strong team to take charge of the country’s quest to qualify for their first Olympics since 2004.
The squad consists new captain Mercy Moim who is based in Finland.
Others are France-based veteran duo Everlyne “Mayweather” Makuto and Jane Wacu, together with Lydia Maito, Monica Biama, libero Elizabeth Wanyama and debutante Agripina Kundu.
“We have what it takes to qualify. We badly want to win and head back to the Olympics after a long time out. This is our motivation,” Munala, who’s dropped veteran players Brackides Agala, Esther Wangeci and Janet Wanja for this trip explained.
Captain Moim - who linked up with the team in Cameroon on Thursday from Finland and debutant Kundu, who players for local league champions Kenya Pipeline, are also optimistic of a good outing.
“It would be more difficult to try and qualify in West Africa compared to say when playing at home. So we have to adapt some tricks of managing the away crowd and possibly tricky officiating,” Moim said.
Kundu added: “This is my first outing with the national team but I kind of know what to expect, having played against a couple of these players while on club duty during continental assignments.”
The African Queens are hoping to join their men and women rugby sevens counterparts who have already qualified for the Olympics.
The team had to borrow funds to make the trip to west Africa.