Kenya’s Green Sharks are determined to take on Africa’s best and lay claim to the continental championship where they will be making their debut.
Sharks’ coach, Elisha Opere, said his boys were oozing confidence and ready to make the country proud in the 21st Africa Clubs Championship that begins at City Park this Saturday.
Opere said morale was high in the camp, adding that his charges were still in the good form that saw them finish second in the league last season. Sharks are currently fourth in the league and within play-offs cut.
They have been slotted in Pool A alongside Egyptian champions Eastern, Yorbes Rollers of Nigeria and Ugandan champions, Wananchi. “You cannot predict who will win the tournament,” said Opere. “I have seen Rollers in the last four events and they are a strong outfit while Eastern’s status speaks for itself.”
“We will not underestimate or fear anyone and will take the games as they come,” Opere said.
Opere intends to name his final squad of 18 players today and one of the players to watch out for is Tony Nyukuri, a trialist with the national team for the 2008 Olympic Games trials. At the same time, defending women champions Heartland from Nigeria land in town today.
Other Nigerian sides expected are Bayelsa, who will battle it out alongside Heartland in the women’s fray that has attracted five teams.
Delta Force and Yorbes Rollers will fly Nigeria’s flag in the men’s category.
Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) vice-chairman, Nahashon Randiek, said teams from Tanzania and Uganda are yet to confirm their participation.
They are Tanzania’s Moshi Khalsa and Wananchi from Uganda, who are drawn in the men’s category, and Wetherland (Uganda) for the women’s event. Bigwigs Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon will not send any teams, but Randiek said this would not water down the level of the tournament.
“There is still time for them to confirm their arrival since the hosts’ programme for the visitors starts two days before the event,” Randiek said. “However, any withdrawal at this time will draw hefty penalties.”
Pool A has the 17-time champions defending Sharkia, Kenya’s Kisumu Simba Union, Delta Force of Nigeria and Moshi Khalsa of Tanzania.
Revenge is in the air as Kenya’s representatives in the women’s championship, Telkom Kenya, have vowed to reclaim the title they won last in 2006. Telkom lost to Heartland 4-2 during the final of the championship that was held in Abuja. But during the preliminaries, Telkom had spanked the Nigerians 2-0.
“ We are well equipped than ever and are determined not to let our fans down,” said Telkom coach Jos Openda. “We must utilise the home advantage well and there will be no room for mistakes again.”
But Openda cautioned that every team will be in Nairobi to score goals and win the trophy adding that it will depend on how well prepared and hard work teams will put in before and during the tournament. Telkom will take on champions Heartland, fellow country women, Sliders, Bayelsa of Nigeria and Uganda’s Wetherland in their round robin clash.
Openda said six of his players who were down with injuries were responding well and should feature in his final squad that he will name today. The players who are nursing injuries are Betty Tioni, Doreen Anzrah, Florence Olal, Osla Kiniga and Rose Mbulo.