Japan-based Kenyan coach Godfrey Okumu has backed the national volleyball team to triumph at the Women's Africa Nations Championship.
The draw for this eight-team, week-long tournament which serves off at the Palais des Sports Indoor Arena in Yaoundé on Saturday, was slated for the same venue Friday evening.
The Kenyan team, managed by Kenya Pipeline coach Japheth Munala, are considered favourites to not only retain the African title in Cameroon, but also scoop one of the two slots reserved for Africa at next year's World Championship in Japan.
Still, the Malkia Strikers are also on a revenge mission in West Africa, having failed to qualify for last year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following a dramatic loss to Egypt in the semi-finals of the Olympic qualifiers the last time they played at the venue.
Okumu - who was one of the assistant coaches of the team at the Women's World Cup in Japan two years ago, says the current squad has the capacity to negotiate the current competition, which has bigwigs such as Cameroon, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt taking part.
"Playing in West Africa requires lots of energy and experience because there are several hurdles other than just the competition on the pitch," said Okumu, who has a Level 3 FIVB coaching certificate and is a member of the Japanese Society of Volleyball Research.
"But our team has all that, plus the understanding between (technical director) David Lung'aho and coach (Japheth) Munala. I assume Lung'aho will be analysing and reading the opposition's game from the terrace as Munala handles the touchline," the former Kenya international, whose daughter Hawi Fuyumi plays professionally for top Japan club Hitachi Volleyball Club, added.
"The team has a few new names and I am confident they will make it to the World Championship here next year."
Okumu, who is reported to be in negotiations to take over the coaching reigns of the Botswana national team, has also urged African teams to learn more about the theoretical part of the game, adding this would bridge the gap in class between African sides and their counterparts in Asia, the Americas and Europe.
Meanwhile, the Kenyan team - led by captain Mercy Moim and assistant coach Dorcas Ndasaba - held light training at the Palais des Sports arena Friday evening.