The reigning Kenya women’s hockey champions have stood in national and continental competitions like a colossus, flattening all and sundry in dominant fashion over the past decade.
In fact, the Kenyan hockey queens have been unbeaten since 2014, won the 2017 national title with a 100 per cent record, and have, lost just three times in the last 10 years, an achievement that is a candidate for the Guinness World Records.
If a book is to be written about hockey in Africa and Kenya as well, one name that is sure to dominate the pages would be that of Telkom women’s club.
BEST IN AFRICA
The team’s achievements over the past two decades have been nothing short of historic, confirming the team as one of the best in the country and also in the continent.
Picture this: On January 14 this year, an all-conquering Telkom won a record 20th successive Kenya Hockey Union women’s Premier League title with two matches to spare. They beat Multimedia University 6-0 in the league to maintain its unbeaten run.
Victory in the team’s last two matches will see the squad again end the current season unbeaten.
In fact, prior to Sunday's shock 1-0 loss to Ghana Revenue Authority in the final of the Africa Club for Club Championship, Telkom had gone for almost four years they last tasted defeat in any competition.
Strathmore University Scorpions was the last team to defeat Telkom, a 1-0 win on April 5, 2014 at the City Park Stadium courtesy of Gilly Okumu’s strike in their league match.
Before that, Telkom’s only other defeat had been inflicted by the students on October 9, 2012 in another 1-0 loss. It was the first in the league since 2008 when the team went down to United States International University of Africa (USIU-A) Spartans.
Their 1-1 draw with Ghana Police in Wednesday’s match at the continental showpiece was the first time Telkom had dropped points in any competition since they drew 2-2 with Strathmore University Scorpions in a KHU women’s Premier League match on July 24, 2016.
Telkom's quest for a sixth straight Africa Cup for Club Championship women’s title was halted on Sunday in Accra by GRA. But the club’s achievements have at times saved the national team the blushes as the national team’s fortunes continue to dwindle over the years.
But success did not just come overnight for Telkom.
The team was formed in 1989 and was back then known as Posta Kenya. Two years later (in 1991), the team won its first league title, dethroning Inter-Capital, Kenya’s first women’s hockey club.
At the time, the team was made up of the current assistant coach Josephine Ataro who was the goalkeeper, Rose Mbulo, current assistant coach Judy Apiyo, Jackline Atieno, the late Betty Tony and current team manager Jane Nyamogo.
The team made its debut at the Africa Cup for Club Championship in 1997, claiming bronze.
The following year, Telkom won its maiden continental title after beating hosts DTS 3-0 at the Union Ground in Windhoek, Namibia.
In its match against DTS, Florence Olal squandered a penalty flick in the 21st minute but Rose “Chipo” Mbulo opened the scoring in the 24th after Olal and Wendy Ekumba did the spade work.
In the 31st minute, Olal made amends for the earlier miss with a well-executed goal after a good run by Catherine Wekhomba.
Vicky Ogongo, who was a constant threat to the DTS defence, scored the third goal in the 35th minute latching on to a rebound after Mbulo had fired a cracker which was stopped by the Ramblers’ goalkeeper.
In the second half, Telkom slowed down the game and only Ogongo came nearest to scoring but failed to tap in a cross from Jackline Atieno.
According to Apiyo, the team’s success over the years is as a result of discipline and support from their sponsors.
“We don’t compromise on discipline and that is why we have achieved much success. The support system we get from Telkom is also impressive because hockey is an expensive sport and they have stood by us all these years,” says Apiyo. Just before heading to Ghana for the club championship, the team’s mother company, Telkom Kenya pumped Sh12 million in sponsorship.
Telkom’s success on the pitch is just an example of how good sponsorship and management can propel a sporting club to success.
Most of the local hockey sides are self-supporting while a number of them are institution-based clubs.
They can only dream of getting such sponsorship to run their clubs.
Apiyo points out that they do not take the monetary support for granted and that is why they push themselves to succeed once they get to the pitch.
“We have to show that we are worthy of their money and that it is a good investment. We have no choice but to keep winning and maintaining high standards,” said the former player, who is also part of coach Jos Openda’s backroom staff.
Telkom’s success raises questions about the level of competition in the women’s league with Sliders the last side to win the league title and before that the defunct Blue Eaglets and Inter-Capitale. Apiyo admits that the experience of Telkom will always give them an upper hand over the rest of the clubs.
“Clubs like Strathmore, USIU and now Amira are coming up and doing well but Telkom is still miles ahead of the pack,” she noted.
Coach Openda, who has been at the helm for the last 14 years, admits the hunger to win more medals is still there, and this has resulted in him setting more targets for the team.
He has been quoted by the media at the end of every successfully campaign declaring that the next term would be his last.
But he just cannot stop winning with Telkom.
This women hockey team is like no other in the country.