Despite having had modest preparations due to lack of sufficient funds and lack of support from the government, the senior women’s volleyball team will Saturday afternoon begin their campaign at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship with a match against Kazakhstan.
The match will be staged at the 8,000-seater Hamamatsu Arena in Hamamatsu, a city in the western part of Japan which hosts famous car manufacturers Honda and Suzuki, and musical instrument manufacturers Yamaha and Kawai.
It will be the first time that Kazakhstan and Kenya are meeting, and the odds are stacked high against the Malkia Strikers, who are returning to the global stage after an eight-year hiatus.
To begin with, Kenya have lost all their five World Championships matches against Asian opposition and in straight sets.
In fact, the team has lost all their 21 World Championships matches, 17 of these in straight sets.
In FIVB records, no country has played more World Championship matches without ever claiming a single victory than Kenya (21).
Tunisia is second best in this woeful category having lost all their 19 matches in the competition.
At position 21, Kazakhstan are 12 places above Kenya in the FIVB world rankings, but they have only managed a 15th place finish in the four times they have taken part in this competition.
Kenya will also take comfort in the fact that Kazakhstan have lost their opening match on all their previous three World Championships appearances.
“We didn’t come here expecting an easy match. We know it will be tough because we are playing against the world’s best teams. I don’t know how it will be but if we manage a win tomorrow then I know we shall achieve our objective,” coach Japheth Munala told Nation Sport on Friday from Japan.
Munala and his team are aiming to qualify for the competition’s second round, meaning that they have to finish within the top four positions in their Pool D that also has Brazil, Serbia, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Kazakhstan.
Back court defence has been the team’s Achilles heel, and the performance of middle blocker Triza Atuka and libero Elizabeth Wanyama will be key in Saturday’s match.
The competition brings together 24 teams who have been spread across four pools of six teams each.
The 24 teams will face each other in a round robin format in the first round, with the top four teams from each pool advancing to the second round.
Cameroon is the other African team that will represent Africa in the three-week long competition that will be held in four cities namely Hamamatsu, Kobe, Yokohama and Sapporo.
Cameroon are in Pool A alongside hosts Japan, Netherlands, Mexico and Argentina and will play their group matches in Yokohama.
Saturday: Kazakhstan v Kenya, 1:20pm
Sunday: Kenya v Serbia, 1:20pm
Monday: Puerto Rico v Kenya, 10:10pm
Wednesday Kenya v Brazil, 1:20pm