Thursday, 6 September 2012

Kenya Prisons seek redemption in Doha Club Championships

 Terezinha Guilhermina (R) of Brazil celebrates with her pilot after the women's T11 100m final at the London 2012 Paralympic
Games in London, Britain, on Sept. 5, 2012. Guilhermina won the gold and set a new world record with 12.01 seconds. (Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka)
By  John Kwoba
Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Local teams have allowed pessimism to be used to shield a rising sense of hope, but now Africa women's volleyball club champions Kenya Prisons have
genuine grounds to believe where before many had predicted nothing but doom.

Six years ago Kenya Prisons arrived on the local volleyball scene without an entourage, immersed themselves into coaching and has emerged as a club with a reputation
greatly enhanced. They have no peer in Africa and now can afford to bask in newfound glory.Yet, the biggest challenge for the Kenya's correction department team, will be in
land miles away from home in Doha in October when they turn up to battle their way through the global opposition in the World Club Championship in Qatar.

Kenya Prisons is one of the six teams that will be in Doha for the championships aiming to get third time lucky as they make their show. Ever since the tournament was revived
in 2010, after two decades, the team has been the sole representative from Africa. This year's tournament will be played from Oct. 2 and Kenya Prisons, who are yet to clinch
a win in the competition, have crafted a new scheme to bring down their opponents after playing understudy in the first two competitions.Kenya Prisons are polled together
with Europe Champions Fenerbahce Universal Istanbul of Turkey and North and Central America side (NORCECA) Lancheras de Catano of Puerto Rico in Group B.

Group A has Rabita Baku of Azerbaijan, Asian champion Bohai Bank of Thailand and another team to be decided from South America. The men's tournament, which also will
be played in Doha, has 8 teams. In Pool A, there are Italy's Trentino PlanetWin365, Tigres de la Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Al-Rayyan Sport Club (host Qatar), and
another team yet to be confirmed. Pool B has Europe champions Zenit Kazan of Russia, PGE Skra Belchatow, who were given a wild card, Asia title holders Al-Arabi (Qatar) and
Africa champions Zamalek of Egypt.

Already Kenya Prisons coach David Lung'aho has set a semifinal target for his side. This will mean that Kenya Prisons must beat at least one of its opponents to sail through to
the penultimate stage of the competition. "We have no fear anymore. We have in this competition twice and gained good experience, now we have to show what we have
learnt and move on and dominate," said Lung'aho. The coach is certain Kenya Prisons will make it to the last 4 if they can win their match against Lancheras and this is what he
is preparing his girls for. "The draw is very fair on us. Apart from the Turkish club who are former champions, we believe we can beat the other team in the group and this
should help us make it to the last 4," Lung'aho told reporters in Nairobi on Wednesday. "The competition is tricky, one loss could see one leave early. We have been in that
position before, but now we want to be the dark horse of the tournament and whoever underrates us will be shocked," he said.

Both Kenya Prisons and Lancheras lie in the same cadre of semi-professional unlike Fenerbahce Universal Istanbul, who are a fully professional side. But that has not killed
Lung'aho's dream appearance at the finals of the tournament. "We have played Puerto Rico them at the national team level before and in my assessment we are almost at par
and it is not impossible to beat them," he said. This is a high ambition for the former national women volleyball coach considering that Prisons never won even a single match
at last year's event also held in Qatar.Lung'aho believes this time his players have the experience to withstand competition at such high level as most of those who travelled to
Qatar last year are still with the team."We did not recruit any players this year and so we still kept our squad. The advantage is that we take the same experience to Qatar this
year," he said.

The World Club Championships will consist of two rounds with 10 matches in total - six in the preliminary round and four in the final.Teams will play in a round robin format to
determine their ranking, and the third-ranked teams in each preliminary pool will be eliminated - both will be classified as fifth-place finishers.Winners take home 300,000 U.S.
dollars and fifth placed sides will have 30,000 dollars to savour in prize money. This would be enough to revolutionalise Kenya Prisons playing unit and Lung'aho is sure, with
good preparations, his side will be able to get to this level.

One of the tenets of the club during its establishment was to become a world class in five years. Well, the projection might have been long term, but with what would be
termed as a crisis in hand, Kenya Prisons need to stand up and be counted as Africa representative. After all with four continental titles under its belt in five years, there
would be no hustle in them getting the jewel in club volleyball should they win in Doha.Lung'aho has the chance to write his name in history should he deliver the silverware in
his first four years at the helm."We will focus on the talent we have in the team currently and build on it. This will inspire them because coming up against established big clubs
is a major test of their nerves," said Lung'aho.

Formed in 2006, Kenya prisons have surpassed the target. In 2007, the team on its second attempt won the league title in Kenya and represented Kenya at the African Club
Championships in Cairo, Egypt in 2008. In their debut appearance, the team won the title.The team again won the league title in 2009 and the Continental title in 2010 in
Mauritius and now here in Nairobi last week to earn a place to represent Africa at the World Club Championships.  (Xinhua)

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