NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – The national women’s basketball team left for Dakar, Senegal on Thursday morning for the 2019 FIBA Afrobasket Championship, but the squad left a de-motivated lot with money being the underlying issue.
The squad traveled with 10 players, as opposed to 12 and only head coach Ronny Owino, the team doctor and team manager were part of the technical staff which accompanied the team.
According to the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF), they have not received any funding from the government and were forced to use their own budget to take the team to Dakar, and their coffers could only afford a condensed team.
“We did all the processes and immediately after the Zone Five, we took an amended budget to the ministry. We went through all the processes and the budget was approved at the Sports Commisioner’s office and then taken to the Principle Secretary’s office,” KBF Secretary General Peter Orero told Capital Sport.
He added; “We are told that he (PS) is away and we just wait for him to return because he is the one who signs off the budgets.”
According to Orero, there was an agreement that KBF will take care of the team’s kitting and preparations including camping and training allowance for the players while still in Kenya.
In turn, the ministry was set to take care of the flights, meals and accommodation as well as overseas allowances for the players. With a wait-and-see game between them and the ministry, Orero hopes there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Melisa Akinyi and Salma Akinyi are the two players who had to be dropped from the list of 12 and KBF is now waiting on the ministry to release funds for them to be flown to Dakar.
The team was ambushed to travel early Thursday morning as they were initially scheduled to travel Friday. Head coach Owino is disappointed with the turn of events and says it might have an adverse effect on the team’s morale.
“We thought that after the performance of the men’s team the government will be inclined to come and invest in the game but we are disappointed. For such a long and tough tournament, going with 10 players is really tough on us and the players will be stretched,” Owino told Capital Sport.
“We had to make tough choices and I feel bad we could not bring in Melissa and Salma. Hopefully they can get money and send them through because that is what we have been told. We are not even sure of allowances and generally, the players’ motivation is stretched,” further stated the tactician.
Despite the morale lowering happenings at Kencom House, Owino says the girls will give their best in Dakar and look to emulate the performance of their male counterparts who reached the final of the inaugural FIBA Afrocan in Mali.
The Kenya Lionesseshave been placed in Group D with Mozambique and Cape Verde.
“We will definitely go and do our best. The last time we were there in 2013 we did quite well and I remember we lost to eventual champions Angola by only three baskets. We will do our best in the middle of all the chaos,”
“We are in a tough pool because Mozambique is one of the top four in the continent. Cape Verde are also not an easy side. We have trained well and despite the fact that the conditions are not the best, we have what it takes,” the tactician added.
He says they target to finish among the top five to see the team earn a spot for an Olympic Qualification tournament where they aim to get more experience.
Meanwhile, Owino hopes that the experience picked up by Mercy Wanyama playing in the Spanish leagues will come in handy. The team will however miss the services of Felmas Koranga who has had to go back to the United States to finish up with her school.
“Mercy will be a big asset for us because playing out of the country gives someone a lot of exposure and technically she has been great,” Owino noted.