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Bitok wants more Kenyan players to go pro

Malkia Strikers outside hitter Sharon Chepchumba spikes the ball during the FIVB Women’s World Cup in Japan. Chepchumba is one of the players who are wanted by clubs abroad. PHOTO/FIVB

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 10 – Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok says one of the ways the national team can improve is by allowing more players to turn out for professional clubs in Europe and Asia, saying interest in Kenyan players has increased after the FIVB World Cup in Japan.

Bitok says he has received numerous requests from clubs abroad to have Kenyan players move out but says the stumbling block has been the club’s reluctance to release them ahead of the national league play-offs scheduled for November.

Among those who have elicited so much interest outside is outside hitter Sharon Chepchumba who was one of Kenya’s best performers in Japan.

“Players like Chepchumba were really impressive and averaged at least 10 points per game and no one could believe she is a young player looking at how she was playing. I have several invitations from clubs in Azerbaijan, Italy, Egypt, Tunisia and Qatar,” Bitok told Capital Sport.

He added; “It is not only her but several other players like Kasaya (Leonida), Moim (Mercy), Murambi (Noelle), but the challenge has been with their clubs. I don’t know if there is a way the federation can help talk to the clubs so that these players can take the opportunities,”

Malkia Strikers left attacker Sharon Chepchumba hits a missile as Cameroon’s Yolanda Juliana Amana and Stephanie Fotso attempt to block during their FIVB World Cup match in Japan on September 29, 2019. PHOTO/FIVB

“I will be very sad to see them remain here to play local tournaments instead of getting out there and earning some exposure because ultimately when they come back here, they will help the national team. A team like Cameroon has up to eight professional players while all of our players are local,” the tactician further stated.

The national league is currently on its final bend to usher in the play-off season and most clubs are looking at securing the top places and ultimately vie for the title in November. This has informed the clubs of the decision to hold on to their best players and win the crown.

But, Bitok continues to hope that a few of the players can get permission to go out there, with his eyes focused on qualifying for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo Japan, even as the Kenya Volleyball Federation works to resolve issues surrounding his contract.

The tactician says he was impressed with what the team did at the World Cup in Japan, despite winning only one game. The tactician says they had to change the way they play after the USA game and hence an improvement especially in the set scores.

Malkia Strikers players celebrate scoring a point against Korea during the 2019 Women’s Volleyball World Cup in Osaka, Japan on September 27, 2019. PHOTO/FIVB

“We trained on accuracy in reception and a new system of blocks and defense as well as ensuring we kept the speed of the ball high. We tried to implement and it worked well because we were getting more points. Our reception was at 50pc and this was an improvement because always we were at 25pc,” Bitok explained.

With the Olympic qualifiers confirmed for next year in enemy territory in Cameroon, Bitok hopes that the team can have continuous training even as clubs prepare for the play-offs to ensure that they keep continuity and perfect on the new systems they implemented from Japan.

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“I think we are ready for the Olympics but we need to keep working. Players are going back to their clubs and will revert to old systems which will affect us. But if we can have at least three training sessions weekly with them, it can help a lot,” stated the tactician.

Kenya failed to earn a ticket to the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after losing to eventual winners Cameroon in the semi-finals of the African qualifiers.

However, this time round, the team wants to ensure they make a return to the Olympics after missing out since 2004 and having beaten the Cameroonians in three of their four meetings this year, confidence is high that qualification is an achievable dream.

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