“I will empower the “boy-child” when I take over the leadership of Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF),” Michael Njoroge, a retired Kenyan international says as he ventures into the murky world of sports politics with full intention of succeeding outgoing KVF President Waithaka Kioni.
Kioni who has served as KVF boss for the last 22 years will not be defending his seat when his term ends in 2022.
Within this period, Kenya has dominated African volleyball scene, especially in the women’s category. In 2015, for example, Kenya became the first Africa country to win a World Grand Prix (group 3) title.
For the last 21 years that Kioni has been in charge, Kenya women’s lifted five Africa championships as well as four All African Games gold medals, made two appearances at the Summer Olympics (2000 and 2004) with a second one coming next year for the Malkia Strikers — the senior women’s national team.
All these successes can be attributed to Kioni, a smooth operator and calculating sports administrator who is also the second vice president of the Kenya’s Olympic Committee (NOCK).
However, Kioni will carry very little memories of the men’s team when he finally packs and leaves volleyball management after almost two and a half decades in Kenya.
It is regrettable to note that the best performance by the neglected Kenyan men’s team, during the entire time that Kioni was in charge, was a silver medal at the 2011 All African Games in Maputo.
But Njoroge, who holds FIVB Level 1 and 2 coaching certificates, believes that he can do a better job by giving all genders equal exposure if he takes over as KVF boss.
“It is depriving the youth of Kenya the chance to play meaningful volleyball,” he says of the plight of the men’s volleyball in Kenya.
Kenya last entered the men’s team for a major championship in June 2019. That was during the All African Games Zone 5 Qualifiers staged in Nairobi.
Due to lack of exposure, Kenya, who were the hosts, finished last behind Egypt, Uganda and Rwanda, with just two points out a possible nine.
“Give me a half a chance and I will take it,” says Njoroge who is banking on grassroots support bring about the much needed change.
“With their support, I know I will lead volleyball into greater eights just as I have been pushing for the recognition of mens national team to little success,” Njoroge, who played for KCB, Co-oporative Bank and Forest Rangers, told SPORTS AFRICA.
The outspoken KVF Nairobi Branch treasurer claims that for the longest time, he has been fighting for the rights of the mne’s to no success but he nontheless remain convinced that he can only succeed if he takes the battle to the boardroom.
“Our girls qualified for Olympics after 16 years but KVF still managed to field them in all qualifiers but no similar chance was given to the men’s team, we cant find the faults.
“I started pushing for the righst and equal treatment of the “boy-child” to be included in the programmes but all that fell on deaf ears. Some NEC members just want to ride on the performance of Malkia Strikers.
“There is no known volleyball academy in Kenya, further the federation has refused to assist the men’s team,” he complained.
KVF has always blamed lack of funds as the main reason as to why they dont enter the men’s team in events.
According to KVF top brass, it only make sense to put the little resources at the disposal in good use by channelling them to the women’sside, who are favoured by the low standards of voleyball in Africa – in the womens competition as there are not much obstacles to tackle, unlike in the men’s category where Kenya is ranked 10th continentally.
Malkia Strikers, by virtue of taking part in a number of events, are ranked top in Africa and only have Cameroon and Egypt to fear in a continental contest.
“It is sad that I’ve played the Kenyan league for over 20 years and as I announced my retirement from active volleyball, I can say that there is nothing to smile about. If you don’t get a job with the Kenyan disciplined forces as a player, then volleyball is surely meant to frustrate you,” decried Njoroge who is now calling on KVF and clubs to to come up with financial aid to players during these hard time occasioned by the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.
The Kenyan Volleyall League was suspended last month following the governments directive that banned all social gatherings and meetings; a precautionary measure that was aimed at protecting the public health against Covid-19.
“When you look at most men’s volleyball clubs in Kenya, a majority of players are not on a monthly salary. They earn a living through match allowances and since the league was suspended all these has stopped.
“I believe the federation and the clubs should come up with ways of how to sustain the players during these hard times. Im not saying that KVF have not done anything but they could do better. We need to think outside the box.
The father of two, who draws strength from football that voted in a youthful president, Nick Mwendwa, four years ago, says that if elected, he will give everyone equal opportunity. He also has plans for the girl-child as he works on setting up a volleyball academy in Nairobi, adding that her two daughters willbe among the first cohort in the programme.
“Just as my brother from FKF, he took the leadership of Kenyan football and changed it, I will do the same when I take over because I believe we need new blood at the federation. I will save Kenyan volleyball and lead them to “Canaan” once I make the big announcement in the coming days.
“We need to elect people who have the passion if we want to change things, but I am afraid with current office, I see the boy-child will continue to suffer unless if something is done,” Njoroge, who is popularly known as Champez in volleyball circles, says.
Njoroge first earned his national team call up in 2003 but hanged his boots from active volleyball this year to venture into politics.