That Wazalendo hockey club from Kenya has fallen at the first hurdle in the 2021 Africa Cup for Clubs Championship highlights the depth to which the local game has sunk.
On Thursday, men's league team Wazalendo fell out of contention for Africa's premier club hockey tournament in Ghana after losing 2-1 to Zamalek of Egypt, and going down 1-0 to home team Ghana Revenue Authority at the Theodosia Ikoh Stadium in Accra.
The team will play Egyptian club Tairat in its final Pool 'B' match, which is inconsequential. The team's performance has highlighted the new depth to which Kenyan hockey has fallen.
Cash-strapped Wazalendo was Kenya's only representative in the tournament after league champions Butali Sugar Warriors, runners-up Kenya Police, women's league champions Blazers and USIU-A failed to travel due to lack of adequate funds.
Kenya's tradition of excellence in hockey seems to have faded away due to poor management. The men's national team last competed at the Olympic Games in 1988 and the Hockey World Cup in 1973. Although the team is yet to win the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, it has been among the final five teams since 1974.
At club level, Telkom Orange (renamed Blazers) has won the Africa Club title 10 times, the latest success coming in 2018. The defunct Kenya Defence Forces men's team remains the only Kenyan club to have won the continental title back in 1998. Strathmore University and Kenya Police have come close to winning the men's title, reaching the final in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
With no running league for the past one year, Kenyan hockey seems to be headed for worse times. The country has dilapidated facilities and local teams lack international exposure, which comes through invitational tournaments.
Kenya Hockey Union officials, led by Nahashon Randiek, must urgently find ways of reviving Kenyan hockey. They must explore opportunities for partnerships with local companies and restart the local leagues, which have been on hold due to the Covid-19 crisis. The suspension of the leagues has denied players an opportunity to earn an income through the sport.
KHU must rethink inwards and outwards on the kind of development plan that will generate talent that the country wants right from primary school.