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Kenya men's hockey team took a huge stride forward on the Road to Rio Olympics as they reached the semi-final stage of the men’s Greenfields African Hockey Championships, the Olympic qualification competition currently taking place in Randburg, Johannesburg in South Africa. 

Kenya (World Ranking: 39) booked their semi-final ticket with a comfortable 7-0 victory over Tanzania (World Ranking: 73), with Leon Magomere and Brian Saina both scoring twice in the contest. 

George Mutria opened the scoring with an 11th minute field goal before Magomere scored twice in the third quarter. 

Four goals arrived in the fourth quarter, with Saina’s double coming in between strikes from Zakaria Msumba and Constant Wakhura to confirm a place in the Semi-Finals. 

A second place finish in Pool B (with six points having lost 4-1 to Egypt) means that they now face the unenviable task of taking on champions and hosts South Africa, winners of Pool A.

Egypt top

Egypt (FIH World Ranking: 20) joined Kenya in the semis after sealing top spot in Pool B with an 8-0 win over unranked Nigeria, a team that despite the scoreline gave their opponents a tough game throughout. 

Egyptian scoring ace Mahmoud Mamdouh netted a hat-trick of penalty corner goals as well as one penalty stroke, with Amr Ibrahim (2), Mohamed Edris and Mohamed Essam also making their mark on the scoreboard. 

Mamdouh now has 14 goals in the tournament and currently sits top of the scorers chart. Egypt’s first place finish in Pool B means that they will face Ghana (World Ranking: 41) in Saturday's Semi-Finals. 

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The last time the national men’s hockey team participated at the Olympics, Meshack Senge was still in Form One.

27 years later, Senge, the team’s head coach has been tasked with a burden of ensuring Kenya returns to the first Olympics since 1988 during the Africa qualifiers set to stick off on October 23 at the Randburg Hockey Stadium, South Africa.

The long walk

Senge’s journey into the hockey field is as mystic as Kenya’s absence to the most prestigious games. When his spiritual mother learnt that Senge, then a goalkeeper with Kisumu Posta Rangers, had visited a witch doctor with the team, that was the last time he set foot into a football pitch and this marked his journey into hockey.

He fell in love with the white ball while in Form One and immediately abandoned his goalkeeping gloves.

The Strathmore University coach and Army officer who finally departed the country Wednesday (Oct. 21) with the male and female teams believes that Kenya will qualify to 2016 Rio Olympics after a 27-years absence.

 “We are going to give our best,” Senge who lost the first chance to quality to Rio 2016 at the world League one told FourFourTwoMedia.com.

“We will have another chance to redeem ourselves and do something extraordinary. We have a good squad and must adjust game by game when we meet South Africa and Egypt,” added Senge when asked about his side’s game plan against fiercest rivals and Africa’s top side-Egypt and host South Africa.

43-year absence

Kenya will be gunning for the Olympics slot with a completely new look squad made up of players who had not been born when the country finished 12th, their second worst ever performance since 1972 where they finished 13th.

The Kenyan team that conceded 26 goals against four put in the opponent’s net, composed of among others; Inderjit Matharu and Parvinder Saini, some of the remaining few players still actively involved in the sport.

The two will be following the country’s performance with a lot of interest and hopes that Kenya, once a hockey powerhouse, can move back to the elite hockey league currently ruled by Egypt and South Africa continentally.

South Africa favoured

Hosts South Africa are the favourites but Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria are expected to be serious competitors during the tournament as well.

Kenya will begin her campaign against Nigeria Sunday, October 25.

The tournament will be preceded by African Hockey Federation's (FIH) Congress in TBC on October 31 that will be used to elect new FIH Executive Board members.

Men's teams: Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria

Women's teams: Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria

Follow us on Twitter: @Four4TwoMedia                                                                                 Photo: Michezoafrika

 

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