Hockey fans in Kenya are enjoying a feast of hockey as the Africa Cup for Club Champions (ACCC) showcases the fast, fluid and inventive style of play that epitomises hockey on the African continent.
The ACCC is a prestigious tournament for top clubs across the African continent. Originally scheduled to take place in 2016 in Zimbabwe, the latest edition of the competition is now taking place in Kenya, with the competition running from 7-15 January.
The Africa Hockey Federation (AfHF) prevailed upon Kenya to host the event after the Hockey Association of Zimbabwe withdrew. Kenya has hosted the event twice before, in 2007 and 2009, and Kenya Hockey Union chairman Nashon Randiek was pleased to accept the challenge, not least because it meant Kenya’s club sides would have less distance to travel to compete.
“In the past, some of our clubs have found it hard to participate in this competition but it will now be on home turf meaning we shall have full representation,” he said.
The ACCC has a history going back to 1988 when Sharkia of Egypt hosted and won the inaugural competition. Since then, the event has run every year, except 2001. Now in its 28th year, Sharkia have won it 22 times.
The women’s event started eight years later in 1996, so this is the 20th edition. Orange of Kenya have been the dominant force in the women’s competition, winning the trophy eight times, including the past four editions.
The event attracts teams from across Africa, with nine men and 10 women’s teams participating in this edition. Last year Telkom Orange from Kenya won the women's event while Eastern Company from Egypt won the men’s.
Kenya’s other contenders in the women's section are Sliders, who won the title back in 1999 but haven’t fielded a team for seven years. The team, led by coach Felix Okoth, is hoping to return to action in a blaze of glory.
“We have been in camp for the last 15 days. The team is hungry and fired up to go,” Okoth told Kenyan newspaper, Nation Sport. But Sliders will have to be on top of their game as they find themselves in a tough pool that also contains Orange, Sharkia and Kada Queens (Elrufai).
Competition got underway on Saturday 7 January at the City Park Stadium in Nairobi as the Ghana Police men’s team and Eastern Company both got off to winning ways in their opening matches.
The Police team put 11 goals past Wananchi of Uganda, while debutant side Weatherhead lost heavily to Eastern Company.
Meanwhile, in the women’s competition, Telkom Orange opened their account with a strong performance against Kada Queens of Nigeria. The Kenyan team coach, Jos Openda, said he was pleased with his team’s start to the competition but warned rivals: “The first game is usually a learning curve and we need to work on our defence because the goals we conceded were too soft.”
The Trophy is named after Egyptian Gamal Shiraz of Blessed Memory. He was the former President of the AfHF. The current president of the AfHF, Seif Ahmed, said: “This ACCC is the heart of the AfHF and the competition that showcases the best of our budding talents. Its fierce, it is competitive and the adrenaline levels are very high”.
The men’s teams contesting the title are: Sharkia Club and defending champions Eastern Company Club both from Egypt; Exchequers Bank of Ghana; Ghana Police; Niger Flickers from Nigeria; the two Kenyan teams, Butali Warriors and last year’s runners-up, Kenya Police; plus two teams from Uganda, Wanaichi men's team and Weatherhead men's team.
The women’s teams contesting the title are: Sharkia Club from Egypt; the Ghana Revenue Authority; Ghana Police; Nigeria’s representatives Kada Queens and Heartland Flicker; Dar Ladies from Tanzania, the two Kenyan sides, defending champions Orange and Sliders; and the Wananchi woman's team and the Weatherhead woman's team, both from Uganda.
For more information about hockey in Africa, visit the AfHF website.
This is another example of the the increasing professionalism across all areas of the sport which is a key area of focus for the International Hockey Federation's (FIH) 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy.