National School Games: What to expect
The Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) Term Two National School Games will return to Kisumu County for the first time since 2016 when the week-long competition kicks off on July 30.
As the teams finalize to fine tune their skills ahead of the upcoming battles, we take a look at some of the changes and facts to note for this year’s event that will mark the 53rd edition of the annual inter-schools competition.
This will be the final phase of the 2019 East Africa Games qualification after Term One action which was done in April in Mombasa with the identity of all the teams in basketball, hockey, rugby 15s, rugby 7s, swimming, handball, cross-country and athletics that will be competing in Arusha, Tanzania in August already known.
Since the U16 football category does not feature in the East Africa scene, winners will represent Kenya in the Copa Coca-Cola Africa tournament set to be held later in the year.
The event which will be held at Kisumu Day and Kisumu Boys is poised to attract more than 1,900 participants from over 100 schools which starred during regional level in the country’s eight regions last month.
The Term Two action is featuring; football U16, football U19 , volleyball, netball, badminton, table tennis and lawn tennis while Term One comprised of basketball, hockey, rugby 15’s, rugby 7’s, swimming, handball, cross-country and athletics.
Despite the Mombasa High Court’s ruling last month that scraped the age limit for students at school championships, that will not be implemented this year so players who will battle it out in Kisumu must be 19 years old and below or must be born on or after September 1 1999.
Nyanza being the host region will present two teams in football both under 16 and under 19 for girls.This is because North Eastern region does not usually present teams in football for girls due to cultural related issues.
Battle Royal in Football and Volleyball
Without any doubt, football and volleyball will highlight the week- long event as the bigwigs are set to battle for the titles.
Fourteen-time boy’s Under-19 champions Kakamega will not defend their title after falling short in County level where they lost to eventual Western region winners St.Peters Mumias.
Interestingly, the latter will not compete in Kisumu after Maliki whom they met in group stages appealed against them and jury therefore ruled that both St.Peters and finalists Kibabii played ineligible players banning them for one year thus giving Ebwali from Vihiga chance to represent Western region. Ebwali had finished third after winning play-offs.
With new champion now guaranteed, all eyes will be on Olbosalt of Central region whose good run in last year’s edition catapulted them to the finals losing 1-0 to Kakamega on their debut outing in the national stage.
Another team to watch in this category will be Nairobi champions Dagoretti who are determined to improve from last year’s national fourth-place finish.
Dagoretti colloquially referred to as ‘Ditchez’ will make their second appearance in this stage and in last year in Eldoret the Joseph Makokha coached side lost to eventual winners Kakamega on penalties in semi-finals.
This year, they will be looking to go all the way to the final and secure their maiden appearance at the East Africa games after starring in the regional level.
The Nairobi based team will, however, have to be at their best as they seek to overcome their Group B opponents where they are penciled to face Eastern Region champions and debutants Mbooni Boys hosts Kisumu Day and Western Region representatives.
2012 champions St.Anthony’s will highlight Pool A that also has last year’s fifth-place finishers Shimba Hills from Coast, finalists Olbolosat from Central and North Eastern representatives.
In Girls’ U-19, interestingly there will also be no defending champions after Kwale Girls were disqualified from this year’s national games for fielding ineligible players during the regional level.
Kwale who made history in last year after winning the regional title in their first outing in Rwanda, was replaced by the losing finalists St. Johns Kaloleni who will represent the Coast region.
Last year’s finalist Bishop Njenga of Western will be out to right their wrongs where they are scheduled to play preliminary matches against Gesero of Nyanza , St. Johns Kaloleni, Central’s Kobala in pool ‘B’.
The other group has Nyakach of Nyanza, Dagoretti Mixed from Nairobi, Eastern champions Karugwa and Itigo of Rift Valley.
In U-16 category, where the Copa Coca-Cola slots are at stake, last year’s defending champions, both boys and girls, are notably missing from the nationals this year.
St. Anthony High School (boys) and Moi Girls Nangili (Girls) were knocked out during the preliminary matches of their regional games held last month in Rift Valley and Western Region respectively.
The 2016 girls’ champions Wiyeta Girls High School (Rift Valley Region) will be seeking to stamp their dominance in the girl’s category after being defeated in the finals last year against the eventual champions Moi Girls Nangili.
The Rift Valley heavyweights have been pooled in group A alongside Dagoretti Mixed Secondary School (Nairobi Region), Njabini Girls Secondary School (Central Region) and Ugari Mixed Secondary School (Nyanza Region).
In group B, the third runners up in last year’s championship, Coastal region champions Waa Girls Secondary School will be playing against Kobala Mixed Secondary School (Nyanza Region), Maeni Girls Secondary School (Western Region) and Itaara Secondary School (Eastern Region).
In the boys category, in Pool A, Goseta Boys High School (Rift Valley Region), will be battling it out against Koyonzo Secondary School (Western Region), Serani Secondary School (Coastal region) and Gatamaiyu High School (Central Region).
In Pool B, Dagoretti High School from Nairobi region will be seeking to win this years’ tournament after an impressive performance in the regional championships. They have been pooled against Agoro Sare Secondary School (Nyanza Region), Machakos Boys High School (Eastern Region) and a representative from the North Eastern Region.
In volleyball contest, fireworks is expected in volleyball especially the girls’ contest, with four-time East Africa champions Kwanthanze Girls head coach Justin Kigwari already admitting it will be difficult for him to retain his title after losing four top guns who graduated from the school last year.
Kigwari said he is fully aware of the task lying ahead as he seeks to clinch a fourth national title predicting the battle to be a three horse-race. Cheptil and Soweto traditionally are Kwanthanze’s arch-rivals.
The Machakos based team , have been paired in Pool ‘B’ against Coast region representatives St.Johns Kaloleni, Central champions Pasenga and a North Eastern representative while last year’s runners up Soweto will face Cheptil, Sega of Nyanza, Western champions Bishop Sulumeti in group ‘A’.
In boy’s category, the battle of new champion will be pretty exciting after reigning champions Malava of Western who edged Kapkenyeloi in the finals to clinch fifth national title last year after they felled to reach national stage this year.
Debutants Matiliku of Eastern region after winning their appeal which they launched against Mutewa for fielding eligible players during the regional level, will be looking to stamp their authority in Kisumu where they are paired alongside Namwela of Western, Lang’ata from Nairobi and North Eastern representatives.
The other group has Tetu of Central, Lalmokwo from Rift Valley, Coast region representatives Shimoni and Nyanza’s Magonga PAG.
Early this year in a circular, KSSSA in conjunction with Ministry of Education announced some changes in this year’s School Games calendar.
Rugby 15s was removed from Term Two to Term One while Decathlon and heptathlon was expunged from the calendar.
KSSSA also limited the number of players that a school can transfer from another school. Consequently, no school will be allowed to transfer more than 2 players from another (same) school.
Apart from changing the structure of the competition, this year’s championship will also enjoy full funding by the government. Previously, individual schools remitted funds to county education offices to organise the games.