NAIROBI, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's hockey team manager Michael Malungu believes his team has the skills and strength to withstand strong challenges from giants South Africa and Nigeria to clinch gold at the Africa Youth Games in Algiers, Algeria.
Speaking in Nairobi on Wednesday evening, Malungu said Kenya will prove its critics wrong when it launches its title campaign on Thursday in boys' hockey against Zambia.
A top two finish in their pool will see the country secure a semifinal berth to possibly face South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe or hosts Algeria. "It is our objective to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games by winning the Africa title," said Malungu. "The boys are ready because we have had intense training for the last two months in Kakamega and Nairobi," he added.
One of the two finalists will secure a ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina in October for the Youth Olympics. However, the top three teams will have a shot at the World Championships in 2019.
The hockey competition starts on Thursday. On Friday, Kenya will take on Nigeria with the final group game set for Saturday against Uganda. Kenya is coached by Kevin Lugalia.
Algeria will host the third African Youth Games, which will see 3,000 athletes from 54 nations engage in 30 disciplines over a period of ten days.
"It's been our culture to produce world class athletes in the Olympics and we shall keep at it through proper grooming of young sportsmen from a tender age. We want Kenya to run clean and safe and (we) have sensitized them (athletes) against doping," said National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) chairman Paul Tergat.
Kenya will be keen to emulate the feats of four years ago in Botswana, where the national team won 25 medals to finish seventh overall.