NAIROBI, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Kenya is optimistic to end a three-decade wait to have a hockey team back at the Olympic Games.
The country has entered two teams - men and women - in the Africa qualifiers set for Cape Town, South Africa from Monday. Eight teams, Egypt, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and hosts South Africa have all confirmed participation and will fight it out for the sole spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Kenya last featured at the Olympics in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.
"Kenya is not just going to participate to make up the numbers. Our aim is to put our stake high and stage a serious bid to clinch the African ticket," said men's team head coach Meshack Senge on Sunday in Nairobi.
The two teams jetted out on Sunday morning for Cape Town, buoyed by an improved performance. Kenya clinched a bronze medal in their last international assignment for Olympic quest back in 2016. They beat Ghana 4-3 in the play-off for Rio 2016.
However, giants South Africa once again got to represent the continent at the 2016 Rio Olympics after they beat Egypt 4-2 in the final.
Now Senge has reshuffled the team and brought in young blood. Senge said the youngsters in the team have the passion and desire to perform.
"There is complacency with older players and it's better to go with the young and ambitious ones since it's that strong mental frame and confidence that I give the players as a coach," said Senge.
Senge said that 10 of the players in the squad have been in the national team system before and have the experience to challenge for trophies. However, he has drafted in another eight greenhorns who will rely on their senior players for direction.
"We have watched our rivals especially South Africa, Egypt, and Ghana before heading to Cape Town and, for sure, things are looking good. All the teams are a threat and we can't overrate or underrate either," said Senge.
Kenya men's team is in Pool A together with neighbors Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa, while Pool B features Egypt, Ghana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
In the women's contest, Kenya is in Pool A along with South Africa and Nigeria, while Pool B has Ghana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Uganda.
The top two teams will qualify for the semifinals of the qualifiers for Tokyo 2020.
South Africa, the sole African hockey representative at the 2016 Rio Olympics, finished second during the 2019 International Hockey Federation (FIH) men's series finals, which gives them access to the FIH Olympic qualifiers in India later this year.
"South Africa is a top contender and have been in every Olympics in the last two decades but we want to break that, there will be a new order in Africa hockey," said Kenya's women's head coach Tom Olal.
"We are shall be facing players who are fully professional but the players believe in themselves," said Olal.