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Strathmore’s Wanangwe rises to top of Africa

Nairobi December 31, 2011 … While it was obvious that he had emerged the tournament’s top scorer with 17 goals, it was beyond Davis Wanangwe’s wildest dreams that he would be declared the best player at the Africa Cup Club Championships in hockey in Lusaka, Zambia.

Being declared the continent’s finest over the likes of his inspirational captain Allan Iningu, Moses Cheplait from Kenya Police, Exchequer’s Amadu Abdallah, was a humbling but exciting experience for the Strathmore University Hockey Club striker.

“The award came as a surprise because I was from a team that had settled for silver but then God works in mysterious ways considering the sacrifices we make in life,” says Wanangwe, 21.

Ghana’s Exchequers were touted favourites to lift the title after they had forced a 2-2 draw with champions Sharkia.

In the pool’s decisive tie for a place in the semi-finals, Exchequers stormed to a 2-0 lead within 20 minutes before Wanangwe pulled one back as Strathmore trailed 1-2 at intervals.

But the Ghanaians surged to a 4-1 lead with 10 minutes to go as despair crept into Gladiators’ camp, with coach Meshak Senge doing everything to bolster the attack of his charges.

Fighting spirit

For Wanangwe, it’s the fighting spirit and golden touch of Iningu and Billy Molla in the midfield that carried the team as they overturned the deficit in one of the greatest comebacks in the event’s history to triumph 6-4.

Emmanuel Simiyu’s 59th minute goal brought the Gladiators back into the match before Wanangwe rammed in three goals in quick succession in the 66th, 68th and 69th minutes to give Strathmore a 5-4 lead. Then Tony Nyukuri finished it off in the 70th minute.

Strathmore faced off with Sharkia in the final and, after trailing the Egyptians 2-0 in the match, Wanangwe notched a brace to level 2-2 but Strathmore lost 2-4 in the classy final.

Allan Iningu Strathmore Hockey Captain 2011

“Allan Iningu is one of the most inspirational skippers we have ever had. His fighting spirit and inspiration re-ignited the team’s fire.

“We had given up before his magical words on the field,” says Wanangwe. “It was an incredible comeback and it wasn’t about an individual but team work from players, technical bench, sponsors, friends and family members.”

Wanangwe notes that his achievement comes with great responsibilities. “Many, especially youngsters, will look upon me as a role model and I have to know how to carry myself both on the pitch and outside.”

Sought gold in Lusaka

Wanangwe says their aim was to win gold in Lusaka this year after finishing fourth on debut last year in Ghana but they fell to Sharkia due to poor goalkeeping, especially in setpieces like penalty corners.

“I am sure Kenya Police experienced the same and we can’t blame our keepers since they lack proper training on how to handle drag flicks from penalty corners,” notes Wanangwe, a third year Engineering student at the University.

After their experience in Ghana, Wanangwe notes that they concentrated on penalty corner delivery without involving their goalkeepers on how to handle them.

The team faced a similar problem during the 2012 London Olympic Games qualifiers in Bulawayo. “It will be useless to have a strong team without a keeper who is not well equipped technically,” said Wanangwe.

He reckons Strathmore will rely on hard work, discipline and proper training to return stronger next year. Wanangwe was born on April 7, 1990 in Bungoma to John and Jane Wanangwe in a family of five boys that has literary been bitten by the hockey bug.

Wanangwe and his elder brother Frank, 24 are team-mates at Strathmore while Grant, 17, plays hockey for Lenana High School. It’s easy to predict what direction Stephen, 9, and Jerry, who is in baby class, might take.

Davis and Frank have, on several occasions, made it a family affair to spur their teams to victories stretching back to high school.

They guided Friends School, Kamusinga to the schools’ national title in 2004 and 2005. Even after Frank left to join Strathmore in 2006, Davis guided Kamusinga to win the national title in 2006 and 2007.

“We have never experienced sibling rivalry and Frank is a good counsellor and advisor,” says Wanangwe.

The brothers scored the two goals that sunk Kenya Police 2-1 to hand Strathmore their maiden title in the men’s Premier League in 2009 before playing a crucial role in the team’s successful title defence in 2010 to beat Police on better aggregate. But Police claimed revenge in the just-ended 2011 season, beating Strathmore on aggregate.

Davis attended Bungoma District Education Board Primary School from 1999 to 2003 before joining Kamusinga in 2004 to 2007. While in Class Eight in 2003, Davis dumped football for hockey.

It took few training sessions before Davis was drafted to the school team for the nationals upon joining Friends School Kamusinga in 2004.

Article Courtesy of Ayumba Ayodi, Africa Sports Journalist

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