A total of 16 countries have confirmed participation in the inaugural Africa Deaflympics Ball Games Qualifiers in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi from September 11-25.
Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Chairman Gordon Oluoch confirmed that Team Senegal was the first to arrive adding that the rest of the countries are expected in due course.
Other countries also enlisted for the events include Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Gambia, Zanzibar, Somaliland, Gabon, Egypt, Libya, Liberia, Cameroon and Mauritania.
Basketball will be played at the Nyayo National Stadium while football will take place at Moi International Sports Center Kasarani.
The event is being used as a yardstick to pick African qualifiers to the 2022 Deaflympics slated for Brazil.
Twenty three countries had initially committed to the event but the number was reduced to 16 as a result of financial constraints and COVID-19 related issues, Oluoch explained.
‘Tanzania has just opted out due to Covid-19 related issues with their government ruling out its representation. Most of the countries should be in by today,” Oluoch said.
Oluoch also noted that Kenya was picked to stage this prestigious deaf championships following the successful hosting of the Deaf Athletics Championship in Nairobi in 2019.
“It’s a great honor and I feel very privileged that we were chosen to host this prestigious event for the first time this year. It’s always very difficult to win while playing away, so I urge our athletes to take full leverage on the great facet of being the home team. A total of 1000 participants will be part of the inaugural event, the first of it’s kind in the region,” said Oluoch.
Sports PS Joe Okudo on behalf of CS Amb. Amina Mohammed pledged continual support to the deaf sports fraternity adding that all medalists will be remunerated in similar spirit and manner with other sports personalities from Paralympics and the able-bodied Olympians.
The launch at Karen based Kenya Technical Training Institute for the Deaf also unveiled the event’s Mascot which is representative of the world’s fastest animal, the cheetah.
“The cheetah being the fastest land animal, I’m sure it will inspire our athletes to showcase great talent and speed as they seek to conquer the rest of the continent.” Okudo added.
Okudo also added that the championships will be free from doping with strict COVID-19 protocols being observed through and through.
Okudo announced that there will be no spectators allowed at both venues in line with MOH social gathering guidelines.
“We shall conduct regular COVID-19 tests to ensure the safety of all and sundry at the event,” the PS said.
The launch was attended by various spotting stakeholders among them the President of Kenya Federation of Deaf Sports, Mr. Peter Kalae, the CEO of the Games Miriam Opindo and the Principal of Kenya Technical Training Institute for the Deaf Tecla Chembo
Opondo noted that the deaf sports have been neglected for many years with no financial support forthcoming from the corporate and government.
“Lack of awareness has also seen the sporting fraternity relate deaf sports to Paralympics yet they were two independent sports. We are happy that the Government has come through and committed to support us for the long haul,” Opondo explained, adding that this is the reason why deaf sports had stagnated for donkey’s years.
Kalae on his part remarked: “We thank the Government for their support in the growth of deaf sports. This is now an opportunity to showcase the pride and talent of the deaf culture in the continent.”
Tecla on her part said: “The Games will deliver a more deaf inclusive society in our community. It’s also a platform for change in our society in Kenya and abroad.’
The Institute is producing the biggest chunk of athletes on Team Kenya outfit.