2016 Kabaddi World Cup: Only the best should be expected out of Kenya, says Phelix Opana
Can Kenya spring a surprise this World Cup?
Phelix Opana, 26-year old Kenyan raider who will play a major role in the team's campaign at the Kabaddi World Cup is one player, the crowds and the rival teams should watch out for.
He first came to India when he was picked up in the auctions by Bengal Warriors prior to the third edition of the Pro Kabaddi League, and since then has developed a deep bonding with the country since he loves the welcoming and friendly nature of our people. His only concern, the hot weather which plagues most part of the tropical nation all round the year.
He is now back in India, this time as a part of his national team for the World Cup taking place in Ahmedabad. He is one of the few players who was not drawn into the sport in childhood but introduced to it much later.
Of what he describes as a "life-changing" moment, it was his fellow countryman Simon Kibura, himself a player and the coach of the national team whom he credits for helping him discover the sport of kabaddi. He met the Puneri Paltan player, at the gym after which Simon had invited to watch a couple of games, and since then Opana was hooked onto the sport.
With just a couple of teams in Kenya playing at the local level, namely the Kiambu Warriors and Nairobi Lions, he went on to represent the Lions and was adjudged the best raider on quite a few occasions. Subsequently, he was adjudged as the best Kenyan raider at the national level for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015.
Back in Kenya, kabaddi is played as a local game and called "Icho" and such has been the profound impact of the game on Opana, that he utilizes his own knowledge and experience of the sport to promote it amongst other youngsters since he wants the sport that he loves to rise to higher levels in his home country.
The key strategy that he employs is his game-plan when he gets onto the mat, is to keep his mind stress-free in order to implement the right tactics and channel his energy and strength in the right areas for he firmly believes that kabaddi is essentially a mind-game.
Talking about how the Kenyan team has been prepping itself for the ongoing World Cup, in an interview to Star Sports, he said, “We started preparing for it early on. We have good players. People should expect the best out of them for the World Cup." Thus, one can not underestimate the challenge that the Kenyan outfit will bring to the table at the global platform.
As for his roots, they stem from a family that is addicted to sports more or less with his father being in the military and a football referee and a trio of sisters playing football for renowned clubs in Kenya. Phelix himself plays rugby and football in addition to chanting kabaddi-kabaddi.
Lastly, one facet pretty much unknown about this colourful personality is the fact that he is the lead singer with a band and also pursues modelling but he always maintains that kabaddi is the most important part of his life. So, look forward to this multi-talented raider show up in the Kenyan team colours when they lock horns against Poland on the 8th of October.