Volleyball was the most outstanding sport in 2013
2013 can probably be qualified as the most successful year for Rwandan volleyball after four national volleyball teams competed in World Championships in the year for the first time in the country’s history.
The sport’s local governing body, FRVB, devised plans to take the game to the grassroots level in a bid to attract young players throughout the country, which resulted in the four historic qualifications for world championships.
Four teams, including Men U19, U21 and U23 Beach volleyball men and women represented Rwanda on the world stage.
The year started with the U-19 boys’ team beating Algeria for the first time to qualify for the worlds during the African championships in Algeria in January. The World Championships took place in Mexican cities of Tijuana and Mexicali from June 27 through July 7.
In March, the U23 Beach volleyball teams took part in the 2013 World Championships held from June 6 to 9 in Myslowice, Poland.
And a month later, the U-21 beat North African oppositions Algeria and Morocco to secure third position in Africa and a place in the FIVB Men’s U21 World Championship which took place August 22 to September 1 in Ankara and Izmir, Turkey.
In November, the senior volleyball team beat Kenya, Burundi and Uganda (before losing to Egypt) and qualified for the last round of FIVB Men’s World Championships qualifiers, which will take place in Cameroon early next year.
These results made Volleyball the most successful sport in the country in 2013.
Only basketball came close while football continued its nosedive trend.
The government has set itself a target of propelling the country to the top three on the continent in both basketball and volleyball by the 2017, and it appears the target has practically been reached in volleyball several years ahead of set deadline.
THE Junior U21, Junior U19 and Beach Volleyball U23 women and men have done it this year.
The question now is whether the senior team can make it to the World Cup, which will be held in Poland next year and hopefully round up what would be the biggest feat for Rwanda in any sport, save for sitting volleyball for which the country is a former world champion.
Early this month, the Rwanda Volleyball Federation hosted the 2013 Africa Volleyball Congress for the first time. In June-July, the country hosted Sub-zone before hosting Zone V World Championships qualifying tournaments from November 26 through December 1.
And it is during that tournament that Rwanda and Kenya joined Egypt to qualify for the final round slated for January and February.
On the local scene, the volleyball league became more competitive with APR, INATEK and National University of Rwanda reaching the final round of the league but it was NUR who eventually won it.
FRVB has successfully organised different tournaments, including (Carre d’AS, Genocide Memorial Tournament, League and Volleyball Tournament against Malaria), and the fruits of that could be seen in improved results for the national teams.
Paul Bitok’s team could make history if it goes on and qualify for the Senior World Championships.
The volleyball federation has over the years worked closely with primary schools and secondary schools in promoting the sport, which has helped create and sustain a pool of good players around the country.
The year 2013 also saw the birth of Rayon Sports Volleyball Club. It remains to be seen whether the team will replicate the success of their football counterparts when it starts to compete in the league in the New Year.
Contact email: peter.kamasa[at]newtimes.co.rw