AMONG the 20 countries participating at FIVB Men’s U21 World Championship in Turkey, Rwanda is the only country experiencing this adventure for the first time in their history.
Rwanda has lost all their group matches after going down 3-0 against Serbia on Monday in the ongoing FIVB U-21 World Championships which comes to an end on Sunday.
Prior to the final group match, Rwanda had already lost with an identical 3-0 score lines to USA, Tunisia and Canada, which means the East African country will play in the ranking matches that get underway on Thursday.
Despite the poor performances, the players are excited to experience their first ever journey as ambassadors for their country in volleyball. Football, athletics and other physical sports were popular games until 5 years ago when volleyball followed suit. Today the game of volleyball has a huge following and great support from all stake holders.
Now volleyball has become one of the most popular sports in the country and it has attracted the interest of the youth. Rwanda sports went through a difficult phase during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The volleyball fraternity lost over 46 members including players, coaches, and administrators during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
With a deliberate government policy to promote sport, a wind of change is blowing across the country’s playing fields. The government believes that sport and mainly volleyball could play an important part in rebuilding the country through reconciliation.
Volleyball has been earmarked as an important sport in schools and society in general. It is hoped that this will help young people traumatised by the events of 1994 to once again find enjoyment in their lives and promote friendship amongst Rwandans.
After 19 years since the Genocide, U19 and U21 volleyball teams have participated not only on the level of African Championships but also in the World championships. 80% of the players were born during and after the Genocide.
Now it is a new era for the Rwandans in their history as this is the first time the Rwandan volleyball team is participating at the Men’s U21 World Championship far away from their country, in Izmir, Turkey.
For players born in 1993 and after, this is their first time to participate in international competitions. They are competing against well trained and experienced teams. However they are playing with big ambitions.
The aim of Rwandans is to get as much experience as they can. “We had bad days in our history. U21 Men’s World Championship is a great chance for us to improve ourselves at the international platforms. It’s a big motivation and experience for everyone. And Rwandans are supporting volleyball,” Rwanda coach Paul Bitok said.
“After qualifying for the U21 Men’s World Championship, volleyball became a popular sport in Rwanda,” Bitok continued.
“All players are excited to be here in Izmir for the World Championship to gain international experience and exposure,” Rwanda captain Aimable Mutuyimana said.
“This is a great chance for us to improve ourselves for international championships. As long as we play such big competitions, we will be able to beat stronger teams.”
Bonny Mutabazi said, “This competition is very good for us. All teams are very tough and experienced. The championship is not easy but we are glad to be here. We have a chance to see our mistakes and to improve ourselves. We all think that this is great chance for us.”
Ivan Mahora Nsabimana thinks they will get better with time. “We have made many mistakes that should be corrected. This will happen as long as we keep improving ourselves. We are happy to be here.” Bitok concluded that they are glad to be participating in such a well organised international platform.