Volleyballis one of the most popular and entertaining sport in Rwanda. It has seen its standards rise gradually and steadily over the years.
In the last fifteen years, those who have taken trouble to follow local volleyball have been able to enjoy celebrated legends such as Eric ‘Machine’ Nsabimana, Jean Luc Ndayikengurukiye, Elie Mutabazi and Benjamin Kangabo among others.
The national volleyball teams at all levels (U-19, U-21 and U-23 as well as the senior teams) have been able to show their worth at the regional, continental and even at the world scene at times.
Through the weekly scheme of profiling local iconic athletes, Saturday Sport today brings to lime light Ivan Nsabimana Mahoro, the senior national team setter and former U-21 team key player.
Who is Mahoro?
Born on March 22, 1994 in Huye district to a Russian mother Gaidashova Svetlana and Rwandan father Antoine Nsabimana, Mahoro is the first born from a family of three, two boys and one girl.
He attended Huye-based Autonome primary school before joining junior seminary Virgo Fidelis Karubanda also based in Huye district. He later joined Lycee de Kigali (LDK) where he did senior four and five majoring in Math-Chemistry and Biology (MCB).
Because of his longtime dream of becoming a doctor, the ambitious youngster switched to G.S.O Butare, where he changed the combination to Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Currently, he is a first-year student pursuing physiotherapy and physical education at Ural Federal University in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Mahoro grew up cherishing former Kigali Volleyball Club (KVC) and national team legendary setter Benjamin Kangabo and veteran Brazilian international setter Marcelo Elgarten who won silver with Brazil at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Since his childhood, Mahoro never knew he would be a national asset at the level he is today. Despite having grown watching his paternal uncle playing volleyball, he never played volleyball until 2007 when he started secondary school.
The soft-spoken Mahoro says he was introduced to volleyball by his old friends back at junior seminary Virgo Fidelis and it took him roughly two years to start feeling and enjoying the game.
He served the school’s O’level boys’ team for a year and a half before playing for LDK senior team for two years in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
The vastly talented setter won the national inter-schools championship title with GSO Butare in 2013 and traveled with the school for East African Post Primary Games (FESSSA Games) in Bujumbura, Burundi where they were eliminated in semi-finals.
He also featured for University of Rwanda- College of Business and Economics (formerly SFB) in the second division volleyball league in 2010.
Before heading to Russia for his university studies late last year, Mahoro played in the national volleyball league for three years, for the secondary school side, GSO Butare (2012, 2013) and the then newly formed Rayon Sports Volleyball Club (2014).
During his first two seasons in the national league, he didn’t enjoy much as he was featuring for a side that was not able to win against giants such as APR, INATEK, former National University of Rwanda (NUR) among others.
“I spent my first two seasons in the league with GSO Butare for the sake of participating; because realistically we were not competitive. The best we could was to beat fellow secondary schools teams and other lowly teams in the league,” Mahoro confessed to Saturday Sport.
After finishing high school in November 2013, it was time to concentrate more on his game and every single league side among local giants had expressed their interest to sign the then 19-year-old youngster; however he was won over by Rayon Sports, a side he stayed with for only one season.
In an email to Saturday Sport from Russia last week, the 21-year-old noted, “I enjoyed myself at Rayon Sports, I am proud of what they are doing this season though I’m not part of the club anymore. It is at Rayon that I played my best volleyball, setting up balls for some of the country’s best attackers was a good feeling.”
During his 10-month stint with Fidele Nyirimana’s side, Mahoro featured in four different competitions namely; Kayumba Memorial Tournament (first runners-up), Genocide Memorial Tournament (winners), the national volleyball league (first runners-up) and Carre d’As (second runners-up).
The light-skinned setter didn’t serve the national U-19 volleyball team and neither did he make any official appearance in the team but he played for the U-21 team in various regional and international competitions including CAVB African Junior Championships and FIVB World Championships in 2013.
In the continental junior championships, Rwanda finished second runners-up to qualify for the 2013 FIVB Junior Championships staged in Turkey where they were eliminated in group stages to finish last out of 22 countries.
In early 2014, the vastly talented youngster received his maiden cap in the national senior team preparing for the final round of qualifiers of the 2014 FIVB World Championships in Cameroun—however; he failed to make it to the final 12-player team.
Fifteen months after his maiden senior cap, the 21-year old Mahoro was named again in the senior team that won the Zone Five Championships earlier this month at Amahoro stadium. He started all three matches Rwanda played and won against Uganda, Burundi and Kenya respectively.
By claiming the Zone V championships, Rwanda qualified for this year’s All Africa Games and CAVB Africa Volleyball Championships.
Mahoro has won many trophies and medals with different teams since secondary school but scooping award for best setter at the 2014 Genocide Memorial Tournament and best setter of the recent CAVB Zone Five stand out as his most memorable achievements.
Life in Russia
He is based in Ekaterinburg, in Russia. He admits he had an unfriendly start to life because of the new environment, weather and climate but he says he is adapting well.
Upon joining university, he started playing for his varsity volleyball team that competes in the Russian second division league and is a regular at the club.
He said, “I am keen on improving my level every day and hopefully, once to feature in the Russian premier league.”
Mahoro thanks all his former and current coaches both at club level and national teams, media, friends and volleyball colleagues but especially his family who stood by him from the day he started volleyball playing journey.