‘I want to inspire the next generation’ – up-and-coming volleyball star Munezero

Valentine Munezero is one of the young talents in women’s domestic volleyball that can be reckoned to make an impact in the sport soon.

The 19-year old captains the U-20 indoor volleyball national team, and has previously served as the U-18 beach volleyball team captain.

 

She was instrumental as the U-20 team qualified for the 2019 FIVB World U-20 Championships, held in Mexico, after Rwanda finished second at the African championships in August 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Munezero was also part of the senior national team that finished third in last year’s qualifiers, in Uganda, for the 2019 All-Africa Games.

 

The youngster, who features for former champions APR, has also had considerable success at club level having helped her side third position in the league last year.

Weekend Sport’s Damas Sikubwabo had a one-on-one with the up and coming volleyball ace about her volleyball journey, rise to stardom and ambitions for the future.

Indoor volleyball

As a child, Munezero did not have any particular interest in sports. In fact, she did not participate in anything sport until she went to Groupe Scolaire (GS) Rambura for her secondary studies.

Volleyball was the most popular sport at school, but that did also not compel her enough until she had an inspiring conversation with national team coach Christophe Mudahinyuka who had come to scout young talents at GS Rambura.

“He noticed my height and asked me which sport I am playing and I told him none,” Munezero recalls. “He said I could be a great volleyball player and promised to me realise that potential, and that is how I ended up in the game.”

During school holidays, Munezero says, Mudahinyuka talked to her father and convinced him that I should play volleyball. “The next morning, dad drove me to training at Petit Stade.”

Not long after, Munezero was invited to a youth camp that was organised by the Rwanda volleyball federation at GS Indwatwa n’Inkesha (formerly GSO Butare). From the camp, she was offered a sports scholarship at IPRC-Kigali for her advanced level studies.

Between 2016 and 2019, Munezera played for the Kicukiro-based school in the national inter-schools championships, while she also represented the country in various international competitions.

Since last year, she plies her trade with former champions APR in the national league and one of the army side’s key players.

Before the halting of sporting action due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March, APR ranked third on the seven-team league table with 10 points, 8 behind leaders UTB and three off second-placed Rwanda Revenue Authority.

Beach volleyball

Munezero officially started playing beach volleyball in 2017 and it didn’t take her long to rise to the top and become one of the country’s elites at the age of 16.

In the same year, alongside long-time teammate Penelope Musabyimana, Munezero struck a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau Bahamas after beating Scotland in three sets (2-1) in the third-place playoff.

“It was my first time playing an international tournament of that magnitude, it was a difficult competition but I and my teammate fought very hard for our flag’s honour,” Munezero told this publication this week.

Thanks to their stunning performance at the 2018 African Youth Games, staged in Algeria, where they finished second, Munezero and Musabyimana also automatically booked a ticket to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. The event was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Currently, she is also in the qualifiers for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games and the next round is due next month in Rubavu District, Rwanda.

The future

Munezero says that she wants to take her game to professional level and inspire the next generation.

“I have only started, the journey ahead is still long and there is a lot [about my game] to improve. The next generation of girls in volleyball should have an easier path to success than I had.”

Obviously, Munezero emphasised, “I have to win something valuable with my club APR – hopefully the league title – and also keep representing well my country on international scene.”

Who is Munezero?

Born on November 15, 2000 in Bugesera District of the Eastern Province, Munezero is the third child from a family of five – three girls and two boys.

She attended Nyirarukobwa Primary School in her home district before moving to GS Rambura for her ordinary level studies. She earned her advanced level certificate in computer electronics from IPRC-Kigali in 2018.

The volleyball sensation is currently in her second year pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business information technology at the University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies (UTB) in Kigali.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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