Canberra, Australia, July 14, 2015 - These are happy days for volleyball in Africa. Just a week after the Egyptian men’s team won FIVB Volleyball World League Group 3, Kenya’s ladies claimed victory in Group 3 of the premier annual competition for women's national teams.
The biggest international success in the history of women’s volleyball in Africa came as even more of a sensation as coach David Lungaho's team marched to a shock 3-1 (21-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23) victory over Peru, who they had lost to in three sets in the preliminary rounds of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix.
Just qualifying for the Final Four ahead of teams like three-time Olympic champions Cuba and Kazakhstan was a surprise. Last weekend's performance and promotion to Group 2 next year, however, will mean a lot for the team. Kenyan captain Brackcides Khadambi is confident that it will change the way the world looks at the African country: "It's a great result in our history. It's the beginning of good things to come in the future. Now at least we are somewhere in the world. I know that when people see us now, they don't just see us as good at athletics – we are now also good at volleyball.”
The reactions to the victory in the final showed just how important this success is for the whole country, and the entire continent. First came a victory dance.
And congratulations started to pour in from prominent figures in Kenya.
On Monday, the Kenyan ambassador in Australia received the team and coach before their flight home.
Back in Kenya, a large welcome committee greeted the “African Queens” as they returned home after several weeks on the road.
And there may also be a small financial reward for making sporting history. “We have not had a structured way of rewarding the team by giving them bonuses whenever they win, but we'll sit down with our sponsors and see how to reward them when they arrive home,” said Mr Waithaka Kioni, chairman of the Kenyan Volleyball Federation, in an interview on TV.
Kenya’s ladies went into the preliminary round tournament with high hopes, although few actually believed they would achieve their goals. Kenyan coach Lungaho: “One thing we knew was that if we made it to the final round, we would go for it. When we left home we said we would go for the Final Four.”
In the end, they actually won the Group. With coach Lungaho at the helm, Kenya demonstrated that they are a close-knit team able to take on the best in the world, with their skills and fighting spirit matching a high level of athleticism.
"For us, we came into this match with a lot of confidence, believing in ourselves,” said Lungaho. “It's a big thing for Kenya, a big thing for Africa. For so many years we have been playing global competitions, and just winning sets. Now we are winning matches. We are ready to take on the world.”
Shortly before the FIVB World Grand Prix, Kenya’s ladies had shown that they are the number one women’s volleyball team in Africa at the continental championships. David Lungaho steered Kenya to a third straight Africa Nations title and a ninth in total in their 10 final appearances since 1991, following a 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-20) win over Algeria in the final.
The recent successes have triggered a big party back home in Kenya – but hard work lies ahead. “We will focus on the World Cup where Kenya will be playing against top sides like Japan, Italy, Brazil, etc. They'll need to test themselves against the best, so we must send a strong side,” said Federation chairman Waithaka Kioni. Kenya is now ready to take on the volleyball world. Captain Brackcides Khadambi: “We are very confident heading to the Olympics, because I know now that we can qualify.”