African contingent aiming to catch up with the world

28.06.2019 - Hamburg, Germany

The seven teams of the continent want to use the World Championships as a launching pad

Africa is probably the continent in which beach volleyball has the most room for growth right now and that could start happening after the World Championships Hamburg 2019 presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord.

The continent has as many as seven teams competing in the German city this week and if there’s something that could accelerate their development process it’s certainly playing against the best teams in the world.

Moroccans Mohamed Abicha and Zouheir Elgraoui are definitely trying to take advantage of the opportunity ahead of them. Competing in the event for the second time after they finished 37th two years ago in Vienna, they had a respectable 15-21, 16-21 loss to second-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl of Poland in their first match.

For them, it’s less about the score and more about the opportunity, though.

“I’m proud of the way we played,” Elgraoui explained. “They are one of the best teams in the world and we certainly played better than our normal level in some moments. For us, to be here and to get to play against teams like theirs is very important. We didn’t progress as much as we’ve wanted since Vienna because we don’t have a full-time beach volleyball national team and I’ve been playing indoor volleyball in France for most of the year, but I think African beach volleyball is slowly progressing.” 

Egyptians Doaa Elghobashy and Randa Radwan are looking forward to take the same pathway as they are the first representatives of their country at the World Champs. While Rawdan is playing of her first international tournament in Hamburg, Doaa is already an Olympian, having finished 19th at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The team’s debut in Hamburg was somewhat frustrating as they were downed by the reigning European champions Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands 21-7, 21-6, but they won’t put their hands down.

“It’s just a brilliant accomplishment for us to be here,” Doaa remarked. “The best teams in the world are here and it’s a great opportunity for us to measure our level. However, after I played in the Olympics I had to pretty much give up on my beach career and play indoor volleyball until this year because there’s not a system in Egypt that allows us to play beach volleyball as a full-time career. I’m not sure we have the power to change it, but we’ll just keep playing and doing our best.”

Nigeria is still a little behind in the process, but the country gave a significant step forward this year when it qualified for the first time to compete at the World Championships.

The team of Francisca ‘Franco’ Ikhiede and Tochukwu Nnoruga booked its place in Hamburg with a fourth-place finish at the African Nations Beach Volleyball Cup in their home sand and they were faced with one of the best teams in the world in Brazilians Maria Elisa Antonelli and Carol Solberg in their historic opening match at the Red Bull Beach Arena. The result didn’t go their way, but that didn’t make the moment less special.

“We felt so proud and so big just to be playing against them,” Franco said. “We are very excited to be here because it was a challenge for us. We hope that this level of competition and this experience push us further. We’re very thankful that our country allowed us to be here, but it can’t be a one-time thing. We need to be exposed to different weathers, to different opponents and to different environments and that’s the only way we’ll get better.”