As Nigeria’s Volleyball teams get set to jet out to Morocco for the 2019 African Games in the early hours of Friday, August 16, head coach of the male national team Japhet Nuhu has set the target of a podium finish for his side at the tournament.
The teams who are in Abuja and will leave from the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport have been drawn together with Morocco, Mauritius and Botswana in Pool A. Algeria Egypt, Cape Verde, and Cameroon make up Pool B in the men’s category.
Speaking to busybuddiesng.com ahead of their journey to Morocco, the ex-international who had earlier declared his intention of “rewriting history in Morocco” said Nigeria’s performances in recent African Games have been sub-par and while no team can be considered a pushover, his team of freshly minted players have “done what is humanly possible” with their preparations to finish among the medals.
The male team have finished amongst the medals on five occasions but have never won gold in the competition.
They bagged silver medals in Algiers in 1978, Johannesburg in 1999 and Abuja in 2003 – their most recent podium finish. Their two bronze medals came in 1987 in Nairobi and in 1995 in Bulawayo.
However, their last three appearances at the African Games in 2007, 2011 and 2015 have failed to yield any medals and Nuhu believes this recent run of poor finishes doesn’t reflect well on the country and is banking on his youthful side to reverse the trend in Morocco.
“Down history, I think we’ve not done too well in subsequent African Games – in recent ones in the last two or three. But, we have really worked hard and the Federation had a programme of discovering new talents which have formed more than sixty percent of our team now,” Nuhu said.
“The new young discoveries have been injected to the team, with the hard work we are hoping that the youthfulness in them will go a long way to assist us to achieve our dreams.
“I want to make it clear that all the teams that are going to participate in the African Games finals have emerged victorious in their various zones, so, there is no team that is a pushover. Everybody is preparing to come and win the three medals that they are going to contest for there.
“We have done what is humanly possible for us to do, and we are hoping that our best will be good enough to put us on the podium.”
Nuhu also revealed the process employed in whittling down the 18 names who had been invited to camp to the 12-man squad which will be representing the country at the Games.
“After the [Zone 3] qualifiers, we then came up with another 18 names to come to the camp to prepare for the African Games proper in Kaduna. Then the 18 players were reduced to 14, eventually to the 12 that will be travelling. After rigorous training and assessment and two friendlies with the U19 team that is preparing for the World Championship through that process we were able to screen to come up with the names of those that will be flying the flag of Nigeria at the African Games in Morocco,” he revealed.
The coach who revealed that his team was supported in “cash and in kind” by Volleyball lovers and well wishers during their camp said preparations leading up to the Games have been satisfactory with the Nigeria Volleyball Federation (NBVF) providing all necessary support to the team.
He said his side have been spurred on by the overwhelming support received from many quarters and that they are motivated to repay the faith shown in them with performances capable of putting “smiles on the faces” of their teeming supporters.
“I think the preparation, everything that was good for us to make us train well was provided and we did our best to give to the players the amount we think can be taken by them, and the players were determined they worked tirelessly and I hope and am praying that God will crown the efforts of every individual,” Nuhu told busybuddiesng.com.
“A lot of persons did assist us in our preparations too, the volleyball lovers came around, the President of the association, a few volleyball lovers contributed in cash and kind to us in camp when we were preparing.
“As regards support, all the well wishers have been rallying around us, some words of encouragement, some word of prayers and with all this support, we are seriously working hard to make sure that we put smiles on the faces of those that have wished us well and have supported us. The Federal Government of Nigeria, the Volleyball federation the sports ministry and all the positive persons that are around us, really we are working hard to make sure we don’t disappoint them.
“We are praying that our best will be good enough to give us a place on the podium.”