The Nigeria Volleyball Federation (NVF) disclosed to the newsmen Friday that both the country’s male and female volleyball teams had qualified for the 13th edition of the African Games in Ghana, platinumnewsng.com is reporting.
This year’s Africa Games is scheduled to start from March 8 to 23 across three major cities in Ghana. This is the second time in history that the games will be decentralised, as three cities in one country will host the event Accra, Kumasi, and Cape Coast.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the National Stadium Surulere Lagos, the Technical Director of the Federation, Martin Melandi, broke this new development in an interview that the automatic qualification was due to the failure of Benin Republic to honour its match engagements.
“This is Zone Three for West Africa. We were supposed to play against the Benin Republic, and we got their assurance but they withdrew at the last minute.
“Ali Yaro, Zonal President of West Africa, has written to the Confederation of African Volleyball that Nigeria’s volleyball teams have qualified automatically,” he said.
He also added that the inability of the Benin Republic to fund the travel expenses of its teams was given as the reason for not honouring the engagements.
“So, we had to organise exhibition matches for them with some selected Lagos players. This is their first game since they entered camp, I’m optimistic that with subsequent friendlies they will perform well,” he said.
According to NAN, the men’s team led by Moses Gana was put in an exhibition game against Lagos State’s selected volleyball team, winning 3-0 in a best of three games 30-28, 25-21, 25-22. While their female counterparts captained by Ijeoma Ukpabi also defeated another team of Lagos State-selected players 25-9,25-10 and 25-12.
Gana, who was named captain of the team, said that they are not under pressure even as they are certain that subsequent matches would be tough for the team’s opponents.
“There’s no pressure at all being the captain of the senior team, it doesn’t put me under any pressure. I captained my local team for 10 years and I captained the U-21 national team. So it’s a familiar terrain. There has been tremendous development in volleyball since 2021, I believe my team and I will perform optimally,” Gana said.
The Head Coach of the Men’s team, Musa Baba-Musa, said he would have preferred if Benin Republic had played the matches while reiterating his confidence in his team and their ability to make the country proud at the forthcoming 2024 African Games.
“They started slow in this friendly match mainly because this is the first match. We’re still expecting our foreign-based players to join the team. I’m optimistic that they will make us all proud in Ghana,” he said.
The captain of the Women’s team, Ijeoma Ukpabi, said she was optimistic that the team would do the country proud at the games.
“We’re training hard. This is the first time we’re having a blend of the young and old in the team, so the girls are pumped up and ready.
“We have a great bond, we’ve played together in several tournaments. So, we understand one another on the court, we just have a few new players and they are blending in well,” she said.