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2017-07-19 10:38:00 CEST

More Than Sports: First World Championships for Sierra Leone

Historic success, administrative barriers and a little help from Austria

Patrick Lombi and Abu Bakarr Kamara with two players from South Africa. Credit: Sorie KamaraPatrick Lombi and Abu Bakarr Kamara with two players from South Africa. Credit: Sorie Kamara

On Sunday, Sorie Kamara received a message. It took a load off his mind. “The embassy called me to collect the passports and the visa for Austria on Monday,” he says.

Sorie is director of beach volleyball at the Sierra Leone Volleyball Association (SLVA). At the same time, he is coach of Abu Bakarr Kamara and Patrick Lombi, who qualified for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships presented by A1 in Vienna. It will be the first time ever a team from Sierra Leone will compete at the senior World Championships. “This competition is very important for Sierra Leone,” Sorie tells us.

Kamara, 20 and Lombi, 21, qualified via the Africans Nations Cup. They play together since 2012 and already participated at two Under-21 World Championships. The event on Danube Island will be the first senior competition for them. “That means a lot to them,” Sorie says. The last weeks have been very stressful for him, because traveling from Sierra Leone to Vienna is not just about the flight, which can take 12 hours and more. Sorie, the players and the rest of the staff have had to wait for their visa. Again and again, Sorie had to fly to the Australian embassy in Senegal to bring documents – but after days and weeks nothing happened. “When we played the Under-21 World Championships in 2016 in Switzerland, we received our visa within two days. I have no idea why it takes that long this time,” Sorie says.

Waiting instead of practicing in Austria

Ideally, Sorie wanted to come to Austria by June 25 to get one month’s training in before the start of the World Championships. “We wanted to go to Austria early to practice with some players from Austria,” he says. “I hoped they could shoot some balls on my boys to develop their reception.” But no chance. “The government tried to help us to get the visa, but the embassy has to follow their own rules, we could not expedite this,” Sorie explains. Instead, they practiced in Senegal. “Senegal has the same weather conditions like Austria, so it was okay but I think we would have developed better if we had been in Austria.” Sorie also got nervous because, according to FIVB rules, all documents have to arrive with beach volleyball’s federation by July 14.

But FIVB helped them. In a statement, the federation said: “At the request of the FIVB, the Oesterreichischer Volleyballverband has been providing assistance to the Embassy of Austria in Senegal in order to secure the required visas to allow the Sierra Leone men's team to participate in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship Vienna 2017. At this time, the team will maintain its positions in the confirmed list until further information is received from all parties involved.”

Helpful knowledge from Austria and Hungary

Now, finally, Sorie can book the flights and hotel for the team in Vienna. His performance is one of the reasons, why Lombi/Kamara made it to the World Championships. “I have been to Hungary under the program of the Olympic solidarity scholarship which allows me to do a coaching course for three months at the university in Budapest. That was amazing to me,” he tells us. After that, he let the boys know some key things of playing beach volleyball, including the warm up and physical conditioning. “We changed too much according to the work before and when they changed that, they boys became very strong“, Sorie says.

Sorie Kamara (left) and Johann Huber (right) with coaches and players during FIVB course in Sierra Leone. Credit: Johann HuberSorie Kamara (left) and Johann Huber (right) with coaches and players during FIVB course in Sierra Leone. Credit: Johann Huber

Another factor of the development of beach volleyball in Sierra Leone has been a man from Austria, Sorie says. Johann Huber, father of Olympic participant Alexander Huber, is an FIVB Instructor going on beach volleyball development missions all over the world. “When he came to Sierra Leone for the first time, he asked me to develop beach volleyball as a big sport, because we have everything here for that: beach and players,” says Sorie. “I started that and every day, he helped me with information and he has been here for five times now, telling me a lot about beach volleyball. That’s why I now have a lot of knowledge and we qualified for the World Championships.”

The event on the Danube Island, which begins next Friday, July 28, is very important for Sierra Leone as beach volleyball is now one of the most popular sports in the country. “Beach volleyball has the highest level compared to all other sports in Sierra Leone,” Sorie tells us. In April 2017, Sorie received an award for his work helping the development of the sport in his country. Now he looking forward to get some new input from the best players and coaches of the world meeting in Vienna.

Sorie receiving an award for his performance as beach volleyball coach. Credit: Sorie KamaraSorie receiving an award for his performance as beach volleyball coach. Credit: Sorie Kamara

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