The head of volleyball’s world governing body, the FIVB, said a project to develop Kenya’s national teams is a model for the sport across the world.
Kenya was the first beneficiary of the Volleyball Empowerment program, with the model having since spread across Africa and beyond.
FIVB chief executive Fabio Azevedo says a new business deal with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners will see millions spent on training and facilities to develop the game.
“We use this money, which comes from sport, to be reinvested in sport,” Azevedo told BBC Sport Africa.
In the just-concluded Women’s World Championship, Kenya narrowly missed qualifying for the second stage for the first time, with Azevedo saying the support the team has received over the past year has been crucial for its development.
“Kenya was the pilot – we saw that they had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, [but] with outdoor training facilities, equipment or basic personnel,” he said.
“We set up a project. We helped train the girls for 75 days before the Olympics.
“We kept going and then they came to the World Championships. So I think it’s ‘mission accomplished’.”
Kenya won a match at the World Championship for the first time this year, in a tournament co-hosted in the Netherlands and Poland, after beating fellow Africans Cameroon, who also made it clear their participation was a matter of development.
Kenya’s coach at the tournament, which was won by defending champions Serbia, was Brazilian Luizomar de Moura, who coached some of his own country’s best teams and won the club world title.
His post in Kenya, and that of the support staff, have been funded directly by the FIVB – something the governing body wants to do elsewhere.
The agreement with CVC was concluded at the beginning of last year, but the Volleyball Empowerment program is already being extended.
The FIVB website has information about all projects are currently funded, ranging from a few thousand dollars for new balls to millions to support training programs and venue development.
External auditors ensure that the money is spent in the right way, according to the organization.
African countries that have benefited in recent months include Angola, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Gambia, and Azevedo says there are now some 500 projects underway around the world. .
“The concept works,” Azevedo added.
In four years, it is hoped that more African countries will try to qualify for the next world championship.
The format is being expanded from 24 teams to 32 for both men and women, and while it is not yet certain how the qualifying places will be distributed, it is probable that Africa will obtain more than two places at the next world competition. .
Mercy Moim, who has been part of the Kenya squad for over a decade and is now captain, said the program will take time to really have an impact.
“We have 90% young players [in the squad] – maybe after two or three years we will be the best,” she told BBC Sport Africa.
“It is a project, [but] I know it’s a good initiative.”
While the focus is on national teams for now, the FIVB ultimately hopes its program can help bring more people into the game – both as fans and as participants.