Lausanne, Switzerland, March 3,
2014 – Cameroon’s volleyball ladies could hardly believe their luck. “Qualified
for the World Championship Italy 2014! Thank you God,” wrote their best-known
international Laetitia Moma Bassoko on her Facebook page after a success even
she seemed to find hard to comprehend.
The Lionesses, as the Cameroon national team is traditionally known as, could
do nothing but sit and watch on the final match day of the qualifying
tournament in the Harcha Hacène Hall in Algeria, as hosts Algeria provided the
necessary support in a real thriller.
Egypt failed to convert a two
set to one lead and a match point in the fourth set, eventually losing 3-2
(23-25, 25-15, 19-25, 29-27, 15-10) to Algeria. This left the final table with
three teams with a record of four wins and one defeat. In the end, it came down
to point difference, with Cameroon (13) claiming the ticket to the FIVB
Volleyball Women’s World Championship from September 23 to October 12 in Italy.
Egypt (12) and Algeria (11), on the other hand, will have to watch from home.
Having lost 3-2 to Egypt, Cameroon ultimately had a dominant 3-1 win against
hosts Algeria to thank for their progress to the World Championship.
One week after Tunisia
surprisingly became the first ladies team from Africa to qualify for the
highlight of the season, on the back of a key victory against Kenya, Cameroon
secured the second and final ticket awarded by the CAVB confederation. In doing
so, they completed the double for the proud country, whose men had already
qualified under similarly fortunate circumstances for the FIVB Men’s World
Championships in Poland from August 30 to September 21. Incidentally, the men
finished just ahead of Algeria in second place. The fact that it was the
Algerians who then helped Cameroon to the Women’s World Championship speaks
volumes about the level of fair play in volleyball in general, and particularly
“Cameroon’s men have now
qualified for the World Championship twice in a row, while the ladies have made
it through on two of the last three occasions. That makes our country by far
the number one volleyball nation in central Africa,” said the coach of the
Cameroon men’s team, Peter Nonnenbroich. The German had previously supervised
the Cameroon ladies team on their historic first appearance at the FIVB
Volleyball Women’s World Championships as an FIVB development assistant. The
Lionesses finished 21st on their debut in Japan. Nonnenbroich then went on to
guide the men to the competition in 2010 and 2014. The World Championship sees
the top teams in the world play against each other every four years.
Women’s coach Joseph Nane Eone
admitted that they had drawn inspiration from the men’s triumph: “When one
succeeds, it boosts the morale of the other team. But it is even better when
you have two children, and both pass the examination.” After qualifying for the
World Championship, the men’s team was rewarded by the Cameroon governance with
a bonus of about US$ 100,000. The ladies will also receive a bonus, although –
as in most African countries – women’s volleyball does not enjoy the same
status as the men’s game.
“Football is a religion in
Cameroon. Of the other sports, volleyball is number one,” explained
Nonnenbroich. Despite this, conditions are nowhere near those found in the top
countries in Europe, Asia and America. Matches in the national men’s and
women’s leagues are almost all played outside, and mostly on rock-hard surfaces
like concrete. The men and ladies spent weeks preparing together for their
qualifying campaigns for the FIVB World Championships in the country’s only
large volleyball hall, in the capital Yaounde.
Almost all of Cameroon’s successful
ladies team play in the national league. Only Laetitia Moma Bassoko has made
the step up to a top international club. The hitter plays for German champions
Schweriner SC, and was involved in this year’s European Champions League. The
second appearance at the FIVB World Championship presents Cameroon’s ladies
with another opportunity to play in front of a global public. Nonnenbroich: “It
will not be easy for the ladies at the World Championship, as there is a very
big gap with the top countries. However, they will do their very best, as a
rank outsider, to create an upset.”
Cameroon was the 18th of the 24
teams to qualify for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships. Before
them, the other African team from Tunisia and seven European teams had already
come through their qualifying tournaments on the first weekend of 2014: the
winners of the five third-round qualifying tournaments – Turkey, Azerbaijan,
Belgium, Croatia, and Bulgaria – as well as the top two second-placed teams
Serbia and the Netherlands. They joined hosts Italy, defending champions Russia
and Germany from Europe, Brazil and Argentina from South America, and Japan,
China, Thailand and Kazakhstan from Asia.
These 18 teams are certain to be
present when the lots are drawn for the season highlight on March 10 in Parma.
The destination of the remaining six tickets will be determined after the
ceremonial drawing of lots. The NORCECA confederation will hold five qualifying
tournaments (each with four teams) scheduled to take place in Cuba (May 12 to
18), USA and Dominican Republic (May 13 to 19), Canada (May 14 to 20) and
Puerto Rico (May 20 to 26).
The winner of each group will
qualify for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 while the
runners-up will go through to a play-off for the fifth and final place from
June 2 to 9 in Trinidad.
The African CAVB confederation’s final ticket will be allocated this week:
Tunisia is both the host and hot favourite at the last African qualifying
tournament till March 8, when they will battle it out against Seychelles, Congo
Brazzaville, Senegal and Niger for a ticket to the FIVB Men’s World
Championships. Maybe Tunisia will have two reasons to celebrate – like