Ahead of their opening game on Saturday in the 2018 FIVB Women World Championship qualifying tournament holding in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, ACLSports.com: spoke with the coach of Nigeria team Usman Habib Abdallah, who expressed confidence in his charges but also raised concerns about the general state of the sport in Nigeria.
ACLSports.com: You have watched Ivory Coast vs Ghana which of them do you think Nigeria can handle with ease?
Abdallah: Ghana are a better side. They are more technically organised. They play a more compact game. They attack more and rotate their options cleverly. In volleyball, everything is about attacking. Even to block means to attack, which the Ghanaians are doing very well.
ACLSports.com: We saw that Ghana, who your team will play tomorrow (Saturday August 19) slowed down their momentum against Ivory Coast after the second set, do you think they have stamina problem?
Abdallah: No, not really. The Ghanaian delegation travelled by road to Ivory Coast and they arrived today (Friday August 18). They had to hurriedly prepare for the match. I heard they requested for the game to be postponed but Ivory Coast coach refused perhaps because he wanted to capitalise on Ghana’s fatigue.
ACLSports.com: How long have you been handling the Nigeria women team?
Abdallah: Two weeks. Just two weeks. We got the notice late. I think the tournament was to be held elsewhere but Ivory Coast government came up that they wanted it and it was awarded to them.
I used to coach the male team, and when I was asked to handle the women outfit I did not hesitate.
ACLSports.com: Were you able to put together a satisfactory preparation for the tournament being that you had only 14 days for your groundwork?
Abdallah: Well, I believe we can get the job done. I have a lot of experienced and determined players. And after watching the two teams we will meet I am sure Nigeria can make it.
ACLSports.com: What would be your objectives if you qualified to the FIVB World Cup?
Abdallah: Good question. Look, let me tell you. We would be going to the world cup to gain experience and exposure, first as players and secondly as coaches. Anybody who tells you an African team would be going to the world cup to win is a big liar. Quote me. No African team can win the volleyball world cup for now. We don’t have what it takes
We lack organisation, infrastructure, competition and incentives. So, forget it. We would not be going to the world cup to win anything, but to get experience; to see how those coaches coach their teams and how the teams play.
ACLSports.com: Taking about financing, how did you get here? Were you sponsored by the Nigeria sports ministry?
Abdallah: (screaming) No, no, no, not at all. Which ministry? In the past, we used to have the national sports commission which provided sponsorship for volleyball tournaments, but since it was dissolved we are on our won.
The former president of the Nigerian volleyball federation and the current president provided sponsorship from their own pulse to help team Nigeria to arrive in Ivory Coast for the tournament and not the ministry.
Aquilasports.com: From what you have just explained, do you think the future of Nigerian volleyball is bleak?
Abdallah: Not really. We have a huge pool of talents. There are young men and women who are skilful and willing to play the game. But they need to be sent to international and regional competitions and even local tournaments. We need assistance from well meaning Nigerians to help this discipline at a time when the authorities are showing little or no interest.