The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Team Rwanda is Crowd Favourite

London — If wins were awarded to the team with the most fans in the crowd then Rwanda would have registered two wins in the men's sitting volleyball so far after facing defending champions Iran and Brazil on Thursday and Friday respectively.

At the mention of Rwanda, the crowd stands to their feet while clapping their hands profusely as if Her Majesty the Queen were in the building but one notices an African team emerging from the dressing rooms clad in yellow shirts and green shorts.

The master of ceremony shouts through the microphone 'Let us put our hands together for Team Rwanda' and the crowd goes nuts. Such is the delight that the first sub-Saharan team to represent Africa has brought to the people of the United Kingdom.

In their opening game against Iran, no one expected Rwanda to win against the six-time Paralympic champions in the last seven editions of the games but as a team they had a mission to accomplish-to fight back until the last minute.

And indeed they did. Exposure for the young lads like 22-year olds James Rutikanga and Fulgence Hagenimana was definitely one of the accomplishments the team registered and for veteran players like Jean Rukundo and Dominique Bizimana.

"The young players in the team were scared to make mistakes in the first game that we played but when I talked to them they have learnt that they have to relax and enjoy the game," confessed Rwanda's national team head coach Peter Karreman in an exclusive interview with Sunday Sport.

Playing in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 fans is something new that all team members have to adjust to unlike the usually half empty Amahoro stadium back home in Kigali.

Against Brazil, Rwanda faltered in the first two sets showcasing a timid attitude only managing 25-5 apiece but a great comeback in the game saw them challenge their opponents who were trying as much as possible to impress considering their mission at stake as next hosts (Rio 2016).

Rwanda's assistant sitting volleyball coach Jean Pierre Nkurayija further added, "The players got excited by the size of the crowd that was supporting them but we have talked about it and against China it will be different."

Rwanda faces China in the former's third preliminary game of Pool B with the Asians seeking their first win at the Games as well.

Karreman confessed that he does not expect his lads to win but in a more realistic point of view his aim is to gain the experience at this level.

Thursday

Iran 3-0 Rwanda

(25-11, 25-06, 25-08)

Friday

Brazil 3-0 Rwanda

(25-05, 25-05, 25-13)

Today

China vs Rwanda 10 am

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