AN eight-member beach volleyball team left the country on Thursday for the World Youth and Junior Championships Zonal qualifiers starting today in Walvis Bay, Namibia. The two-day event is expected to attract teams from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Participants will compete in the boys and girls' Under-19 and Under-21 age-groups and the top three countries in each category will progress to the next round, which is the African Championships to be held at a date and venue to be announced.
Zimbabwe Volleyball Association first vice-president, Chris Chivinge, said they were expecting the teams to do well although all the players are making their debut appearance at the tournament.
"We do have four teams that left Harare by road yesterday (Thursday). They are with the women junior coach, Viola Muchaoona.
"They are competing in two events, the first one is the Youth that is the Under-19 boys and girls and there are the junior teams for men and women.
"They are in zonal qualifiers, if they proceed they will go for the African championships and those in top three automatically qualify for the event to be held on a date and venue to be announced.
"All of the players, it will be their first appearance. Some of them they have never been outside the country but it does not matter, what matters is what you have.
"We have gone there before and we qualified for the African Junior championships in Togo last year and we came ninth.
"If we had been in top three we would have gone to the World championships," said Chivinge.
The ZVA vice president noted that countries with natural beaches have an advantage compared to local teams.
"These countries with natural beaches such as South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia have a head start compared to us.
"For the juniors, beach volleyball is still much at introductory level but we are not ruling ourselves out. We are optimistic, this is the first time we have sent a full contingent and we expect a slightly improved result."
Chivinge said although the sport is still at introductory, level they have made some progress. Development for juniors has made some significant progress. We are looking mainly at high schools and colleges and we are lucky in that in every province we have at least one school with a beach volleyball facility. Last year we did a tour of one of our centres of excellence in Mudzi, which was a big development and Nash held their inaugural Under-20 beach volleyball tournament," Chivinge said.
The team was expected to be in Namibia by late yesterday ahead of the technical meeting where the format to be used in the event was to be decided depending on the countries that would have turned up.