Nemostars are living on the edge here in Tunisia. The Ugandan league champions are playing at the Africa Club Volleyball Championship with a rope around their necks.
The threat of expulsion is real as they hadn’t paid the $50 (Shs170, 000) per player per day to live comfortably at the El Mouradi Hotel.
Only 10 players, two less than the desired quota, travelled for the 12-day tournament that has attracted the best 16 clubs in Africa.
This implies that Nemo have needed $1,200 (Shs4.4m) to sort the hotel bill having opted to leave the coach Andrew Okapis in Kampala with captain George Aporu taking on the coaching duties.
At home, club patron Neko Muduse-Ojala secured $1,000 (Shs3.7m) from Lakhani Motors yesterday to ease the fear of being bundled out of Africa’s premier volleyballing tournament.
Nothing has deterred them ahead of tomorrow’s quarterfinal clash with Libya’s Al Swehly.
“I know we shall win this game, I have been saying it since we qualified for the quarterfinals,” Aporu vows.
The 6ft 4in power attacker was there in 2019 when Nemo finished sixth, the highest placing by a Ugandan side ever. A semifinal appearance would be more than a slice of history.
It will be a triumph over adversity. “I have told myself that we must win and it has to begin with me because I know that if I do not perform, the team will not perform or even the setter will have no options to give the ball,” Aporu states.
Nemostars booked a place in the last eight after beating Ethiopia’s Wolaita Dicha and MTC of Tanzania to finish second in Group C behind Tunisia’s Keribia.
Third set syndrome
To make the next step, Nemo will heavily rely on their multiple league Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Nile Special-Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) Male Volleyball Player of the Year. Aporu, an accountant, admits they haven’t played at full capacity yet. “I have told myself that my tournament has just started, I have not yet played to my full capacity.
Sometimes after the game, I feel I have not performed enough and I should quit.”
He cites their struggles in the third set of games thus far as something they should rectify. “We need to also work on our third set syndrome here in this tournament and even when we go back home. We play well the first set, second set and struggle in the third set,” Aporu remarks.
Part of it could be attributed to coming out of a year of inactivity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are still struggling to play our A game, though we win. I know teams in this tournament will have a taste of our real game and they will not like it” said experienced setter Smith Okumu, Aporu’s perfect foil. New additions, Jonathan Tukumunde and Savier Atama, are still a work in progress and admit as much as does Bernard Malinga which has left the middle court wanting. This has left Okumu and libero Emma Elanyu as the rocks.
After back-to-back-to-back games, Nemo, like all teams, have had two rest days to prepare for their quarterfinal game.
George Aporu, Nemostars captain
Date of Birth: March 10, 1988
High School: Kira College, Butiki and St Mary’s College, Kisubi
Club Debut: Nemostars 2007
Titles won: Five with Nemostars in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019
National team debut: 2010