What you need to know:
- A confident Melly, who lists USA’s Micah Christenson and Egyptian setter Abdallah Bekhit as his role models, is already dreaming big.
- “My target is to reach the final and qualify for the World Championship. This will be a dream come true if I meet my role model Christenson at the World Championship. I could even retire from the national team if we achieve this,” said Melly, smiling wryly.
In Cairo, Egypt
Growing up in the tiny village of Simat in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, a young Brian Melly always dreamt of donning the national team colours but he didn’t expect it to happen so fast.
He always wanted to be a setter despite having seen his close relatives Philip Maiyo and Paul Bitok play for professional clubs in Europe and the national team as opposites.
His height would not allow him to play as an attacker when he started out at the age of 10 at Simat Primary School. Therefore, he began as a libero before moving to setting a year later and has stuck there to date.
His journey to the top has taken in stints with Kenyan clubs Kenya Ports Authority and General Service Unit as well as professional sojourns in Albania, Rwanda and Morocco.
A canny player with the vision of an eagle, Melly will once again be Kenya’s first choice setter at this year’s CAVB African Nations Championship in Cairo, a place he holds so dear to his heart having made his national team debut here during the 2017 edition.
“I have fond memories of Cairo because this is where I made my debut with coach (Moses) Epoloto. It was a big challenge for me because it was my first time playing in an international tournament but I have since come of age,” said Melly who was only 19 then.
Kenya finished 10th in 2017, skipped the 2019 edition before making a return in 2021 in Rwanda where they achieved a ninth-place finish which saw Wafalme Stars rise from position 106 to 56 in the FIVB rankings.
Melly insists that there is only one way for the men’s team, up, after the remarkable run in Kigali two years ago that featured a historic 3-2 win over eight-time champions Egypt.
“We gave a good account of ourselves and got people talking about men’s volleyball for the first time back home. We are now back at this stage and we have to show consistency and perform better than the last time. It’s all about mental strength and believing in ourselves,” said Melly.
Unlike Malkia Strikers, who are 10-time champions of Africa, Kenya’s men's team has struggled to go past the quarter-finals over the years. Melly is optimistic that the current generation can write a new chapter for Kenya men’s volleyball.
“I believe this generation has the talent, belief, hunger and ability to achieve something special. We have players who have played in the local leagues of Arabian countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt which are often favourites so we understand their game approach, strengths and weaknesses.
“We no longer fear them like before which is a plus to us because once you win the psychological battle, then you can easily win the war,” offered Melly in full combat jargon just like the General Service Unit (GSU) officer he is.
Kenya is in Group C alongside Cameroon, Libya and Ghana. Despite losing 3-1 to Cameroon in the opening match on Monday, Melly believes Kenya can come good in the remaining two matches to create an easier route in the knockout stages.
“We have good blockers so if we apply pressure on our opponents through service, we stand a good chance of winning our matches. Attack is not really a concern since we have some of the best opposites in this tournament. If we can get defence and services right, then we stand a big chance,” observed Melly.
Head coach Gideon Tarus spoke glowingly of Melly saying he is the glue that holds this Wafalme Stars team together.
“He is a team player, fighter, motivator and brings positive energy to the team. He has matured with time and it’s no wonder Kenya has started improving due to his accuracy in setting. The attackers in the team trust him and this makes our game flow smoothly,” said Tarus.
“He is not the tallest in the team but has a good block and effective jump service. These qualities make him a very important player for us and I think he will help this team go far,” he added.
A confident Melly, who lists USA’s Micah Christenson and Egyptian setter Abdallah Bekhit as his role models, is already dreaming big.
“My target is to reach the final and qualify for the World Championship. This will be a dream come true if I meet my role model Christenson at the World Championship. I could even retire from the national team if we achieve this,” said Melly, smiling wryly.
Not so soon Melly! At 25, you’re just getting started.