What you need to know:
- The tattoo on his right arm is of the Olympic rings, acquired after the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021. It’s Kenya that actualised Luizomar’s dream of participating in the Olympic Games as a coach back then.
“New tattoo Sammy,” said Malkia Strikers coach Luizomar de Moura jokingly as he pointed to the inside of his left arm.
“A lion maybe?” he sought my advice as he walked away laughing after his usual post-match interview on Thursday night.
In his hand, he was holding a rungu beaded in colours of the Kenyan flag, red black, white and green, a significant instrument of power among the several Kalenjin communities. He walked around flaunting it boldly, perhaps unaware how much it meant but he carried it as a sign of patriotism and loyalty to “his country” Kenya.
“Kenyans are happy people. They are just like Brazilians, they like music and dancing which is a good way of expressing yourself. Ever since I started this project, I was received so well by the people of Kenya and instantly half of my heart became Kenyan,” said Luizomar.
The tattoo on his right arm is of the Olympic rings, acquired after the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021. It’s Kenya that actualised Luizomar’s dream of participating in the Olympic Games as a coach back then.
On Thursday night, he repaid the favour with a ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and it was befitting that he had done it on the territory of Kenya's biggest rivals, Cameroon.
“Kenya gave me a chance to participate in the Olympics, an important memory in my coaching career. I had coached at World Championship level and other national teams but it’s Kenya that took me to the Olympics.
"I think today I say a big thank you to this great country by winning this title and getting the ticket to the Paris Olympics. I’ve always felt indebted and this is the best way to say thank you,” emphasised Luizomar.
On Thursday night, his charges barely put a foot wrong, ruthlessly tearing apart an Egyptian side that was unbeaten in this competition with bemusing ease. It’s the first time Egypt lost without even getting a set in the championship, a 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-14) hiding by the flawless Malkia Strikers who stamped their authority as the Queens of Africa.
Luizomar was elated after winning the African title saying his team had shown great determination to emerge champions after losing three consecutive finals to Cameroon.
“I am really proud of the girls’ commitment since we started this project three years ago. It’s been two long weeks of hard work and I am happy that we have accomplished our mission to win the title. They have been responding very well to the plan and today they showed that Kenya is back as the best team in Africa not only on the (FIVB) ranking but also as champions,” he said.
FIVB President Dr Ary Graca, the man who handpicked Luizomar for this job due to his huge success with youthful players in Brazil, was quick to congratulate his long-time friend for yet another milestone with the pilot project of his brainchild—the revolutionary Volleyball Empowerment Programme.
“I offer my sincere congratulations to Kenya’s women’s national team and all the staff for such a great performance! This achievement after the three silver medals they won in 2017, 2019 and 2021 is testament to the fact that Volleyball Empowerment works and brings great results. I am sure that many people will have taken notice of the huge improvements in Kenya’s team and we look forward to their next achievements on the international stage,” Graca told the FIVB website.
The plaudits kept flowing all night and even the highest office in Kenya took note with President William Ruto, himself a former volleyball player, taking to social media platform X to pass his message.
“Congratulations Malkia Strikers, the winners of the 2023 Africa Women's Volleyball Championship. After eight years, your grit, hard work, resolve and never-say-die spirit has brought the title back to Kenya. We celebrate you and we are proud of you,” said President Ruto.
In the end, three of his players made it to the tournament's Dream Team. Mercy Moim, who was largely criticised back home after Kenya exited the Volleyball Challenger Cup, leading from the front as Best Outside Hitter.
Emmaculate Nekesa, the brain behind every Malkia Strikers move, emerged Best Setter while the star of the show was Sharon Chepchumba who was named the Most Valuable Player, justifiably so after leading the scorers’ charts in the semi-final and final.
“A key part of this project is to ensure that the players continue to develop and the fact that three of our players got individual awards shows that we are on the right track,” noted Luizomar.
Moim, who alongside Trizah Atuka were the only remaining members of the squad that last won the African title in 2015, was full of praise for the Brazilian coaches led by Luizomar.
“As you can see this team has really improved because the coach has made the role of every player very clear. For instance, my primary role is reception and others are tasked with attacking.
“Our game approach has also improved because we have a statistician who works closely with the head coach to analyse our opponents. That is why our game has been flowing so well throughout this tournament. It is these fine details that make the difference in modern volleyball,” noted Moim.
When Malkia Strikers arrived home early Saturday morning to a warm welcome, Luizomar and his Brazilian colleagues were yet to arrive home, Sao Paulo to be precise.
His last words: “This victory is just part of the process but we have to continue working. The team is now at a good level but to make an impact at the world level calls for a lot of hard work and commitment. The girls have to continue improving from now until when we play in Paris.”
See you soon Amigo! And yes, get the lion tattoo, just like your brave girls!