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All about accepting the challenge

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-23 09:38

All about accepting the challenge

A South African volleyball player is hoisted by volunteers after her team's 3-0 loss to China on Tuesday.Liang Xu / Xinhua

GUANGZHOU, Guangdong province - Her team failed to win a single set during the tournament, but for South African volleyball player Mokgadi Maphaba the inaugural BRICS Games was a resounding personal and collective triumph.

"It was a great challenge ... the first time that we have been abroad to play," said Maphaba.

"We feel so delighted to play against those great teams like China, Brazil and Russia," added the 19-year-old student, whose inexperienced squad also lost to India in the week-long Under-20 round-robin competition.

"We have never played at this level before. The other four teams all have professional players, they are used to performing on the international stage, but we are different. We are not professional, we don't make our livings playing volleyball. We play only for passion and love.

"Playing in front of so many spectators was incredible, and although we are not as good as the other teams, we still felt the support from the Chinese fans. It made us nervous but also excited."

Their nerves were understandable, given that the entire squad is made up of students, ranging from 17 to 19 years old, who only had four days of training before coming to China.

"Volleyball is not as popular as soccer or rugby in South Africa. We didn't have too many youth players to select from to set up the squad," said South Africa's head coach, Hugan Coopsamy.

"But the BRICS Games is a good opportunity for our players to compete with the top ones. We had never imagined this before."

Maphaba took up volleyball just four years ago, and in many ways it has been a life-changing choice.

"I feel grateful that I play volleyball, it gave me a lot opportunities to travel around the country, broadening my horizons," said Maphaba, whose parents divorced several years ago.

The eldest daughter among three siblings, she now lives with her mother and grandmother.

"My family all supported me to play volleyball, sometimes they come to watch my games. It makes them proud to see me on the court," she added.

"I hope the BRICS Games will continue in the future. Learning and mixing with top players and experiencing a different culture was a memorable experience for me.

"I'd also love to see our country host the Games one day. That would be a great honor for us.

"Then, I believe, our team will be stronger."



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