12. 09. 2019

INTERVIEW: Wounembaina for WoV – “They treat me like a prince in Tours“

Source: Photo: Tours Volley Ball/Facebook

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Nathan Wounembaina is one of the most recognized players when it comes to Volleyball in Africa. The captain of Cameroon Men’s National Team has been successfully competing in the French League for six straight years and will play his seventh season there knowing that he extended the contract with Tours. Playing at the Olympic Games remained one of his biggest career objectives. Being a victim of racism, a couple of years ago, did not break his spirit and he keeps being positive and aiming high. This is his interview for WorldofVolley...


 

You extended the contract with Tours and will play your third season there. What is so special in Tours that made you decided to stay for so long?

“I just feel very good here and the club is the best club in France. If there is any club in whom it is worth staying, it is Tours. They love me here a lot and I love them, too. I love to play here, the organization is the best of all clubs in France, maybe one of the best organizations in Europe. They treat me like a prince here (laugh).“

How hard was to defend the French title last season knowing that French league is very strong and how hard will it be to win the third title in a row?

“For sure it is going to be very difficult. It is always easier to win the first title and much harder to win the back-to-back title. It is even more difficult to win the third in a row. Everybody play against us with 100% during the whole season, everybody wants to beat us, it is the game of the season for everybody when they play against us. This means that we also need to play with 100% in the season. Still, we have enough weapons to win. It will not be easy, but our goal is to win everything next season.“

About two years ago, you experienced something that no player should experience in his career. You were insulted on a racial basis by Olympiacos’ fans. Do you think that there is racism in Volleyball and how do you think it can be eliminated?

“First of all, it was a difficult experience for me. It was a dark part of my volleyball career. Most of all, it was mentally difficult. Thank you to my teammates, club, French Ministry of Sports and, of course, the French federation for being behind me, giving me a lot of support. Secondly, racism exists in sports in general and in volleyball particularly. People have to speak about it, not to be quiet, racism has to be banned in sports. I think that people simply must be loud about it. Third, I know it is not possible to eliminate racism but it has to be reduced. The FIVB must punish clubs whose fans are racists. I mean, I know that usually only several people in the stands show racism, probably drunk fans, but still, clubs must be responsible for this. The punishment, that is in regulations, has to be conducted.“

Cameroon won Men’s Volleyball tournament at the All-Africa Games this summer, not losing a single match on the way to the gold medal. What are your impressions from the tournament and how important this title was for Volleyball in Cameroon?

“I think it was a very good level of volleyball despite the fact Tunisia were not there. We had a couple of good matches. Egypt, Morroco, Algeria, they are all good teams who play a high level of volleyball. The gold medal is very important for us players and Cameroon. It is always good to win and this was satisfaction for us for not winning the gold medal in the African Championship.“


 

You were one of seven players who first refused to play the Olympic Qualification Tournament in August but then made the last-minute decision to participate. What misunderstanding did you have with the national federation?

“It was a financial problem. We had some agreements with the federation and Ministry of Sports regarding the African Championship. It was determined how much money we will receive for the gold medal, how much for the silver and how much for the bronze. And up until now, no money, which is a substantial sum for volleyball conditions, was paid to us. In Cameroon, it is always difficult to get your money. So, even if we earn it, we have to go on strike as we did before the Olympic Qualifications. But, we had a meeting with guys and decided to go to the Qualifier because it would be a problem if we didn’t. The national team would be suspended by the FIVB and we knew that new generations will come after us that would be affected by that. That’s why we decided to go, but as I said, we got no money until now.“

Do you expect that some national team from Africa can go in the top of the world Volleyball in the near future and what are the key things that African national teams lack to be in the top?

“Honestly, now it is difficult to be in the top 10. Maybe Egypt could have done it a few years ago or Cameroon five or six years ago. We were in the top 15, a couple of years ago, when we were ranked 13th, which was fine. As I said, now it is difficult because the level of volleyball in Africa is a bit down. Egypt, Algeria and Morocco are down, Tunisia and Cameroon are only up. But I think, in the future, it will be possible for some African team to be ranked in the top 10. We have good young players, both men and women, who might improve in the future. We need to send players abroad, in Europe, because strong leagues are there. So, I think that is the key - to send players abroad.“

Do you think that Cameroon will manage to secure a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games via African Qualifier in January?

“Yes! We have a chance. I think that the qualifying tournament will be in Egypt. We are definitely going there to qualify for the Olympics. That is our biggest goal at the moment. We will be ready for the tournament.“

 

Check out more interviews.


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