In five years, Kampala Amateur Volleyball Club (KAVC) hope to be a self-sustaining powerhouse in the game. It is a tough journey but one their past has prepared them for.
KAVC was founded by four players who, on leaving Makerere University, felt that they needed a club in which to channel skills earned through a self-driven vigorous program of training at campus.
Neko Muduse-Ojala – a computer systems analyst, Dr. Wilson Ojikan-Odeke – a medical doctor who passed on in 1995, Ahmed Jetha – teacher of mathematics, and Erika Selzam – a teacher of German at Mengo Secondary School were soon joined by Charles Opio-Akome, Suleman Kakooza, Dr. James Lukwago, Mike Smith and Richard Sendi to start Kondos (Robbers).
This name reflected the openly aggressive nature of the game that these individuals mustered.
In 1971, the club further strengthened with members from the Uganda Police. Mark Okellowange, Stephen Kefulumya, and surprise, surprise the famous John Akii-Bua.
Akii Bua’s stint was, however, short as he concentrated on athletics where he went on to win an Olympic gold medal at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Back home, his volleyball club changed identity from the glaringly criminal name “Kondos” to KAVC so as not to offend the new membership from the Police.
That knack for chopping and changing defined the club for a while but somewhere in the mid-90s, they started to get more organized. Whether that was design or because most clubs were fading away at the time is not clear. “The 90s were a time when the Ugandan government allowed the liberalization of the economy,” former KAVC player and leader Sadik Nassiwu, shared.
“So many of the clubs that were government parastatals like Dairy Corporation, Uganda Commercial Bank, Uganda Clays, were being sold off or liquidated. We survived that wave because we were not hedged on an individual or company,” Nassiwu, who later went on to become president of Uganda Volleyball Federation, said. “Mostly KAVC was a club that groomed leaders and allowed itself to evolve over the years. That was very important for our survival.”
Theirs has been a 48 year story of nurturing some of Uganda’s best volleyball talent and leaders in a relatively tough and amateur sporting environment but the zeal has not wavered. The club’s efforts have earned them a record five National League Championship titles over the past decade.
While their recent success came last year when the men’s side won the National Club Championship to earn a ticket to the 2018 Africa Club Championships held in Egypt in March and April.
From their exploits then, KAVC are currently ranked 14th out of 24 participating clubs on the African continent up from the previous 19th place during their 2015 debut.
Central to their development as one of Uganda’s sporting forces has been their NSSF-KAVC International tournament which started in 1995 in memory of their aforementioned founders.
Apart from being an annual tournament that allows local players extra games, it exposes them to continental and international competition.
Four teams from Rwanda; Kigali Volleyball Club (men and women), Rwanda Patriotic Army (APR), National University of Rwanda and Netherland’s Oranje Nassau traveled to Kampala for the inaugural tournament. At home KAVC (men and women) were joined by KCC (women), Dairy Corporation, Uganda Clays and Ojikan-Odeke’s Kumi Rangers. The three day annual tournament is in its 22nd edition and is the only club-organised tournament in the East African region that attracts participants from different countries.
This has provided a scouting platform for local players. Some of the talents discovered through this tournament have kick-started their international careers. Daudi Okello and
Savior Atama found their way to semi-professional ranks in Rwanda through this tournament. The former is currently plying his trade at Turkey’s Galatasary after a stint in Bulgaria in 2016. In 2008, club member Sadik Nassiwu brought his employers NSSF on board and the tournament grew by leaps and bounds.
“Since then we have never looked back by just adapted to circumstances.
The journey has been fantastic and if you are to rank tournaments, we are up there with the Genocide Memorial Tournament in Kigali – which is even hosted by their federation or government,” Nassiwu says.
However to continue benefiting from this sponsorship and talent discovery, KAVC have to streamline their pipeline for promotion of talent. It is why their five year strategic plan will see them pursue one strategic pillar of ‘developing a home’ after individual members of the club acquired plots on a 5-acre piece of land in Kyetume Village – next to Seroma Christian School, Mukono.
It is a long-term plan that will define the club’s direction and for now the struggle continues.