Pushing monkeys off the front page for a change, this story is about Sylvain our Research Coordinator in Rhoko camp. After 16 months in the bush, Sylvain recently went on vacation. Instead of heading straight home to family and friends, he took a plane first to Thailand to compete in the 25th World Championships of Sepak Takraw!
Sylvain at the Sepak Takraw championships
Huh? For those of you not from South-East Asia, you may not appreciate what a highly skilled and fanatically popular sport Sepak Takraw is. To an outsider it appears to be a sort of tennis-football played on a badminton court following the rules of volleyball. The small plastic ball is kept in the air using any part of the body except your arms. This leads to sensationally acrobatic play, with the top players demonstrating astonishing flexibility and agility as they spike the ball from great heights with their feet.
Germany- Iran Sepak Takraw match
Sylvain is a core and highly-valued member of the French International team and was playing in his third World Championship. Three people are on court during the game, and the level of strength in depth in France is such that….well let’s just say that if Sylvain had failed to get out of bed on some of the days they would have been disqualified for not fielding a full side.
What they lack in quantity, they clearly make up for in quality as the French side won through to snatch the bronze medal in their category. During an entire week of competition, Sylvain and his team performed against the best Sepak Takraw teams in the world, Thailand and Malaysia being the strongest, and the French team left much more experienced, and determined to train harder and return next time to continue their climb up the world rankings.
Sepak Takraw is a growing sport which aims to become Olympic one day. As Sylvain trains back in the bush, children admire and imitate him…who knows, one day they may form a Nigerian team which would constitute the first African team ever playing this amazing sport!