“I am so sorry I missed your call earlier, I was in a training then and I had to quickly return your call immediately after I saw that you had tried to reach out to me. During my leisure time I like to train because that’s the only way I can stay fit and improve on my game because I have a target,” Ismail Tiamiyu, a volleyball player, said in a phone conversation with our correspondent after several attempts to reach him.
Tiamiyu’s attitude and determination are a true reflection of a quote by genius German scientist, Albert Einstein, “Those who dare to dream often have a broader perspective in life and can turn the improbable to the possible.”
The teenager from Kwara State, in a chat with PUNCH Sports Extra, said his dream was to play volleyball at the highest level, regardless of the challenges and limitations the country posed to young aspiring athletes.
“The target for me is to aim higher and one day leave Nigeria to play abroad because it has always been my dream to go to the US and play volleyball on the biggest stage,” he said.
“I have been following some teams and high schools over there, so, I can see how they play the game there compared to ours and I am confident that I will get there one day.”
The meteoric rise of the youngster has caught many people by surprise, having only started playing the game three years ago.
At 16, Tiamiyu, who currently plays for OFFA VC in Kwara, was part of the Nigerian team that conquered Africa at the recently concluded Men’s U-19 African Volleyball Championship in Morocco, beating Egypt 3-0 in the final and also book a place at next year’s U-19 FIVB Boys’ World Championship.
Reflecting on the achievement in North Africa he said, “It was a great experience over there and we proved our worth against strong oppositions and we conquered them.
“Generally, it was a big exposure for us travelling out of the country and also help Nigeria qualify for the World Championships. I feel so proud and I hope to continue to work harder and achieve more laurels.”
While football and basketball are considered two of the most lucrative sports in the world, the youngster said his passion and love for volleyball knew no bounds, saying money was not a factor in him choosing to become a volleyball player.
“I know a lot of Nigerians are so passionate about football or other sports because of the money involved but I decided to go for volleyball because of my passion for the game, and it has always been about the game,” Tiamiyu said.
“The thought of playing football has never crossed my mind because a lot of footballers are there struggling but I am where I believe I can make a name for myself.”
Gone are the days when parents opposed their children’s decision to take sports as a career, and as we’ve seen in recent times, a lot of Nigerian parents now support their kids, financially and otherwise, to pursue their ambition in sports.
Tiamiyu’s case isn’t different and he confirmed he had always had the backing of his parents.
“In all honesty, my parents have always been in support of me playing volleyball and I am equally grateful to them for giving me the chance to do so while always pursuing my academics.”
The 16-year-old is currently in his first year at the Federal Polytechnic, Offa.
Speaking to PUNCH Sports Extra on the immense talents of the up-and-coming talent, Media Assistant to the President of the Nigeria Volleyball Federation, Dare Kuti, said he wasn’t surprised with the player’s development because of his humility and willingness to learn.
He said, “He is cool-headed and a player who has shown the willingness to improve in his game. He wants to learn from liberos in the senior team and sees most of the senior players as his role models.
“He is one of the best volleyball youngsters in the country and there is no denying the fact that he will go far because he has the talent, skills and determination to achieve that.”