The 2017 Men’s African Volleyball Championship begins on October 22 and will run through to October 29 at the Cairo International Complex in Egypt. The tournament also acts as a qualifier for the 2018 FIVB World Championship as three teams will qualify for that competition, which will be held in Bulgaria and Italy.

Past Winners

The tournament was inaugurated in 1967, when Tunisia won the first-ever competition after beating Algeria 3-0 in the final. Since then, Egypt and Tunisia have dominated the event with eight wins apiece. The next best performing teams are Algeria and Cameroon, who both have two victories; therefore, it goes to show how these two nations have had a strong grip on the trophy and were the top-two-ranked African nations when the FIBV released their world rankings in 2015. Egypt are on an incredible stretch of six victories from six tournaments going into the 2017 event. Their run started at the 2005 competition, where they beat Tunisia 3-1 in the final and, since then, they have retained their title every two years, their most recent win coming in 2015. Tunisia have been the most unfortunate nation since they won the crown in 2003 as they have been second in four of the last six events. They have only once failed to qualify for the last 13 Men’s African Volleyball Championships, a feat only bettered by Cameroon, who have made it through to the main tournament in each of the last 11 renewals.

Who are the Most Likely Winners?

The home advantage Egypt will have this year makes them the most likely winners once again over Tunisia. Their form has not been great on the world stage as they have won only one of their nine matches in their world league. The test ahead of them in the African Volleyball Championship will be much easier though where Tunisia will be their leading threat to the crown this year. Due to the increasing popularity of online betting, the interest in the 2017 African Volleyball Championship is likely to be as high as it has ever been as a lot of eyes will be on the tournament. In order to attract punters, online bookmakers go out of their way to cover niche tournaments, and increasingly so in volleyball. For instance, Betway currently offers betting on Campeonato Paulista Women’s, the NORCECA Continental Championship and more to audiences around the world. This means increased exposure for teams and athletes across such tournaments, as well as the potential of bigger sponsorship deals and increased interest in the sport.

For instance, many members of Egypt’s team play their club volleyball for Al Ahly SC who recently won the African Club Championship in Tunisia. They held their nerve in the final to defeat ES Sahel 3-1 to record their second tournament win in the last three years as they were also successful in 2015. But if you are looking for a dark horse, it could well be Botswana. Two years ago they produced their best ever finish when they ended the tournament seventh. They look to be a team which is developing strongly and if a little bit of luck goes their way, they could surprise a lot of people with a run through to the semi-finals, at the very least. Another team who should be respected this year is Rwanda. Paul Bitok’s side reached the final qualification round for the 2018 FIVB Men’s World Championship when they finished second in a group behind Kenya back in July. They were beaten 3-1 in the final in Kigali but will learn a lot from that loss.

How Did The 2015 Men’s African Volleyball Championship Go?

Egypt also held the Men’s African Volleyball Championship in 2015 where they became the 6th host nation to win the tournament on their own soil. The nine teams were split into two groups. Pool A was the strongest and featured Egypt, Algeria, Kenya and Botswana. Pool B, on the other hand, had five teams in there including Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, Rwanda and Mauritius. The top two in each group then qualified into the semi-finals of the championship, while the third and four places teams continued into a fifth-eighth place play-off. Egypt won all three of their group games where they secure nine sets and conceded only two. They went on to beat Morocco 3-0 in the last four, while in the final they were comfortable 3-0 winners against Tunisia.

The draw for the 2017 Men’s African Volley Championship groups will be made in mid-October after which the competing nations will need to submit their squad of players to the FIVB. Once again pool A will consist of four teams, while Pool B will have five teams just like in 2015.