Source: UNMISS - United Nations Mission in South Sudan
Zoyia Amou Matur’s love for volleyball began when she was just nine years old.
“Volleyball is discipline, love, unity and, above all, it is peace,” she says.
Zoyia was inspired by her father, a former footballer, who encouraged her passion for sport.
However, as the fourth of seven children in her family, her guardianship was transferred to her uncle who did not support the involvement of girls in sport. He believed it would prevent her following a more traditional path of early marriage and could reduce her prospects of a decent dowry.
Despite that opposition, she persevered by playing whenever her uncle was away from home. Her mother also encouraged her to continue indulging her love for sport.
At the age of 14, Zoyia was lucky enough to be selected for intensive training with the school volleyball team by her coach, Rocky Juma, due to her strong performance during a local competition.
“My coach Rocky, used to wake us early in the morning to run around the pitch, then after, he taught us how to serve, shoot and receive the ball.”
Now 20-years-old, the striker was selected to play for the Wau regional volleyball team during the 5th National Unity Day competitions in the capital Juba, along with other top players from Malakal, Kuajok, Pibor and Bor.
The week-long sporting event to promote peace and social cohesion involved 500 young participants from across the country. It was sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and supported by the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
The event gave Zoyia Amou Matur the opportunity to show off her strong skills and intensely competitive nature as her team managed to win a tough game against Bor.
“We noted as a team, who is good at reception and who is not, and we tried our best to block shots,” she says. “Determination of good performance rises from hard work.”
She hopes that becoming a professional volleyballer will lead to better educational opportunities if her athletic prowess attracts the attention of universities keen to enroll top sportspeople like her.
It’s not all about competition though. The event also provided an opportunity to build life-long friendships with other young South Sudanese.
“I got to know players from other areas, and we shared experiences,” she says. “I am grateful for the chance to take part and work together with others as ambassadors for peace.”