Beach volleyball players in Tuvalu face disappearing sand due to global warming


Its entire population could fit four times inside Villa Park, but the tiny Pacific archipelago of Tuvalu has the biggest possible reason to use its attendance at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham to stamp its identity on the world map.

Global warming is hitting the nation’s 26-square-kilometer fringes with such haste that the majority of its five-person squad is forced to practice on its airport runway, and its beach volleyball players regularly show up for find yesterday’s workout. court succumbed to the waves.

“In the lifetime of these guys, if nothing changes, their homeland won’t be here,” Marty Collins, Australia’s beach volleyball coach from Tuvalu, said after Ampex Isaac and Saaga Malosa lost their match. opening 21-10 21-12 against England’s Javier and Joaquin Bello at the site of the old Smithfield fruit and vegetable market.

Tuvalu lost to England in the opening game of the Commonwealth Games beach volleyball tournament (Isaac Parkin/PA) (PA wire)

“They don’t really have a beach that’s wide and flat enough to put land on. A few places where they had courts for the past few years don’t really exist anymore, partly due to global warming.

“Over the past few months, they have had to set up a court in the outer islands, a few hours away by boat. They went there and they had a little camp. In other words, they weren’t staying in hotels there.

The problem of deteriorating borders has become so acute that Fiji has offered some of its islands to Tuvaluans for resettlement. “They’re there if and when they need to move, but that’s obviously plan B,” added Collins. “They want to stay because they have their own language and their own culture. Hopefully by being here they put a face to the situation.

In their lifetime, if nothing changes, their homeland will no longer exist

Collins was appointed by the sport’s governing body, the FIVB, as part of a project to accelerate the growth of the sport in Pacific countries such as Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The success of the program became evident in 2018, when the Vanuatu women’s team won a shock bronze medal.

Isaac, 24, is a part-time construction worker who was convinced six months ago to give up indoor volleyball, the island’s nominal national sport. Malosa is a scuba diver and spearfisherman who makes a living selling much of what he catches in local markets.

The duo made an immediate impact, teaming up to win Tuvalu’s first team medal in international sport when they won bronze at the Pacific Mini Games in the Northern Mariana Islands in June.

Javier and Joaquin Bello have got England’s beach volleyball campaign off to a flying start (Isaac Parkin/PA) (PA wire)

The pair will face two more group matches against New Zealand and Cyprus, while Tuvalu are also represented in Birmingham by two boxers and a 100m sprinter. A sixth member of the squad, sprinter Temalini Manatoa, did not make it to the Games after failing to pass a Covid test.

“This (global warming) is a very big issue for us,” Isaac said. “We not only represent our people and our small population, but we represent the entire Pacific Islands.

“We don’t really have a suitable place to train and none of our beaches are completely flat, they are all sloping. Some beaches are getting smaller.

Isaac and Malosa finished their opener in pouring rain, conditions almost as foreign to the duo, whose homeland temperature rarely drops below 37 degrees, as the English pair, twin brothers born in Madrid before moved to the UK in 2011.

Ampex Isaac from Tuvalu appears to be an Aston Villa fan (Isaac Parkin/PA) (PA wire)

Despite all their improbable surroundings, some messages manage to convey the more than 9,000 miles that separate Birmingham from Funafuti, the capital of an archipelago whose highest peak is a dizzying four meters and which, at its narrowest point, is barely wider than a standard. beach volleyball tournament.

“I didn’t know much about Birmingham, but we know Aston Villa in the Premier League,” smiles Isaac. “We just know Aston Villa – not Birmingham.”

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