NASSER Ssemuwemba collected The News Sports Awards coach of the year award for 2012 and stated: I’m living the dream.
It was a whirlwind 12 months for the Ugandan who set up Horndean Volleyball Club in 2011 after coming to England from his home country.
The team immediately enjoyed great success, dropping just one set as they went through the season unbeaten on their way to winning National League division three.
Ssemuwemba also works at Prospect School, in Havant, where he is using volleyball to help inspire children with autism and learning difficulties.
His impressive efforts caught the eye of The News readers as he beat some strong contenders including runner-up Q Shillingford, of Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Club, to take the top prize.
Ssemuwemba said: ‘I could not believe I had won. It was a big shock, a big surprise.
‘All the coaches who were nominated were worthy winners. We all do the same thing.
‘It was my dream to have a volleyball team and I formed Horndean Volleyball Club.
‘I work with kids with learning difficulties and autism at Prospect School and we took a volleyball team to a tournament in London and finished fourth.
‘Doing something that I love to do is such a good feeling. I’m very happy to be recognised by the community.’
Volleyball has been at the centre of Ssemuwemba’s life since he found he had a talent for the sport in Uganda.
It helped him through education and also set him on the path to working in journalism in his home country.
Now he is delighted to pass on his knowledge and skills to local children.
He said: ‘Volleyball is important to me. It paid my school fees – it educated me and helping out these kids is an opportunity for me to give something back.
‘I used to play football at school. I was a goalkeeper because I was flexible and that helped me in volleyball.
‘When I started to play volleyball for my senior school, Masaka, we did well and won the school championship three times. I played for the national youth side and became captain.
‘The Dairy Corporation wanted me to join their volleyball team in the capital of Uganda (Kampala) and they paid for my school fees.
‘I was made captain and coach and they sent me on some coaching courses.
‘Then I was also playing for my school team so a lot of my time was totally filled up with playing volleyball.
‘In the 1990s, I played regularly for the national team in our region, zone five, we played against Kenyans, Ethiopians, Egyptians and others.
‘The Dairy Corporation also paid for my diploma in journalism and I went to work for a newspaper called The New Vision – an English national daily in Uganda.
‘I wasn’t writing about volleyball then but motor sports as it was very popular in Africa.’
At the Sports Awards ceremony, Ssemuwemba was impressed by presenter Fred Dinenage’s determination to pronounce his name correctly.
The initial attempt prompted laughter from the volleyball ace’s wife, Kim, in the audience.
Dinenage then climbed down off the stage, much to amusement of those in the crowd, to seek Kim out and ask for help in pronouncing the name.
Ssemuwemba, who paid tribute to the support of his wife, acknowledged it wasn’t the easiest of tasks for the Meridian TV presenter.
He joked: ‘I wish I was John Smith but I am not.
‘Fred is a nice guy. He struggled with the pronunciation of my surname, bless him – it is not easy, though.
‘My wife has been very supportive to me.
‘She helped me to settle in this country and encouraged me to start up my volleyball here.’