ALTHOUGH volleyball is definitely not Great Britain’s strongest sport, it is thriving in Oxford.
Team GB did not even place in the medal tables in the 2012 Games, which were dominated by Brazil.
And UK Sport has subsequently cut its £3.5m funding, meaning the sport faces a tough task to put together teams of sufficient quality for Rio 2016.
Nonetheless, the sport is popular locally.
Oxford Volleyball Shooting Club boasts 22 members and won last year’s national volleyball shooting tournament.
Volleyball shooting is a variant on the Olympic sport, using a smaller, harder ball and the teams consist of nine players, rather than six.
The form originated in central Asia, and as a result the game is mostly played by Asians around the world.
Mohammed Javed, 37, from Littlemore, has been with the club for six years.
He said: “I started because it is very good fun and good for your health. My grandparents were players, and my parents as well.”
The 22-man Oxford club play against teams from High Wycombe, Slough, Luton and Bedford.
Players from Oxford also travel each year to Rawalpindi in Pakistan for an international tournament.
Taxi driver Imran Hussain, 31, lives in High Wycombe but plays for Oxford.
He took up the sport 12 years ago, to help combat his depression, and it worked.
He said: “I love the game.
“Sport makes you fit, and keeping a healthy mind is all about fitness.
“Volleyball shooting is my sport. It is more fun than normal volleyball.”
He added: “Oxford has definitely got one of the best teams in the country.”
The Oxford team meets on Wednesday nights at the Oxford Spires Academy.
There are traditional volleyball teams in Oxford, too.
The Oxford Volleyball Club plays at Headington School, St Gregory the Great School in East Oxford and Oxford High School in Summertown.
Whereas the volleyball shooting team is a loose network of friends mostly playing for fun, Oxford Volleyball Club has men’s and women’s teams playing in the Berkshire Volleyball Association league.
Two of its members are even trying to raise funds to create an artificial beach volleyball court in Oxford.
Find out more at oxfordvolleyball.co.uk