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A loss and a birthday present in the end for Namibia’s Hlupic

Namibia's Tin Hlupic turned 19 today, playing in his parents homeland
Umag, Croatia, June 21 – A loss against Norway was not a nice way to start his 19th birthday, but Namibia’s Tin Hlupic got his present in the end. The son of Croatian parents and his 18-year old partner Gerard Fischer made it to the elimination rounds of the U21 World Championships after all, because Trinidad and Tobago forfeited again.

Hlupic and Fischer (18) got their first win late last night when their opponents from the Caribbean islands did not show up on centre court. “We slept part of the day because our first match was at 11.20 pm”, Fischer said. “We were prepared and ready to play, so Tin was a bit disappointed when they did not show up because he wanted to play really bad. I wasn’t. A win is a win.”

Anxious to play

So the next morning the Namibian boys, who finished third at the African U21 Championships, were very anxious to play and put that energy in winning the first set against Norway’s Einar Torjusen and Sadegh Mohajer. Hlupic: “We were in control in the first set, we read their game nicely. But after that we got tired, we are not used to this humid warmth.”

Namibia lost their focus and were blown away in the second set and without chance in the tiebreak: 19-21 21-16 15-8. “We started making a lot of unnecessary mistakes, mostly in receiving”, said Fischer. “But at least we played better than last year when we finished 25th at the U19”, said Hlupic, who could manage a smile when they played happy birthday after the match. A few minutes later they heard that Trinidad forfeited again and they were safe.

Both Fischer and Hlupic were born in Windhoek, Namibia, but Fischer still owns a German passport and Hlupic a Croatian. His parents emigrated to Africa during the war in Yugoslavia. “Windhoek is a small town for European standards and right in the middle of the country”, Fischer explained. “We both started playing indoor in school, but whenever we went to the beach in Swakopmund, we would play beach volleyball.”

Lack of opponents at home

There are beach courts like in the US and Brazil, but it is difficult for the boys to find decent opponents to practice with. “We are lucky if we can find six players. Beach volleyball is slowly developing in Namibia but the problem is that we are about the only good team. If we want to improve we have to play more events in Africa and Europe”, Fischer said.

They hope to play at the World Tour event in Durban at the end of the year, but money is always a problem. “But we need to play against better teams to get better”, said Fischer, who plans to study in Germany next year where he will have better facilities and opponents to play with.

Hlupic is still considering going abroad. He enjoys his visit to his parent’s homeland a lot. “It is really nice to see friends and family again and it’s easy to communicate. They are really surprised I can speak Croatian. But I will be happy to go back to Namibia. That is my country. Home is where the heart is.”

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