Tuvalu's beach volleyball team threatened by sands of time

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) — 'Tu, tu, Tuvalu' echoed around the beach volleyball stadium at the Commonwealth Games as spectators shouted their support for the team from the tiny Pacific island nation on the front line of climate change.

One of the most striking images from last year's UN climate summit in Glasgow was a film of Tuvalu foreign minister, Simon Kofe, standing in the sea.

He stood in a suit at a lectern with his trousers rolled up to illustrate the "existential risks" for Tuvalu and other low-lying atoll nations from rising sea levels.

Physical changes to the islands, with a population of around 11,000, have impacted on the training regime of childhood friends Ampex Isaac and Saaga Malosa, who lost their men's pool game to New Zealand on a drizzly evening in Birmingham.

Isaac and Malosa are forced to travel to another island to train while Tuvaluan rugby and football players are put through their paces on the air strip.

"Speaking to some of the older members of the Tuvalu team, they say a football pitch they once played on has just totally disappeared," Tuvalu's beach volleyball Coach Marty Collins told AFP in Birmingham.

The Australian says the progress made by his charges is impressive given the restrictions they face.

"They only just got a beach volley court around four months ago with a training camp set up by the Tuvaluan assistant coach," Collins said.

Tuvalu is also cursed by high unemployment, forcing Isaac, 25, and the baseball cap-wearing skipper Malosa, who is a year younger, to eke out a living.

"Saaga is a skin diver and goes spearfishing," said Collins. "He subsists on that by selling what he catches. Ampex picks up a bit of construction work when it is available."

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