For good or bad, 2014 is now behind us. Now everyone is looking at the new 2015 with fresh hopes, new resolutions and expectations for a better future. This is certainly true in the world of volleyball. As last year ended badly for many, quite a few federations, clubs, teams, players and coaches will now be determined to bring about some changes, whether they be small or more significant, and turn the tide of their fortunes. Some can only hope for the economical and/or political situation around them to be resolved in their favour. Others will continue their battles and work hard to achieve what they have envisaged. And the successful few who finished 2014 triumphant will now embark on a more difficult journey to remain on top for at least one more year.
From 2014 to 2015: Continuity of Struggle
All of us volleyball fans are eager to find out how the recent scandals, setbacks and crises will untangle this year.
How, for example, will the fight be settled between Ary Graça and his cronies ahead of the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation on one side, and most of the players and members of the volleyball community, led by the national team coach Bernardo Rezende, on the other? And more importantly, what will be the sanctions for the Brazilian national teams and will we be left without the ever so entertaining cariocas for this year’s World Leagues, World Cups and World Grand Prix?
The corruption accusations are not unique for Brazil and, like all the other sports federations not directly accountable to anyone, the FIVB, its continental confederations and the various national federations are allegedly ridden with corruption in most parts of the world. Even Mirosław Przedpełski –the president of arguably the most successful national volleyball governing body – and his deputy were prosecuted and arrested on corruption claims. This was a huge blow for Poland as, although a controversial figure, the man was credited by many for developing the volleyball ‘infrastructure’ of the country and creating a league and a national team which can be considered as one of the best in the world. Will his capture, therefore, affect the development of Polish volleyball in any way, and if yes, will it be in a positive or a negative way? Maybe 2015 is the year we can find out.
Not all problems however, are related to corruption. In Russia, a country with a volleyball league considered until just months ago as the standard for financial stability, almost all volleyball clubs now are having financial troubles at best or are on the brink of bankruptcy at worst. And there is not much the clubs’ officials and presidents can do about it, apart from praying the ruble will stop falling and the Russian economy will recover. However, the consequences of the political games between Russia and the West is yet unclear and the collapse of the Russian volleyball league might as well be a possible outcome.
Economic hardship is not only evident in Russia, and is a more constant (although not so severe) factor in other leagues. For example, no one would want to see more historical Italian clubs closing down in 2015. But as their faith lies in the overall Italian economy, depending on its state, some more clubs might indeed cease to exist.
2015: A Year Full of Promises
If only the aforementioned incidents are taken into account, one might think the new volleyball year will be dismal and fraught with struggle and conflict. Fortunately, however, that might not be the case.
There are many reasons for optimism, each of which can ignite the volleyball world in the same way the performance of the Iranian male volleyball team did during the summer of 2014. One such prospect is again associated with Iran – it is concerned with the further development of both the domestic league there and the national team. The centre place volleyball gets on the country’s sports agenda is encouraging. Just days ago, a foreign superstar – the Italian setter Valerio Vermiglio – went to play in the Iranian league and people start wondering whether this will be a single isolated case or the beginning of a player migration towards Iran and its league.
China also came up with a policy statement less than a week ago, claiming that volleyball will be one of the three top priority sports, along with basketball and football. Liu Peng, the man in charge of sport in China highlighted that the state will invest a lot of funds for the long-term development of these three sports. And knowing the economic and demographic potential of the country, the chances that a new big volleyball market will emerge in Asia may not be that slim.
This year can turn out to be a stepping stone for another new men’s volleyball market, the one in Turkey. Clubs there have been spending significant amounts of money in the past couple of years to attract some of the brightest stars of the game. However, the money has still not paid off in terms of the development of a solid pool of home-grown players who can eventually fill the roster of a national team able to compete against the best in the sport. There have been some improvements, however, such a change takes a lot of time. But will the investment of money and effort, and the subsequent progress continue in 2015?
Finally, perhaps the most anticipated matter of 2015 will be the Cuban Federation’s possible lifting of the ban on domestic players playing abroad. If this happens, we can be witnesses to a Cuban national team full of stars such as Juantorena, Simon, Leon, Leal, Marshall, and many others. This will automatically turn Cuba into a top contender for every medal. But equally as important, all the other young (and not so young) Cuban players can go and play internationally. In this way, they can both better develop their game and increase the strength and competitiveness of all the leagues willing to adopt them.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to be settled in the new year, a lot of battles to be fought, a lot of promises to be made and a lot of plans to be implemented. It is unforeseeable where all the different paths taken can lead to. However, one thing is certain: 2015 will be full of excitement, and you have no excuses to miss out on the volleyball action throughout the year!