Emilia Nikolova is one of the leaders in the Bulgarian volleyball team women. The 25 years old opposite is competing this season in Japan and is experiencing a whole new adventure.
Emilia gave a special interview exclusively for the Bulgarian website www.volleycomment.bg that is run by the ex-capitan of the Bulgarian Volleyball Team Men – Nikolay Ivanov.
We publish the interview translated into English with the special permission from Mr.Ivanov.
- Hello, Emilia. Tthank you for agreeing to talk to volleycomment.bg. You have been for more than two months in Japan. How do you feel? How did they accept you in the team?
- I feel good, the girls accepted me very well.
- Did you get used to the lifestyle there? Do you drive car there? We know that cars in Japan drive on the left side of the road and have the driver’s seat and steering wheel on their right side.
- I have a pretty large apartment near the sports hall, only 5 minutes’ walk away. They also gave me a bicycle. I do not drive a car here because I have absolutely no need – as I said I am only 5 minutes’ walk to the hall and by bicycle I am getting there in about two minutes. In fact, I asked about driving the car and I was being told that I have no right to drive a car here even if I wanted to. If you want to drive here you have to get license first, special documents and do some courses that allow you to drive in Japan. Here the laws are very strict and they strictly implement them.
- Tell us how the system in Japan works – what is their philosophy about the game and where do they put the emphasis – on technic, on physics, or maybe on tactics?
- In general they insist on everything. Every day we have different types of workouts, for example, on Monday we do training on the serving part and workout at the gym. Tuesday is rest, which is very strange. Wednesday morning we do fitness in two shifts and then we do block training. After lunch we have block training again and we have video. In general everything is very different here than the things we are used to.
- How many hours per day do you train and how is the training process actually going on?
- We train from morning till night, I do not want this to sound unbelievable, but go out from home at 8 AM and get back home at 7PM. We have a break between 1:30PM to 2:00PM if we do not have video. In general, in my team we focus a lot on physics, we have three times weekly fitness, technique too. We have individual workouts – defense, block, serve, attack. Tactics is strongly emphasized on because we have difficult meetings that last two hours or more.
- What is the format of the Japanese championship?
- The Japanese championship is held in the following way: there are eight teams that play three matches against each other, we have just played that first phase. Last weekend we started the second phase and actually we have seven matches with seven different teams. This phase lasts until January 29, then we will have rest two weeks and we will start a new phase. The first six teams play against each other – the first team qualifies directly for the final, the second and the third play semi-final two matches – the winner goes to the final. There are also two matches in the final.
- What is the difference between European and Asian volleyball? What do you think?
- The difference is certainly in the fast balls. What they’ve taught is in Europa and the way we played back there is quite different. In Europe there are higher balls, the play is easier from this point of view. Here there are many rallies, which are quite tiring because of the good level of defense that normally both sides show. The ball constantly flies and if you do not train on that aspect, you simply do not know what is happening (so it was with me in the beginning). It was a total chaos, but little by little I managed to get into their volleyball.
- This summer with the national team was successful; the team qualified for the European Championship The new season seems to be also tense- there will be qualification for the World Championship, Grand Prix, European Championship. What are your expectations?
- Yes, it is expected to be a tense summer. We have a lot of important competitions, starting with the qualification for the World Championship – I hope we will have enough time to prepare after we finish with our appointments abroad. It is important for us to go to the World Championship. It is good that we qualified at the European Championship, but it is important what are going to show at the tournament itself. I saw against which teams will we be playing and it is possible to go to the next phase of the tournament. I hope that next summer we will be the whole squad, the injured ones to be fully recovered and us all to show what we are capable of. However, we are all more experienced now and I hope things are going to work out well.
- The head coach Ivan Seferinov insists on equal “start” for both national teams of Bulgaria – Men and Women. What is your on this question? Do you feel being neglected on account of the men’s team regarding training facilities, attitude, attention?
- I attended that press conference, when coach said that for the first time and I was a little surprised by the “sharp” way he said it but he is right. I personally over the years have not felt tension from the federation to the national team- for example, “we have such and such goals, if you do not achieve them, bad for you”. In general, I think they have left us and had hoped for the best. But having in mind the attention as conditions for training and most elementary things – I think there should be a payment also for the players in the women’s national team. There are girls who do not play abroad, they play in Bulgaria, and during all the summer they train at their own expense, I think is a bit too much. For the five months in which we train hard, all girls, even those of the B Team, none of us have time to rest, time to see their family and their friends. All this leads to a tense situations, and with lack of attention from the federation,it is normal to lose motivation sometimes. I hope that after what Ivan Seferinov said they would really pay attention to his words and see what actually happens. We have a great team, we have great qualities, but we have not succeeded yet. I hope something can be changed and we will be able to finally have success with Bulgarian women’s national team.
- What is lacking in the women’s national team in recent years in order to ahcieve the fully potential you have?
- I do not know what needs to be changed or what needs to happen, but I am convinced that every girl gives her best. Perhaps before we had any differences because we were younger, less experienced, but now I think everyone knows what to do. It is high time now, as we talked with other girls, to show our potential. It’s a pity because each of us play at a high level and in the national team we have absolutely no results. We want these results, we go out with our heads held high, with the names on our backs, with the flag on our chest to play, to win something. Surely at least half of all girls in the squad think like me.
- Do you have any free time and what are your interests outside of volleyball?
- Frankly speaking I almost have no free time. In my spare time, when I have it, I read books, watch soap operas and as ridiculous as it sounds – I cook. I walk around when I can. I tried to get to know Tokyo, but the weather becomes cold days, some days ago it also rained and snowed. I spend this way the little free time I have.
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