Together with head coach Dragan Mihailovic, we arrived at night. An hour’s drive to one of the Sports Authority of India in Bangalore and the first confrontation with a new reality. Conditions, both living and training, sharply deviated from the standards adopted at this level. We started our work with tests and defining deficits, and thus the main directions of work. Based on the available equipment, we have created a preparation plan.
It was a pleasure to work with the whole staff (statistician Onjen Marković and the physiotherapist Digvijaj Rathore joined us after a month) and the players. Of course, the lack of the promised equipment (unfortunately on the promises ended) was inconvenient. However, we tried to deal with what was available. During the preparations, it was not possible to obtain the control matches from the government. Internal sparring had to be enough to build a match experience. When it seemed that we would go straight to Iran for the Championships, Government decided to let us participate in the tournament in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where we had the pleasure of “crossing gloves” with the host, as well as China and Australia teams. We were satisfied with the games and the results. The number of Indian supporters also surprised us positively. They filled the hall during all our matches. So we flew to Iran, hoping for a good performance.
Because the goal set for us was to leave the group (our group consists of China, Kazakhstan, and Oman – two best teams were promoted to 8), the first match with the Kazakhstan team seemed to be of crucial importance (39th place) in the FIVB ranking, India – place 131). We led 2:0. Fighting Kazakhs led to a tie. This time, the old volleyball truth didn’t work out, whoever doesn’t win 2:0, loses 3:2. The last set belonged to us. Another rival is 20th in the FIVB ranking and led by Raul Lozano China. A match without history, we lose 3: 0. In the decisive game, the Oman team stood in front of us (FIVB – 131). We lost the first set. The proximity of the goal had its weight. The next sets are our clear dominance – 3:1 and promotion to the best eight of the continent.
Day off. Only one at this tournament.
In the quarterfinal group, we had to face the later championship finalists: Iran and Australia. Twice 0: 3, although in the match against “Kangaroos”, we showed volleyball, which we didn’t have to be ashamed of. This meant that in the 1/4 the winner of the second group South Korea (FIVB – 24) will stand in front of us. It was a critical moment for us in this championship. Several boys, including the best attacker and the best blocker, caught the infection (the first one didn’t play until the end of the competition). It sounds like an excuse, but you have to be aware that for such a team like ours, losing players from the first 6 is simply a disaster. Despite everything, we believed that we could fight for a place in the semi-final. The first set confirmed the difference in the ranking, and we lost to 20. In the second, we lead by a few points to go down at the end of the set. We failed to 23. The third one belonged to us— the opponent scores 20 points. And the fourth, last, in which Korea showed that it better endures the hardships of this match (maybe mentally), and which we lost to 21.
We had to fight for places 5-8.
The first opponent was trained by Serbian coach Branislav Moro, Chinese Taipei (FIVB – 34). I have to admit that against our team, broken by illness and defeat in the quarterfinals, young players from Taiwan presented themselves very well. It was our worst match at these championships.
We finished the tournament with a match that brought a lot of emotions, not just sports. Pakistan’s team stood in front of us. The tension accompanied both sides. First two sets was for rivals. In the next two, we dominated. We seemed to be well on our way to winning. However, the last set did not work out at all. It meant that we finished 20th Asian Men’s Volleyball Championships in 8th place.
On the one hand, we achieved the goal. On the other hand, hunger remains. Could we have prepared the team better?
Could we have received more support from the Union? Could we have done something to protect the player’s health more? I am slowly trying to analyze it and prepare better for new challenges