Calcutta: India’s volleyball players have grabbed the headlines with some good performances in the ongoing Asian Games and on Sunday, if they manage to prevail over Japan in the last-eight stage, the spikers will be in the medal round.
For a game, where the parent body, Volleyball Federation of India, is derecognised by the world governing body (FIVB) after being placed under an ad hoc committee of the Indian Olympic Association by the sports ministry for perpetual infighting, the spikers have done a tremendous job in Hangzhou so far.
Victories over South Korea, three-time champions and 2018 silver medallists, on Wednesday and Taiwan on Friday have raised hopes of ending the 37-year wait for a podium finish.
India’s volleyball players, in a photo shared by Sports Authority of India on its Facebook page, out in the rain at the Asian Games Village in Hangzhou. PTI picture
“It’s nice that we are being talked about for our performance. But the real battle starts now. Japan are formidable opponents. To be frank, I am not thinking about medals yet. It’s just that I am taking one match at a time,” chief coach Jaideep Sarkar told The Telegraph from Hangzhou on Saturday afternoon.
The last time the Indian volleyball team won a medal was the bronze in the 1986 Seoul Asiad. “You know for how long we have been waiting? It’s 37 years!” Sarkar said.
According to the 59-year-old former India player, the main reason why volleyball suffered in the country was due to the callous officials.
“They kept fighting with others for petty gains. And the players bore the brunt. If one group decided on something, the other lobby moved the court to get a stay order. It’s very frustrating for us who give their all for the game to see the state of affairs,” he continued.
The FIVB derecognised VFI in June this year and authorised the two-member ad hoc committee.
“What have the officials done to nurture talent? Zero. If you see the current team, it’s the same group that is donning the national team jersey. How many mini-volleyball tournaments are being held now? In volleyball, a player reaches his or her peak by the age of 25. From where we will get the next bunch if we do not hold tournaments?” Sarkar said.
The IPL-styled Prime Volleyball League, started in 2022, was the bone of contention between the now-disbanded body and the league’s promoters. Unlike other franchise-based leagues that have sprouted post-2008, where the parent body is a stakeholder, the VFI had no role in the league. FIVB though recognises the league and announced India as the host of the Club World Championship in December.
Sarkar said PVL has made an impact. “The league has given our players game-time. It’s a good sign.”
Captain Vinit Kumar, Ashwal Rai and Hari Prasad BS ply their trade with Kolkata Thunderbolts. “They, like others in the squad, keep on rising above the script,” Sarkar said.
On Sunday, India will hope they do it again against Japan.