Russian volleyball is sane.What about society?

Decency and elite sport: are these concepts compatible?

The success of the Russian national men's and women's volleyball teams was the brightest sports impression of New Year break after the heroic and dramatic adventure of Valery Bragin's national team in World Juniors. This material of Realnoe Vremya tells about what fine matters the sports correspondent had as a result of this success.

Having avoided themselves and their numerous fans from jitters connected with the necessity of the additional competition for the main competition of these four years, Vladimir Alekno and Yuri Marichev's teams won their Olympic qualification and obtained direct tickets to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

No offence, ladies, but the talk is about gentlemen

Ladies, who gradually won the match one after another while improving the game and the results (a special respect for them for a beautiful victory over Turkish girls in the exalted hall of Ankara – in the current situation such a victory over the host team costs a fortune), forgive me but I would like to talk about the gentlemen. After the defeat in the second round inflicted by the Frenchmen in all lines, only a few people believed in the final success. The French team acted as a well-oiled machine in all lines, passed quickly, blocked immaculately, attacked with a high realization percentage; libero-miracle Grebennikov dug such balls, and Ngapeth felt like the king of the court, who was like the famous 'Mr Shock' of basketball Rodman. In Berlin, it seemed Russians would take the second place at best that gives a ticket to the next world qualification.

A special respect goes to the ladies for a beautiful victory over the Turkish girls in the exalted hall of Ankara. Photo:

Two great teams' rule

But look at what happened in reality. They had a warm-up with Bulgarians and a gusty win over the very strong host – Germans. It should be reminded it seemed 'this music would be perennial' after the lost game. And for dessert – a gutsy, vivid victory, which made clear who was 'the king of the castle' over… that French guys, not to mention the first set, which was a dog's dinner – 14:25. It became clear the rule, according to which the two great teams in a short tournament usually exchange victories, works when in the second set Alekno's wards stopped and broke the Gallic machine (25:16).

Conductor Alekno

It is not about the rules and superstitions. It is about the couching art, a skill to relocate the squad, take time outs in order to have the opponent at sea, a mastery of turning on Mikhailov's cannon at decisive moments, whom Alekno mentioned before the game saying that he was 'overloaded with responsibility'. We speak about the location of the reinforced-concrete block that stole the French show and that simply fell to pieces in the match of the group stage. Mentor is like an experienced conductor who feels the sound of his orchestra and knows what influences the tonality of an instrument. Five matches in six days is a heavy burden for Tetyukhin, Volkov, Verbov, who are not very young, to put it mildly, and they rested when it was necessary. Moreover, no one of them, of course, did not ask for these pauses.

Mentor is like an experienced conductor who feels the sound of his orchestra. Photo:

In general, the very qualification, which the head coach of the Russian national team called 'the more difficult and tense competition than European championship' after the final, caused certain questions. It is not quite correct the reigning Olympic champions, world champions, champions of Europe are fighting for the only direct ticket to Rio. For instance, it is difficult to imagine in hockey, but this is what the rules of the game are. It is the game the London heroes honestly and earnestly won.

Why 'Kazan Barcelona' is the strongest team

Do you know why one wants to support this national team excluding the affection for the club? It is explained by the relationships of the team built on a simple and clear principles and one of them is – the person in a good shape today is the player who will play. Here Vladimir Alekno's role of a person who despite his fidelity to principles and strong character subordinates personal ambitions, likes and interests to the interests of the common business is more important than the role of a tactician, strategist and psychologist. He uses this principle at Zenit. Isn't it the main reason of the hegemony of Kazan club in the Russian and European scenes?

Here there are three real examples of the above-mentioned topic. Each example has its own concrete person. Alexey Spiridonov is the first one. Everyone has a vivid recollection of a talented outside hitter with his own attitude to the discipline whom Alekno unhooked from the national team shortly before London. Taking into account the obstinacy of the most epatage Russian volleyball player and stiff characteristics of the decision of the coach, the issue on ceasing the collaboration between these strong characters 'in perpetuity' is unambiguous. But what do we see? 'Spirya' at Zenit does not play very often but charge his partners with positive and energy resembling a 'light spot' or 'sunny boy', and Alekno says 'he would do a recce with Alexey'.

Alekno says 'he would do a recce with Alexey'. Photo:

Obmochaev nurses a grudge against Alekno, but it all left behind

Vladimir Alekno said goodbye to Obmochaev, the hot and cheeky libero in sport and not only, even worse compared to Spiridonov. Alexey 'II' nursed such a grudge against the coach that when he was on the court in a match against Kazan, after every his reception of the ball and backflip the sparks of his hatred literally flew with sheaves – during this confrontation, he gave the 300%. Today Obmochaev is likely to appear in Alekno's national squad, the coach won't do a recce with the Moscow Dinamo player but will bear him in mind concerning the Olympic Games with such a game and attitude to the matter.

Russian volleyball's Faust

The third example is of another property, the most touching. It is Sasha Volkov. He is not Faust of our volleyball and did not sell his soul but staked as least his health and as maximum the continuance of career on the participation in London. Four years have passed since the blocker's heroic deed. During this time the team of Kazan did not only took care of him but created all conditions for his re-adaptation, gradual getting into shape and always emphasised Volkov is a full member of the collective. I stared at him in disbelief – Volkov was in the national team! He is playing, killing the attacks; he is in the stripper clip again. Vivat, coach, player and team!

Volkov is in the national team. He is playing, killing the attacks; he is in the stripper clip again. Photo:

Decency is in deficit

Nowadays such a decency in elite sport is a rare thing. A proud 'I cannot sacrifice my principles' is used more often; it was appropriately expressed by Znarkom, the ex-coach of HC Dinamo, the current coach the national team regarding Anisin who was in his doghouse: 'Misha for me is like an open book I threw away to the attic'. But as a result, it is possible to achieve a big result not only if the end justifies the means but also if these means are honest and transparent like like our volleyball: it is well organised, headed by professionals and, as it seems, decent people. We look with pleasure at one of the strongest championships in the world, admire international successes of clubs and national teams without asking ourselves about unclear transfers, kickbacks, raids of the federation, bugging in locker rooms and beating the presidents of clubs. It seems to be possible…

For audience decency is against the grain

P.S.: In the morning after the triumph of the Russian volleyball players in the Olympic qualification in Berlin (one day after the girls' analogous success in Ankara) the TV audience on Match TV channel was offered an inquiry: which of the sports event that took place on the eve would you like to be commented by specialists? I would understand if they chose the next stage of Biathlon World Cup. Russia has a zero success there, but the country is hooked on skiers with a rifle as a drug addict hooked on narcotics. I would understand if it were Dakar Rally – we got used to the successes of our KAMAZ lorries and are unusually intrigued with the situation in the current rally. Do you know what the TV viewers chose? They chose a review of the next stage of the Italian Serie A… Russian volleyball, you are sane. What about the society?


By Aleksandr Norden