F I V B  FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE VOLLEYBALL
PRESS RELEASE 11.07.2003

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FIVB $15 million World League Finals Star studded competition enters final phase

Madrid, July 11, 2003 - The 14th edition of the FIVB $15 million World League moves into the semifinals on Saturday when Serbia and Montenegro meet Italy, while World Champions Brazil play debutants the Czech Republic to decide who will contest Sunday's final of this elite annual men's volleyball competition. Thursday was a decisive day for the event with titleholders Russia rubbed out by a spirited Bulgaria who were playing for their honor and the smallest mathematical chance of advancement to the final four and Spain going down, but in a blaze of glory, to the Czech Republic. It was a sad occasion for Spain's captain Rafael "Rafa" Pascual, a player of unique ability who had inspired his teammates and who finished equal second top scorer in the contest for the final four by hammering home 50 points. Pascual, a galleon figure for his team, is charismatic and personable. He enjoys, but appears not to be spoilt by his celebrity status in Spain, where local media have been discussing if he enjoys even more public recognition in Japan, a country with a rich volleyball tradition, than Madrid's newest resident, David Beckham. Pascual was voted Most Valuable Player at the 1998 World Championship in Japan and his charisma and good looks did not go unnoticed by the massive mobs of teenage girl fans. When he saved a shot with his foot in a match this week, the media grabbed on the image for their comparison with Real Madrid's new recruit. Pascual and his teammates will not fight the semis, but they did draw 11,500 fanatical, flag-waving and highly vocal fans into the stadium to support them in their battle with the Czech Republic and as such, they represent a huge asset for the promotion of the sport. Indeed, in the modern game, all of the top teams have their glamour figures and a passionate following of fans that contribute to its development. Last year at the World League finals in Brazil, Italy's Hristo Zlatanov stepped on the court to confront a wave of teenage adulation akin to a pop concert. Among their star-studded cast, Brazil have their much adored Giba (Gilberto Godoy Filho), Russia their boyish Pavel Abramov, Serbia and Montenegro their dangerously mysterious Nikola Grbic while France's female fans turn up at matches wearing Frantz Granvorka's team sweater. Significant rule changes introduced in 1999 changed the face and the philosophy of the modern game, introducing the rally point system, the libero and the net serve. The result was a faster, dynamic game, easier to understand and much more creative. Now the sport's best and brightest wear the mantel of heroes and are helping to fuel volleyball's booming popularity. These ingredients mix well and the result, when the world's top teams contest the title on Saturday and Sunday, will produce a very tasty product indeed. Thursday was a decisive day for the event with titleholders Russia rubbed out by a spirited Bulgaria who were playing for their honor and the smallest mathematical chance of advancement to the final four and Spain going down, but in a blaze of glory, to the Czech Republic. It was a sad occasion for Spain's captain Rafael "Rafa" Pascual, a player of unique ability who had inspired his teammates and who finished equal second top scorer in the contest for the final four by hammering home 50 points. Pascual, a galleon figure for his team, is charismatic and personable. He enjoys, but appears not to be spoilt by his celebrity status in Spain, where local media have been discussing if he enjoys even more public recognition in Japan, a country with a rich volleyball tradition, than Madrid's newest resident, David Beckham. Pascual was voted Most Valuable Player at the 1998 World Championship in Japan and his charisma and good looks did not go unnoticed by the massive mobs of teenage girl fans. When he saved a shot with his foot in a match this week, the media grabbed on the image for their comparison with Real Madrid's new recruit. Pascual and his teammates will not fight the semis, but they did draw 11,500 fanatical, flag-waving and highly vocal fans into the stadium to support them in their battle with the Czech Republic and as such, they represent a huge asset for the promotion of the sport. Indeed, in the modern game, all of the top teams have their glamour figures and a passionate following of fans that contribute to its development. Last year at the World League finals in Brazil, Italy's Hristo Zlatanov stepped on the court to confront a wave of teenage adulation akin to a pop concert. Among their star-studded cast, Brazil have their much adored Giba (Gilberto Godoy Filho), Russia their boyish Pavel Abramov, Serbia and Montenegro their dangerously mysterious Nikola Grbic while France's female fans turn up at matches wearing Frantz Granvorka's team sweater. Significant rule changes introduced in 1999 changed the face and the philosophy of the modern game, introducing the rally point system, the libero and the net serve. The result was a faster, dynamic game, easier to understand and much more creative. Now the sport's best and brightest wear the mantel of heroes and are helping to fuel volleyball's booming popularity. These ingredients mix well and the result, when the world's top teams contest the title on Saturday and Sunday, will produce a very tasty product indeed.


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