Ever since claiming the gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games, Serbia (formerly Serbia and Montenegro, formerly Yugoslavia) have consistently been in the mix when it comes to considering medal contenders for international men's Volleyball events.
Big, strong and fast, the Serbia side play with a passion that is unrelenting and enjoy playing a game that is heavy on the attack.
It is at the Olympics that Yugoslavia really showed what they are capable of over the years. They placed sixth in Moscow (1980), improving at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta to win the bronze, and finally, as a result of the team's hard work under the guidance of the tranquil-natured but steady handed coach Zoran Gajic, claimed the gold in Sydney 2000.
Veselin Vukovic replaced Gajic just prior to the 2002 World Championship in Argentina, where the Olympic champions finished a creditable fourth. Vukovic continued to lead Serbia and Montenegro through a stunning 2003 World League campaign, when they lost in the final to Brazil, but after failing to come to an agreement with the National Federation Vukovic quit and was replaced by Ljuba Travica who took Serbia and Montenegro to a bronze-medal finish at the 2003 World Cup.
For many years the Serbians were led by the sure moves of the Grbic Brothers Vladimir and Nikola, the fatal services of Goran Vujevic, elected best server in the 2006 FIVB World Championships, the stopping blocks of Andrija Geric and Dula Mešter, and in attack the devastating spikes of one of the best young Volleyball players in the world, Ivan Miljkovic.
In 2005, Serbia and Montengro had the great honour of organising the World League Finals. In the incredible final in front of 18,140 spectators in the Belgrade Sports Hall, the host was beaten by Brazil.
The year 2007 was the first year as Serbia and the boys in blue, with a new team and younger players, finished ninth place in the World League, the worst-ever result in the event. They made amends somewhat, though, by claiming silver at the 2007 European Championship in Russia.
Igor Kolakovic replaced Ljuba Travica on the bench of the "Blue Team" just before the 2006 World Championships, after assisting him for three years.
Kolakovic was born on June 4, 1965, in Podgorica, where he actually started his playing and coaching career. He played for VC "Buducnost" of Podgorica and "Partizan" of Belgrade from 1979 until 1997, when he became Head Coach of the Podgorica Team. He played as a setter, and in 1997 was one of the most experienced players in the team. After that, as VC "Buducnost" was then looking for a coach, Kolakovic swapped the court for the bench.
From his playing career, he remembers most fondly the two double crowns (championship and cup) he won with VC "Partizan," "because of the way we lived, worked, played, and had fun." When speaking of his coaching career, he reminisces over the first of the two titles won on the bench with VC "Buducnost."
"The quality of this team is that they all respond when they are called to take part in National Team events. It is obvious that in other sports the cult of 'playing for the National Team' slowly disappears. To this moment, none of the Volleyball players ever refused to play for the National Team, so that, together with the players' and everyone else's passion for winning all these trophies, seems to be the greatest quality of the 'Blue Team,'" says Kolakovic.
The debut on the bench of the same "Blue Team" for Kolakovic was in the World Championships in Japan, he continued with his work in 2007, and he is leading them at the 2008 Olympics.
"The challenge is enormous and the aims are always the highest possible when we are speaking of the National Team of Serbia. It would be absolutely extraordinary if we entered the contest for a medal in the next competition," says Kolakovic.