Lausanne, Switzerland, January 16, 2013 - It was a huge party in
Ankara’s Ba?kent Volleyball Hall as over 6,000 passionate fans were on hand to cheer
the Turkish ladies at each of their three World Championship qualifiers. And
the stars did not let their supporters down this time.
Captain Neslihan Demir’s team comfortably dispatched Cyprus, the Ukraine and Romania in the final match to secure its ticket for the 17th FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship, which will be held in Italy from September 23 to October 12.
“Our fans in Ankara were amazing. I want to thank them all for getting behind us in the matches. We have made it to the World Championship again, and I am very happy that we are going to Italy,” said the delighted hitter Demir after securing qualification.
Like many other teams, the Turkish Volleyball Federation has set its sights on coming away from the highlight of the season with a medal.
Success would be particularly sweet, as 2013 did not pan out as the Turks had hoped. The team came up short of expectations at the FIVB World Grand Prix, failing to reach the final round. And a 3-0 defeat to eventual champions Russia put an end to their challenge in the quarterfinals of the European Championship in Germany and Switzerland.
This was too little for a country, in which women’s volleyball plays a major role in sporting life. Evidence of this comes from the fact that top football clubs Galatasaray and Fenerbahce Istanbul both have a women’s volleyball team, and many championship matches are broadcast live on TV throughout the week. It goes without saying that the World Championship qualifiers were also beamed live into Turkish living rooms.
Thanks to the support of major sponsors, the top club teams in the Turkish league have budgets running into the millions, thus enabling them to attract the best players to the Bosporus.
It is no coincidence that European Champions League winner Vakifbank Istanbul was recently crowned FIVB Club World champion. Many of the key players in the Turkish national team, such as Gözde Sonsirma and Bahar Toksoy, play at what is currently the top club in the world. Half of the national team is made up of players from Vakifbank, while the rest of the players come from the metropolis that is Istanbul. For the last three years, the winner of the European Champions League has come from the city on the Bosporus, where Europe meets Asia.
The Federation has invested a lot of money to ensure that Turkish volleyball teams are among the best in the world. Luxury hotels with volleyball halls and shopping centres have been built in the major cities, in order to promote the boom. As such, it is only logical for the Turkish people to expect medals. Turkey has made two appearances on the podium at the European Championship – as runners-up in 2003 and bronze medallists in 2011 – and also finished third at the FIVB World Grand Prix in 2012.
However, the Turks are yet to win a medal at the World Championship, although they have shown great improvement of late. The team made its debut at the finals in 2006, finishing tenth on their first attempt, before claiming sixth place in 2010. And what does 2014 hold?
Head coach Massimo Barbolini remains cautious as far as his team’s
chances at the World Championships in his native Italy are concerned.
“We played good matches in Ankara. Our rivals are also good. But I think we were more experienced than them. My team paid the right attention to every match and we won every match we played in straight sets. Those were good matches and it was a good tournament. This was very important for us and we are very happy that we made it to Italy. Now we need to work and train hard for the World Championship.” The coach will unquestionably be under extra pressure to succeed at the highlight of the 2014 season.
As usual, the FIVB World Grand Prix will provide an excellent
opportunity to fine-tune his team ahead of 2014’s main objective.
The preliminary round will see the twelve highest-seeded teams – Turkey, the defending champions and world No. 1 Brazil, USA, Japan, China, Russia, Italy, Serbia, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Korea and Thailand – play round-robin tournaments (each with four teams) on three weekends to determine which four countries will progress to the final round from August 20 to 24. There is then just four weeks until the start of the World Championship, which the Turkish women have their sights set firmly on their long-awaited first medal.
“We are very proud and happy that
our team made it to Italy. We won every match in Ankara and our team’s
performance was very good. I would like to congratulate all of the girls,” said
Turkish Volleyball Federation Vice-President Mr. Mustafa Eksi.
“I hope and believe that our girls will once again make us proud and happy after the 2014 FIVB World Championship. We are a high-quality and strong team.” And the fans are longing for the chance to throw a huge party for their team after the World Championship.
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