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Rafael Pascal

After missing lasts year's World League due to contractual problems Rafael Pascual welcomes the opportunity to rejoin the national team for the World League 2003. As Spain, the finals host country, automatically qualifies for the final round, this stalwart, with 16 career years behind him now has the opportunity to shine in front of his home crowd fans in the capital Madrid.

Spain has never finished in the top three, let alone win the World League title before and after last year's disappointing 13th-place finish at the World Championships there's no doubt with Pascual's pedigree, Spanish fans will be asking for nothing short of an improvement on last year's World League finish of fifth, where their team's highlight was a thrashing of the mighty Russia in the preliminary rounds of the finals in Brazil.

Pascual, 33, is Spain's most experienced player with 437 caps. He has been labelled the "Matador" of spikers and during the late 90's he was "the world's most complete opposite hitter, the terror of blockers and the very emblem of the fighting spirit". He was the first volleyball player to receive the Real Orden del Merito Deportivo award from the High Sports Council (after the 1998 World Championship in Japan). At the same Championship, where Spain finished 8th, he was voted the World Best Player and was the World Best Scorer.

With that type of volleyball CV many fans, both Spanish and international, will be pleased to see Pascual back in the colours of red, yellow and blue after he played in the Puerto Rican national competition over the World League last year.

And so far this season he has been in superb form for his Italian club side Perugia, as one of the league's top scorers. An ominous warning for all his World League opponents.