2002 World League:
From strength to strength in its 13th season
It's countdown time for the World League, FIVB's richest
volleyball prize. Sixteen of the world's elite teams are
about to face off in the 13th edition of the competition
that draws thousands of spectators at events and millions
more via television coverage.
The "League" - as it is affectionately known to
aficionados around the world - is again offering prize money
to equal last year's record of $15 million. In the past 12
seasons it has distributed a staggering $76 million in prize
money, with Italy taking the lion's share of $11.5 million.
That the purse has grown from a mere one million dollars in
1990 is perhaps the best indication of the tournament's
This year's teams - Brazil, Argentina, China, Cuba,
France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland,
Portugal, Russia, Spain, Venezuela and Yugoslavia will begin
the Intercontinental Round playoff on the weekend of June
28-30 and continue their battle for a place in the coveted
finals over the next six weekends.
A victory at home for Brazil?
This year Brazil hosts the World League Final round, to be
held in the cities of Recife and Belo Horizonte. The Boys
from Brazil rose like phoenix from the ashes last year to
snatch glory from the seemingly invincible Italians. This
time they want a victory before the enthusiastic home fans.
But the road to the final will be long and hard and other
top teams, honed to their sharpest ahead of the World
Championship, will be trying to knock them out of
contention. One thing is guaranteed; volleyball fans are in
for a feast of sporting entertainment, culminating in the
final round on 12-18 August.
Perhaps one of the biggest attractions this year will be the
fact that the League offers 14 of the 16 competing teams the
perfect opportunity to size up their opponents ahead of the
year's biggest competition, the battle for the World
Championship title in Argentina (28 Sept - 13 Oct.).
When Brazil won last year's League title, their victory
went some of the way to soothing the pain of a disappointing
sixth place at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That they faced and
beat the mighty Squadra Azzurra of Italy in the final made
their victory even sweeter. But 2002 is another year, and
there are 15 teams ready to ruthlessly cut them down to
size. Only time will tell if the Brazilians can thrill the
home fans by taking their third title on their home turf
with their young, talented and now more experienced side.
Other top favorites
Italy, with an unbroken record of competing in World League, has
dominated the sport during the past decade and remains among the
favorites. The Italians have won all but two World League titles
since 1990, and want to hone their lineup ahead of the World
Championship in Argentina (Sept.28-Oct.13). Coach Andrea Anastasi
- who has, over the years, been part of Italy's winning World
League team as a player and as a coach, intends to pepper his side
of heavyweights with a string of young players hungry for success.
Among the other top teams expected to emerge from the
Intercontinental shakeout are Yugoslavia, the Olympic Champions
and Russia, who like Italy has had an unbroken record in competing
in World League. Russia won the bronze medal last year at the
finals in Katowice, Poland, where their string of young players
gained valuable top competition experience ahead of this important