In a league of its own
With the Olympic Games being held in July and August, this year’s FIVB World League presented a wonderful opportunity to showcase the best
talent in the world ahead of the Olympic competition in London. I was pleased to see the new format of the World League Intercontinental
Round generate positive feedback with the focus of one weekend’s action concentrated on one specific venue per pool. The system of four
four-team groups with each team hosting one round of games over three days made it easier for fans to follow their teams as they attempted
to earn a spot in the Finals in Sofia.
The FIVB’s hands were tied somewhat
concerning this situation due to the tight pre-
Olympic calendar. With Olympic Qualification
tournaments taking place, it made for a very busy
lead up to London and this new format allowed
us to complete the World League competition in
the necessary time frame.
Due to the busy schedule some teams took the
opportunity to blood some new faces and this
just added to the drama and excitement in the
race for the World League trophy.
Six of the biggest names in men’s volleyball
made their way to the Finals in Sofia: Brazil, USA,
Poland, Cuba, Germany and Bulgaria. Some
strong teams missed out, including defending
champions Russia, Serbia, France, Italy and
Argentina, but the intensity of the competition
was a credit to all the teams who competed.
And that was also reflected in the Finals where
predictions of any kind were futile. Indeed, the
top prize went to a “newcomer.” But Poland
were no beginners; they have a strong history and
were coached by one of the best in the business
in Andrea Anastasi. Their individual stars showed
the value of being a star team, with persistence
and belief. Anastasi believed in his players and
they believed in him. Poland’s ascension to the
summit of the World League was inspiring,
proving a perfect example to all those who wish
to do likewise.
So, congratulations to Poland for their
inaugural title and USA and Cuba, who came
in second and third respectively, must be
acknowledged for their great performances as
well. Disappointment for some was mixed with
jubilation for others but in the end, our sport
was the winner.
Special thanks must go to Bulgaria for hosting
the World League Finals for the first time. Thanks
to their organisation and dedication, the World
league was capped off in style at the impressive
Armeec Arena. Their own fourth-place finish also
engendered mixed feelings; they did well, but
so wanted to do better with a first ever World
League medal still proving elusive.
The World League continues to evolve and
the future of the FIVB’s premier annual men’s
tournament is secure in the knowledge it is one
of the most entertaining sports products in the
world. It was an honour to work closely with
many of the teams over my four years in charge
and I will definitely take with me fond memories
of them and this tournament.
Jizhong Wei
FIVB President