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Czech volleyball to renew with tradition in 2017

Prague hosted the first edition of the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship in 1949
Lausanne, Switzerland, November 24, 2016 - The Czech Republic is preparing for a fantastic summer of volleyball with the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship in Brno and Ceské Budejovice from June 23 to July 2 just one of several events, also including the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Group 2 Finals, taking place in the country next year.

“I would like to thank the Czech federation, which will host several FIVB events in 2017, including the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship, for its outstanding commitment to the promotion of these key events,” said FIVB President Dr. Ary Graça S. F°.

The Czech Republic has a proud history of staging major events and Czech Volleyball Federation President Dr. Zdenek Hanik promises to be 'a good host': “We look forward to welcoming talented youngsters from around the world to the U21 World Championship.”

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Prague was the venue for the first ever World Championship in 1949, which was held just two years after the International Volleyball Federation was set up. The tournament brought together ten men's teams. The matches were held at an open-air stadium, on a converted outdoor tennis court. From these humble beginnings was born one of the great competitions and traditions in international sport.

The first ever World Championship featured a total of 30 matches which were dominated by Eastern European teams. Gold went to the Soviet Union, who had only joined the FIVB a year earlier. Czechoslovakia won silver. Cheered on by thousands of fans, the hosts, however, were unable to repeat their success of the previous year, when they won the first European Championship in Rome.

Czechoslovakia finished on the podium at each of the first six World Championships for men. The highlights were the two World Championship titles won in 1956 (in Paris) and at the second home tournament in Prague in 1966. In 1966, a key player was 31-year-old setter Josef Musil, who was also a part of the World Championship-winning team a decade earlier in France. Two-metre-tall Pavel Schenk from Bratislava and captain Bohumil Golian, also in the 1956 team, were virtually unstoppable.

The Czechoslovakian men’s team took silver at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and followed that with bronze four years later in Mexico City. A golden era for the team also included two European Championship titles. Meanwhile, the Czechoslovakian ladies were also winning a string of medals, including gold in 1955 at the European Championship and bronze at the World Championships in 1952 and 1960.

Since, however, the Czech Republic has struggled to repeat these successes. Apart from one-off performances of note, like a fourth place at the 2003 FIVB Volleyball World League, and victory in the European League one year later, there has been little to cheer about. Even if both national teams have qualified for next year’s CEV European Championships.

Hosting the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championships could be the beginning of a new era. Czechoslovakia won its only medal in this competition back in 1993, when it took bronze. Since the break-up of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Czech Republic has not qualified for the competition. But twenty-four years later, the country is set for a long-awaited comeback on home soil. The team also finished tenth at this year’s CEV European U21 Championship.

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