Getting to know Georg Grozer: much more than just a volleyball power!
György, or Georg in German, is participating in his first Olympics and is not simply pacing his side but also the top scorer of the men’s tournament with 72 points after four rounds of play in preliminary Pool B. He registered a terrific haul of 39 points as he anchored Germany to a 3-2 win over Serbia on Thursday storming back from two sets down, but still this is not his lifetime record. “I have scored 43 points in a match of the national league in Poland, if I remember well”. Poland is a country Georg has a special connection with: his wife comes from there and he spent the last couple of seasons playing for Asseco Resovia Rzeszow.
With his terrific spikes and jump serves he chiefly contributed to the incredible run whereby this club dethroned PGE Skra Belchatow and eventually claimed the national league after a long wait that had lasted for some 37 years. “Poland is the real Mecca for our sport. Any time we played matches of the national league, the sports hall in Rzeszow was fully packed with about 5,000 spectators in attendance. They always create an atmosphere you just can’t find anywhere else. I still get goose bumps as I start recalling the memorable days I had there”.
Grozer shares some additional “secrets” from the backstage of the various volleyball venues that have gradually turned Poland into the place to be: “Most of our fans were students and ordinary working people. Financially speaking, things are still not that easy there, but they are supported by the club and they closely follow their heroes even abroad. They even came by bus to Moscow, traveling for three days, to attend the final match of the CEV Cup. They are unique, so loyal and passionate”. Grozer’s family got quickly adjusted to a quiet daily life there in Rzeszow: “My daughter who is now 5 years old went to the kindergarten right after we moved there, so she perfectly understands and speaks the language. My wife quite evidently did not have any problems, as she could quickly re-connect with some friends. If we had stayed for another year, I think I’d also have learned the language”.
If we had stayed… Well, although via the time he spent in Rzeszow he literally sky-rocketed to the top of the volleyball elite, enjoying massive media exposure and laying down the foundations for joining the FIVB Heroes campaign, some months ago Grozer decided to part ways with the club. “I am about to move to Russia and play for Lokomotiv Belgorod in the coming season. It wasn’t just about money as people may assume, even though the offer I got from this club was quite lucrative. After what we did by winning the national league and the celebrations that followed, I had the impression that this was the maximum I could get from my experience in Poland. After discussing very thoroughly with my family, and having already declined two offers from other Russian clubs in the past, I decided to give it a try. This is a unique opportunity to develop myself while being surrounded by some of the world’s finest players, not to mention that the Russian league is certainly the best out there at the moment. Personally, even if I have been globe-trotting for the past few years, I can easily get adjusted to a new life. I have been living alone since I was 13, thereby devoting my life only and exclusively to volleyball. Things are now getting a little bit more complicated as my daughter is 5, she will be going to school soon and so for the family this move may be a challenge. We still have to figure out if we’ll move all together or they will follow me a couple of weeks later. Normally, as per the provisions of the contract I have signed, I shall be there by September 19, but we are still waiting for our visas and working permits. I am glad that Lukas (Kampa), our setter also here in the national team, will join me in Belgorod, so I’ll be in a good company”.
Grozer is known for being one of the most powerful players out there and his jump serve is a nightmare for any team standing on the other side of the net. One of his rockets was measured at a speed of 127 km/h here at Earls Court but this is also not a record. “As I was playing in Poland, the speed of my serve once stood at 128 km/h. I still have to work on this fundamental, because I can improve in terms of accuracy and efficacy. As for the speed, well, I am happy with the figures I have registered so far, but you can always do better”.
Born in Hungary, Grozer grew up in Moers, following in the footsteps of his father who was also a professional volleyball player. Grozer senior is currently working on a very ambitious project whereby he would open a sort of volleyball and beach volleyball school addressed to young players, but even though he got the approval and support of the local authorities, he still needs to finalize the negotiations with the right sponsors to turn this dream into reality. “I know my father is working hard for this project and he is very busy at the moment, so he did not come to London to watch the games. He promised he will join me if I qualify for the next Olympics in four years”.
Even though he is physically imposing, Grozer is very friendly and down-to-earth. He even confesses he is not that much sports-oriented as people may assume: “I train twice a day, I devote much of my time to volleyball and I need to find a way to switch off and focus on something else. Before I moved to Poland, where volleyball is being aired on TV almost every single day, I even did not know who was playing for which club. My closest friends have absolutely nothing to do with volleyball. We got to know in Moers as I was just about to start my volleyball career and we like spending time together talking about ordinary things as all friends do, so volleyball and sport in general are something we rarely touch upon”.
Even though he had never been at the Olympics before, Grozer has stuck to the line that was agreed upon with the coaching staff of Team Germany, which was to stay fully focused on the game and the volleyball tournament, thereby avoiding any distraction, something that is not that easy if you reside at the Olympic village. “After losing to USA, we eventually went to see a match of Germany’s hockey team. As we came in, they were leading 1-0 but finally lost 1-3 to Australia. We have been loudly cheering on the girls from the stands; it was certainly a nice way to get rid of all the stress and pressure that accompanied our Olympic debut. As for the next days, I do hope we make it to the next round, so that I won’t have that much spare time” he jokes, “but I certainly would love to see a basketball game or athletics, even though I know that it is very difficult to get tickets for these events”.
Grozer was forced to stop playing for a few weeks last year as he suffered a blood flow in his right arm. He has since fully recovered but draws the attention on an issue which is not that unusual among volleyball players: “As I play for the national team, and I am really proud of representing Germany internationally and especially here at the Olympic Games, I am not covered by any insurance. I have tried several times, also via private connections, to sign an agreement with an insurance company, but it looks like they don’t want to take any risk even though my injury has fully healed. This is something I can’t understand: if I get injured here or while playing for the national team in other international competitions, my club is free to terminate the contract we have signed. Sometimes I ask myself if this really makes sense, I mean, volleyball is my job and I have a family to take care of, so I do hope that this instance will be taken into account by our Federation as well as by all those who may intervene to help find a solution to an issue that many players are being confronted with”.
Georg will be back in action on Monday as Germany play Brazil in the last round of the prelims. “It is an honor for me to be at the Olympics and also to be chosen for this special campaign promoted by the FIVB. This is the right way to go to attract media and sponsors, as well as to enhance the popularity of our sport. And also to meet the media in a quiet and relaxed environment where journalists can get to know more about us, our human side and personality, going beyond the stats and a conversation purely dedicated to volleyball”.