Brazil volleyball really is 'home' in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais
Situated in the western part of the state of Minas Gerais, Uberlandia hosts many national and international volleyball competitions and was Brazil's first stop in the 2010 World League, where they recorded a pair of wins against Bulgaria.
Brazil coach Roberley 'Rubinho' Leonaldo said his team would once again try to take full advantage of their Uberlandia visit and produce good performances for the local support. "I spoke a lot with the players during the preparation about playing at home. "We have to make the most of the opportunity to be here in Brazil with the public in our favour."
Carlos Antonio Rios, President of the Minas Gerais Volleyball Federation, is more than happy to be hosting the tournament in what he describes as one of the most important states for the sport in Brazil.
"Minas Gerais, in the context of volleyball in Brazil, does a very important job. It's the state that has the biggest number of athletes playing volleyball and it's the state that breathes volleyball, that has volleyball as its preferred sport."
Rios, who started playing volleyball at 13, has been involved with the Minas Gerais Volleyball Federation for over 20 years and says he's in love with volleyball because of all the personal attributes it brings together, was also confident that Uberlandia would host a good tournament and that there would be a positive direct consequence of the Mineira city hosting the event.
"Uberlandia has the sporting infrastructure to host any international event, you can't just have these grand events in the capitals, we have to interiorise these events. The consequence of this is a bigger number of [volleyball] participants."
He also expects the Uberlandia public to make the most of having an international tournament at Sabiazinho. "We have six games per day, games the whole day, and at the end [of the day], if you see how many people came to the stadium, we will have a very significant number, and definitely during the games of Brazil we expect every seat to be full."
Zezinho Mendonca, the Director General of the Uberlandia Foundation of Tourism, Sport & Leisure (FUTEL), is pleased the tournament is presenting the city of Uberlandia to the world, and also promoting it as a potential training base for the 2016 Olympic Games.
"This isn't any tournament," he said. "This is a world tournament, so it's very important. We have a great gymnasium here that can host big games, and all of Uberlandia is completely ready to host big games."
As an Uberlandia resident Mendonca says the tournament has created a mixture of happiness, pride and satisfaction for the people of the Mineira city, and he hopes it will enjoy a fairytale finish. "If Brazil leave here as champions, the first U23 World Championship here with Brazil champion in Uberlandia would be a perfect ending."
Brazil qualified for the final four on Wednesday night with a 3-0 win against Bulgaria, and if they get into the final match, Rubinho, Rios and Mendonca might all get their wishes; Uberlandia's stadium full of noisy Mineira volleyball fans cheering a Brazilian gold medal.