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Norway’s former mentor returns to Japan to restore honour of Osaka Sakai Blazers

Sigurd Van Dijk Festøy (left) and Haruya Indo compose new coaching duo of the Osaka Sakai Blazers, thereby bringing to one of Japan's top teams

Osaka, Japan, June 30, 2014 - After spending eight years in Norway working at the volleyball high school set up by Toppvolley Norge (TVN) in the small city of Sand, Japanese-born volleyball coach Haruya Indo recently returned to his home country to mentor one of the top teams competing in the V-League, the Osaka Sakai Blazers. 

While spending eight years in Norway, Indo helped raise the profile of the sport in that Scandinavian country to a different level. He was at the helm of the Norwegian boys team who won gold at the NEVZA U19 Championship in 2009, 2011, and 2013. He also helped Norway’s junior national team make it to the second stage of qualifications for the CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship, doing so also this year after his players won the first-round qualifier in England before settling for third place in the second-round tournament held in Romania. 

Some of his players have achieved remarkable results also at age-group World and European Championships in beach volleyball. Bjarne Nikolai Huus and Christian Sørum won a silver medal at the 2013 FIVB U19 World Championship in Porto whereas Hendrik Nikolai Mol and Lars Frederik Tvinde settled for second place at last year’s U22 European Championship in Varna, Bulgaria as well as at the U23 World Championship held only a couple of weeks ago in Myslowice, Poland. 

At the Osaka Sakai Blazers Indo follows in the footsteps of previous head coach Shingo Sakai. He will be assisted by a former player of Toppvolley Norge, Sigurd Van Dijk Festøy, who is half Dutch and half Norwegian, and by Toru Uesugi, who was Norway’s scoutman and assistant coach at the second-round qualifier for this year’s U20 European Championship. The ultimate goal is to bring the Osaka Sakai Blazers back to where they belong after they won the 2012/2013 edition of the Japanese V-League. Last year they had to be content with third place as the charts were topped by the Panasonic Panthers. 

Men’s volleyball has been struggling to achieve good results for a number of years already with Japan showing disappointing performances in the World League and missing out on a spot for the 2012 Olympics as well as for this year’s FIVB World Championship in Poland. Coach Indo wants to exploit the knowledge he acquired during his stay in Europe and help men’s volleyball come back to the glorious days where Japan was one of the major forces on the global arena. 

His assistant, Sigurd Van Dijk Festøy, is a former student of the volleyball high school in Sand, as well as a former member of Norway’s junior and senior national teams. After graduating from that high school, he spent three years in Sandnes, in the outskirts of Stavanger, to continue his studies and eventually earn a bachelor degree in oil engineering from the University of Stavanger. At the same time he continued his volleyball career playing for three years in Norway’s first division (the so-called Mizunoligaen) for the team of Randaberg IL. Festøy was one of the best scorers at the end of each season. After completing his studies, he accepted now the challenge of moving to Japan to help the Osaka Sakai Blazers win the title in the next edition of the Japanese V-League. 

The roster of the Osaka Sakai Blazers currently includes a few members of Japan’s national team, inter alia some of those who represented the Land of the Rising Sun at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Japan’s V-League has attracted some of the world’s best volleyball players in recent years, including the likes of Clayton Stanley, Dante Amaral, Luis Felipe Fonteles, Joao Paulo Tavares, Igor Omrcen, Milan Pepic, and Theo Lopes, to name only a few.


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