Federation feud could hurt Indian volleyball's future, says S. Gopinath

Volleyball player S. Gopinath, who had represented India at the 1974 Asiad, felt that the VFI should end infighting and work towards the Olympic dream.

"Unless the Government intervenes and takes some bold steps, the future is very dark," S. Gopinath said.   -  special arrangement

Despite having had greats like 'Pappan' T. D. Joseph and Jimmy George, India has never played in the Olympics in volleyball. Even medals in the Asian Games are rare, the last being the bronze in 1986 in Seoul and before that a silver in 1962 in Jakarta.

For a sport which desperately needed support from all over, the faction feud in the Volleyball Federation of India in the last few years only made life difficult for the players. Ranked 34th in the world six years ago, India is now slipped to 78. And with the VFI's battles now fought in courts, players are not sure about anything.

The VFI appears to have even messed up the Pro Volley League, which made its debut early last year and which promised to change the sport in a big way.

S. Gopinath, who played alongside Jimmy George in the 1974 Teheran Asiad, feels that the situation could damage volleyball very badly if the VFI's problems are not sorted out immediately.

“Unless the Government intervenes and takes some bold steps, the future is very dark. We had a split in the national federation in the seventies and the team could not go for the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games,” said the former international.

“And in 1974, it was the Indian Olympic Association which selected and sent the team for the Asian Games, not the federation. The situation appears to be the same now.

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“We had a boom in the early eighties and nineties but our interest was only to participate in events like the Asiad and Asian championships. We didn't aim beyond that, we didn't prepare to qualify or play in the Olympics.”

PVL, a step towards Olympics: Ukkrapandian

Mohan Ukkrapandian, captained the Kochi Blue Spikers in 2019 edition of the Pro Volleyball League.   -  Special Arrangement


Meanwhile M. Ukkrapandian, the Indian captain at last year's Asian championship last year and the 2018 Jakarta Asiad, feels that the Pro Volley League was a big step towards the goal of playing in the Olympics.

“It brought about a massive change, the way we played and prepared, also the massive exposure on TV. That would have been a big step towards the Olympics,” said the star setter from Chennai.

“Even American David Lee (the 2008 Olympic gold medallist), my PVL teammate, said Indians have the talent but we just need support to succeed.

“I hope the Pro League comes back.”

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