Just four months ago, Kerala won the National Games men’s volleyball gold in Bhavnagar (Gujarat) but it is a very different story at the 71st National senior championships, currently on in Guwahati. Kerala crashed out of the Nationals after losing all its matches to finish last in Group ‘B’ and also losing to Jharkhand in the qualifier for the quarterfinal.
How did a champion team lose its winning formula so quickly? What went wrong?
“Our team is filled with juniors and there is a lack of experienced setters. And our seniors are playing the Prime Volleyball League (PVL),” former international Moideen Naina, the manager of the Kerala men’s team, told Sportstar from Guwahati.
The State avoided a similar embarrassment at the National Games because the Kerala High Court ordered the Kerala State Volleyball Association (KSVA) to withdraw its team and send the one selected by the Kerala State Sports Council (KSSC) – which had the State’s best players who had played the PVL, a privately organised league – to Gujarat.
The Sports Council organised a ‘State tournament’ this time too, near Pala a few weeks ago, but it did not select a team as almost all the top players who played the KSSC event were signed up to play the cash-rich PVL which is now on in Bengaluru. Thus the KSVA’s team, selected after its recent State championship in Kozhikode, went for the Nationals.
Every federation would like to have its best players at its Nationals but strangely, the Volleyball Federation of India has scheduled its current Nationals and the Federation Cup which will follow it, in such a way that they are both clashing with the PVL (organised by Baseline Ventures with no blessing from the VFI) which has the country’s biggest names and many foreign players too.
DECEMBER OR MARCH IDEAL TIME FOR NATIONALS
“Nearly 100 of the country’s top players are playing the PVL, so the National championship is a sort of third division of Indian volleyball. The VFI should have conducted the Nationals in December or March to avoid a clash with the PVL,” said former international Kishore Kumar, the head coach of Calicut Heroes in the PVL.
“The Government should sort out the federation issue fast because it’s the players who are suffering. Our junior and youth players are the ones suffering the most since the VFI’s certificates do not have any value as the federation is not recognised by the Sports Ministry or the Government.”
Meanwhile, Binoy Joseph, the president of the Kerala State Volleyball Association, feels that is time for everybody to come together in the interest of the sport in the country.
“There is no charm if our country’s best players are not playing the Nationals. The PVL people and the VFI should sit together, thrash out all issues and discuss ways to take the sport forward. We are ready for that.”