The advent of franchise-based leagues has revolutionised many a sport in India. The arrival of the Indian Premier League in 2008 set the tone and was soon followed by the Indian Super League and ProKabaddi League in 2014. While these leagues have continued to run successfully, the Indian Volley League which came about in 2011, fizzled away after one season owing to multiple problems. It failed to make a comeback over the next five years and the constant power-struggle and strife within in the Volleyball Federation of India only made matters worse. The league, which was supposed to give the sport a much-needed fillip, sadly made no impact.
However, things are looking up for the sport now with the introduction of the Pro Volleyball League. The inaugural edition of PVL will be played in Kochi and Chennai in February 2019. The league is set to feature some of India's biggest names in volleyball and will also attract renown foreign stalwarts including the likes of Olympic gold-medallist David Lee. Seasoned Indian campaigners such as current Indian captain Mohan Ukkrapandian, ace blocker Deepesh Sinha and star attacker Prabhagaran are thrilled at the arrival of the league.
“We would like for people to know us and recognise us. Most Indians don't know who we are and only those associated with volleyball, such as the players, associations and federation officials know the players. PVL will promote the players and make them popular. Parents will get inspired and will want their children to become volleyball players as well." — Deepesh Sinha,
Ukkrapandian is excited at the prospect of the league being telecast. “There is already a huge following for the sport but there is little TV coverage. Now that the league will be shown on TV, more people will watch the matches and it will be a huge boost to the sport,” he notes.
He adds that he is looking forward to playing alongside the country's top players, “Generally we only play against players from other states during the national level tournaments but never play alongside them. This will be a good experience for us.”
Tapping the talent
One of India's star performers at the 2018 Asian Games, Deepesh feels the PVL will address the players' quest for recognition. “We would like for people to know us and recognise us. Most Indians don't know who we are and only those associated with volleyball, such as the players, associations and federation officials know the players. PVL will promote the players and make them popular. Parents will get inspired and will want their children to become volleyball players as well,” he says.
Prabhagaran concurs with Deepesh and feels the league will see the emergence of fresh talent. “This is a great chance for youngsters and many new talents will come out of the league. Looking at me play, junior players will look to improve their games and strive to play in the league as well,” he says.
He is also confident of the league being well-received. “It will be a sure-shot success. Chennai and Kochi have a huge volleyball following and the matches will be a hit. After kabaddi and football, people will talk about volleyball next,” he adds.
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