‘Talent bright but big mess in VFI makes the future bleak’

Dalel Singh, a star of the Indian team which won the country’s last Asian Games medal in Seoul in 1986, spoke to Sportstar on the current state of volleyball in the country.

Dalel Singh pinned the problems faced by India in volleyball down to the inefficient administration of the sport by the Volleyball Federation of India.   -  Getty Images (Representational Image)

There were plenty of tears that October evening in Incheon two years ago as India lost a close five-setter against defending champion Japan in the Asian Games volleyball quarterfinal.

A victory against Japan, which went on to clinch the silver, would have ended India’s 28-year wait for an Asiad semifinal in the sport. But the match also showed that the Indians were not far away from Asia’s best.

“We have the stuff even now but our players lack exposure and experience,” Dalel Singh, a star of the Indian team which won the country’s last Asian Games medal in Seoul in 1986, told Sportstar at the St. Thomas College, Pala.

That 1986 Indian team which won the Seoul Asiad bronze included stars like Jimmy George, Abdul Basith, Cyril Valloor, Udaya Kumar and Sridharan. “Back in 1986, we were playing together for nearly four years and the results came at the Asian Games. We also had a six-month camp in Bangalore and played a lot of international matches in China and Japan.”

Dalel was in Pala as the assistant coach of the Kurukshetra team which won the National inter-university men’s volleyball title at the St. Thomas College, a place where Jimmy George studied, on Monday night.

Lessons from Kabaddi

“What we need now is proper planning and a proper system but the current mess in the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) is one of the big reasons for the sport going backward,” said the 60-year-old.

“Look where kabaddi has gone now, they have the Pro Kabaddi League, the kabaddi players are making good money. And where is volleyball now?”

The warring factions in the VFI that has now forced the world body FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) to suspend the Indian federation is pulling down the sport, feels Dalel. “There are two groups in the VFI now, there are court cases, we have difficulty in hosting major events and in going for international tournaments,” said the former attacker.

“So, what sort of future does this sport have?”

Dalel has a list of things the federation needs to do as soon as it sorts out the mess. “We must have a strong volleyball league where the players will earn good money because players need that,” said the former international.

“And national teams should be selected fairly. We have very good players in Kerala, Haryana and in many other States. Just look at the national varsities event…but nobody is bothered about it. Only if you come and watch, you will know the quality of our young players.

“Players like Kurukshetra’s Shubham Singh and Rohit and, though I don’t remember the names, I thought I saw some very good youngsters in other teams too. The Association of Indian Universities should reward these youngsters by sending them for the World University Games.”

Big dilemma

Dalel felt that the 30-year wait for an Asian Games medal has put the sport in a dilemma. “People have started questioning the credibility of volleyball, they are asking what sort of performance you have. “We don’t have an answer …so we need at least a medal in the Asian Games.”