Actually, Russia’s the big bear here. They've won the last two of these, and five in all. They and the lesser lights will be going for a trophy, itself sporting a new design, heralded by the FIVB, apparently chock full of meaning and symbolism. But to these eyes it looks like an umbrella case coming apart at the top - or a dunce’s hat that’s been frayed.
The 12 splinters at the top represent the 12 members of each team coming together (or apart as the case may be.)
Italy is in Pool A with the Dominican Republic, Germany, Argentina, Croatia, and Tunisia. Italy won the 2002 FIVB Women’s Championship. Number two ranked, the USA, in Pool C, has never taken gold at this event. All the pools will thresh out the best from the rest September 23 to October 12.
On the topic of coming together, the FIVB offices come together in Lausanne, Switzerland. They’re gorgeous. What is it with major sports having their headquarters in Switzerland anyway? There are about 47 sports bodies that have their headquarters there.
Got a bit off track...
The FIVB may be a little off track, off volleyball main street, but every volleyball player, to a woman knows, if she wants to hit the heights locally or globally she had better learn those “ABC’s” that end in an “ers.” Because the best are receivers, setters, servers, diggers, blockers and spikers – but only if they’ve sweated and panted in interminable team practices and grunted and groaned in formidable team hoisting weight room sessions. As a boost, for the short explosive bursts crucial in volleyball, some take the dietary supplement Creatine.
In spite of superior training a lot of “itis” injuries, like Elbow bursitis, Shoulder and Wrist and Achilles tendinitis, Knee osteoarthritis, and Shoulder capsulitis can wreck havoc due to chronic over usage or split-second sudden strain.
Apart from physical pain, does pain come from scandals possibly staining the sport, or does sportsmanship, generally, rule the court?
Well, other than FIVB General Director Fábio André Dias Azevedo and FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça Filho under more than a cloud of suspicion for some questionable contracts they were involved with back in their Brazil days, and other than, in 2012, the Korean Volleyball Association banning players - four men and two women - for LIFE for their roles in match fixing, the sport seems pretty clean.
If this makes you feel better, the FIVB says it is against “...doping, match fixing and illegal betting in sport as required by the IOC.” They had to reiterate this in light of the controversy surrounding a women’s Olympic qualifying game in which the Thais thought Japan lay down in a game against Serbia, ending Thailand’s chances to make the Olympics for the first time. Thais social media sites went crazy but the ruling came down that Japan’s 2-3 loss to Serbia was not fixed.
Let’s get back to basics and beginnings. Volleyball was invented in 1895 and hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA. It is advertised as a non-contact sport, which is a laugh, because lots of funny bones hit the floors, trying to prevent “kills.”
Speaking of funny, guess what a Libero is. Give up? A Libero is a stalwart defensive player, singled out by a different color jersey who can come and go on the back row at will - when the ball is not in play - without counting against the substitution limit each team is allowed per set.
What? Obviously this Libero mumbo-jumbo speaks to the sophistication of volleyball standards, stipulations, and situations. It’s complicated as heck but, oddly enough, it seems simple to understand if you watch it.
Let’s take a watch at Brazil. This team has a lot of pressure on it, given that country’s flameout in the soccer World Cup earlier this summer. It has won TEN FIVB World Grand Prix crowns, but is an 0’fer in this FIVB deal. While we see if they can break that streak the Brazilian coach, “ZRG” Ze Roberto Guimaraes, is looking at Russia as the team to beat
Volleyball at this stratospheric level is an intricate puzzle that teems in both physicality and mentality, with both used throughout, in what is essentially a giant, metaphorically speaking, probe. Probing for weaknesses and gaps in the other side’s armor is where it’s all at. That’s integral, often nuanced, and usually not “showy” stuff.
But volleyball - served up with disguised shots, sensational spikes or big-bad-brash blocks - gives this game actions and reactions as powerful as baseball’s grand slam or basketball’s dunk.
If a team wants to win, it will have to survive the first pool, which features five matches in six days. Throughout these bouts it’ll need conditioning and cerebral power for sure, and a little luck if possible. It’ll need to avoid injury and should try to shun going off the deep end in elation or depression - while maintaining urgency. No easy stuff here.
That’s why they call this the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship.