Bulgaria holds the record for the most participation in men’s volleyball world championships (19), but it is also the record holder for extreme emotions that it offers to its fans. Now we are at the bottom – this summer we record our historically weakest performance at the World Cup, we leave without a single win for the first time, and young volleyball fans have no clear memory of glorious successes of their favorites experienced live, only scores of 10, 15 or more years than the medals. And it will get worse because the difficult is ahead – our road to the battles with the big ones will be even more difficult not only because of the pre-qualifications, the qualifications and our place in the rankings.
In recent days, along with “What’s going on with Levski”, the topical question is “What’s going on with the volleyball players?” It is happening what we have done to ourselves with reasons accumulated in recent years. After a dozen decisions made on fire, after personal battles around the field, after measuring a man’s ego, not volleyball arguments, after choosing the easy, not right, but difficult path, after accepting excuses and personal, not team demands, after missing summaries or just marking dedication, after sweeping problems under the carpet, a generation of players is about to walk off the stage without having felt the emotion of being on the podium with their colleagues not from the club, but from the men’s national team.
Unlike us, Poland step by step, year after year, experience after experience, with exceptional investment at national and club level, that even by educating the public with volleyball topics of any nature on any channels, with a clear goal, climbed to the top . And Serbia, after retreating (losing to us in 2006 for the bronze), chose to work and the work paid off with new medals and a place among the leaders. Let’s use Iran as an example of how they absorbed the Bulgarian experience and specialists, upgraded and are now a factor. And the USA without a real championship, where did they get? Some will say we don’t have their finances, but we don’t, plus we have a volleyball streak.
What happened in Katowice was, to say the least, sad and shameful for those who built the “Bulgarian men’s volleyball” brand. “It’s hard to believe that we lost to Mexico,” shared the home camp last night, and coach Nikolay Zhelyazkov said “I know the reasons, it’s not all black this year.” Yes, there are good things, and names that were remembered by the sports fan. Even through the small screen from Poland, however, the lack of constant spirit, intransigence, fire in the eyes from our side of the net was felt from the first to the last point. There were also good moments, a real fight and a search for success, but they were like sparklers. It’s bad when you’ve fallen, to bear criticism, but some things must be said while dozens of qualifications for individual players and whispers about casting with Bulgarians, Russians, Germans, Italians in the headquarters immediately appeared from the shadows.
In the last months of the matches, at the controls and in the trainings, many things were seen. There was attitude, communication and good manners, but there was no kick-off like consistency in the line-up and equal shifts and rotations. It is difficult after a difficult club season to continue in training and competition mode with the representative selection of the homeland and to be in shape, but unlike Bulgaria, for example, France and Brazil have stars like Irvin Ngape and Bruno Resende from the beginning to the end. We have players who learn, who invest, who keep quiet, who took the chance, who missed the opportunity, who were missing from the team, who burn out, who fall behind their class, who are overrated, who give up, who know why are there for whom not every ball is at any price, who instead of a camp with the club choose a camp in their homeland, who pass on experience, who are hurting, who still find meaning, who are ready to do anything for their homeland, who want to become leaders and examples such as ex-nationals (resemblance to actual persons is sought). Our team is varied, but a plan is needed not for one summer, but for years to come to form a team and an alloy. It takes work and brains when choosing clubs for the boys – not to be reserves, to play in competitive leagues, to build on every element of the game.
Our young players say that they want to show that Bulgarian volleyball players have qualities, that they can, like the Batkov players of the previous generations, please, fill the halls. But here comes the big BUT – they don’t have that experience, they haven’t played long tournaments and important matches with the A-team. Our future stars have not gone through the thing that makes the big selections – to enter the decisive matches, those against the leaders on whom your path depends, which are like slaps. For years, our volleyball players have not had ½-finals and finals, and this is how a real strong national team is made. This is a problem – for the psyche and the mentality of the field. For this, from the summer of 2023, our team should have matches, tournaments and everyone should play, fight for their place on the field, and hence for a better place in every competition.
And finally, but perhaps of primary importance – one of the ways to that forgotten and successful Bulgarian men’s volleyball team is if those who want to wear the jersey 100% go forward together, for whom it is not a burden, but a vocation and honor , who are ready to train this summer, who want to win for Bulgaria.