SPORT

A fruitful year for VFI

M. .C. Raman

CHENNAI: The year 2003 was the most rewarding year for the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) as its youth team won the Asian championship and became No. 2 behind Brazil in the World championship. The year 2005 has turned out to be a fruitful one. The VFI is working hard to take India into the top 16 in the world. It is now in the 26th slot.

That the seniors did well to qualify for the semifinals for the first time in the Asian championship in Thailand recently augur well for the sport. The team showed marked improvement after its not-so-impressive performance in the World qualifier here. In the two events held here China downed India to qualify and in the second Korea and Australia dashed the home team's hopes.

It was a big disappointment for the Federation, which wanted the team to be in Tokyo in 2006 for the World championship. However, it did some soul searching and made minor changes in the squad before the Asian championship. Bringing in libero Arun Jaghmola and setter Sundaram made sense and the squad stretched China to five sets. It beat Chinese Taipei and Qatar, before giving a tough fight to Japan and Korea. The chief coach G.E. Sridharan had done enough homework before the team left. And for the second time in succession the towering Subba Rao was declared the `best blocker' in Asia.

In the last championship in China two years ago India started well by beating defending champion Korea, and yet managed to finish only fifth. Korea however, recovered quickly to capture the title, beating China. But this time India's fourth place, though a bit disappointing, helped it qualify for the coming Asian Games in Doha.

Major break

This is one major break that the VFI was waiting for because of its bitter experience during the last Asian Games. The Government, then, did not clear the team. But VFI sent the boys on its own cost and did not regret its decision as the team put up a good show. This apart, the VFI hosted the World juniors at Visakhapatnam and fielded the Youth team in the World championship in Algeria. Though the youth team won an international tournament in Italy beating Hungary and Italy it fumbled at Algiers, failing to come within the top four. The juniors fared badly both in the Asian and World championship. India took part as the host in the World event at Vizag. It fought well against Korea and stretched Serbia and Montenegro to five sets. But its lone win over Morocco did not reflect the team's potential.

The Andhra and Tamil Nadu Governments helped the VFI substantially. But sadly big sponsors are looking the other way, ignoring VFI's achievements and the potential to be a big spectator sport.

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