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Journey over the years: Indian men’s volleyball team




It seems so easy to have your achievements gather dust, to fall off the radar and have a yen for something that has been plateaued out for a long time. Indian volleyball is no exemption to this scrutiny, like most other sports, it has to vie for attention in cricket-plagued India. There is, however, more reason to grieve for Indian sport. India’s campaign at the Volleyball World Championship has almost always lacked proper harmony. And despite having some form of semblance of a national structure in its initial phases, the sport of volleyball has become strangely constricted if one glances at contemporary times. 

But not everything is lost. Over the decades, we have been consoling ourselves by picking up stray performances in volleyball. And while the otherwise skimpy impact of Indian volleyball leaves us uncharacteristically mute, there are chances of it growing in the future years. India’s orientation towards the sport of volleyball can be traced back over many decades. The journey was not, however, a bed of roses, as India oscillated between recurrent spells of victory and failure. 

India saw the steep emergence of fresh talent with the advent of Pro Volleyball League as it featured some of India’s biggest names in volleyball besides attracting foreign stalwarts like David Lee. (Image source: Facebook / Indian Volleyball)

The intriguing journey of Indian volleyball

One ponders how the culture of Indian volleyball took shape, hoping that it can relive the glorious past it has left behind. Despite the stardom strain, it is believed that the sport is the sleeping giant the world will soon reckon. Volleyball gained its origin in India in the Tokyo Asian Games of 1958. 

1958 Tokyo Games & 1962 Jakarta Asian Games

Volleyball debuted in India that year. With only five nations in the roster, the Indian men settled with a bronze medal in the inaugural event after beating the Philippines and Hong Kong, to only improve its feat to a silver finish only four years later at Jakarta, after losing to the then Asian volleyball powerhouse Japan in the final game. 

1986 Asian Games 

It was all bronze shower for the Indian men’s volleyball team at the Asian Games. A total of twelve participants in the men’s event, the 1986 Asian Games was held in Seoul. The Indian contingent was spectacular this time around too, showcasing the glimpses of their vintage self as the final round guaranteed the men in blue of bronze. 

2010 Asian Games

The men had made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament after defeating a resilient Japan’s side before losing out on a semi-final spot at the hands of Thailand. Placed in Group F, India was joined by volleyball powerhouses South Korea, Japan, and Qatar. India lost to China in the classification round and secured a sixth place on the points tally.  

This year at the Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship, the Indian contingent will look to march several steps ahead of its global counterparts to climb newer heights in the international volleyball landscape. (Image source: Facebook / Indian Volleyball)

Can volleyball breakthrough in India?

The advent of Pro Volleyball League

The advent of money-spinning franchise-based leagues has revolutionalised many a sport in India. While leagues as the ISL, PKl, or the IPL have continued to dwell on a smoother pitch, the Indian Volley League that introduced itself to the volleyball ecosystem in 2011, fizzled away in no time. The strife within the Indian federation made matters even worse, the league then died an immediate death. Then came the Pro Volleyball League, at a time when the sport struggled for a much-needed fillip. Since its inception, India saw the steep emergence of fresh talent as it featured some of India’s biggest names in volleyball besides attracting foreign stalwarts like David Lee. As much as the Indian spikers sought recognition through the Pro Volleyball League, Indian volleyball can now boast of a promising run in the future. The excitement and razzmatazz around the Pro Volleyball league ensure the sport is geared up to launch a challenge to other attractions as cricket or football. Indeed, if success breeds success, so failure breeds failure. The amount of truth it bears! 

The recent success of the men’s U-23 team winning the silver medal at the Asian Volleyball Championship in Myanmar coated Indian volleyball’s stature with glamour. After defeating Australia and Pakistan in the quarterfinals and semis, respectively, the team staged a terrific display of nerves in the final to then crash out of the tournament. As is apparent, the state-level tournaments have the privilege to be more popular with states of Kerala and Karnataka forming the epicenters of high-octane action. 

2019 Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship

The twentieth edition of the Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship is set to kick-off another exhilarating campaign on September 13 in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. The mega volleyball event is a biennial international volleyball tournament organised by the Asian volleyball governing body, the Asian Volleyball Federation (AVC). The tournament will attract a total of eight teams who will directly earn qualification berths for the 2020 Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament. 

The federation began its first competition campaign of the year with the Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship in Chinese Taipei from April 18 to 26. As the draw results suggested, the host-country Chinese Taipei ended up in Pool A with Australia, Kuwait, and Singapore. While defending champions like Iran, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, and Indonesia were placed in Pool B, Pool C comprised Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Thailand, Qatar, and India. The Championship tournament will serve a pivotal role as the primary qualifying event for the Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship tournament scheduled to be held from January 6-12 next year, and the Indian contingent will look to march several steps ahead of its global counterparts to climb newer heights in the international volleyball landscape. 

India began their campaign at the Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship in the year 1979. With a total of 16 appearances at the tournament, the Indian contingent finished fifth for a consecutive period of five years, in 1979, 1983, and 1987. After losing out on the fifth spot, the Indian team oscillated between the tenth and the ninth place, until in 2004, they made an exit from the tournament after finishing fourth. The last Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship appearance for India was in the year 2015.

With the volleyball ecosystem in India witnessing a rapid surge in the domestic as well as the international circuit, the stature of volleyball is destined to reach unprecedented heights in the future. 

Srijanee Majumdar
Srijanee started out as a political reporter with Doordarshan and Republic TV before she found her true calling, that she has a sports writer’s gift for explaining complicated concepts clearly. Currently, a sports correspondent with The Bridge, writing about sports often involves reporting about the unusual human interest stories for Srijanee.

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