Its time for ‘The Worlds’ in Volleyball ! The 2010 FIVB Men’s World Championships will be held in Italy from 25th of September .
Defending Champions Brazil along with usual suspects Russia and United States are the favourites along with hosts Italy. Surprise Semi-Finalists from the last edition 4 years ago , Serbia and Bulgaria, and their European counterparts Poland, who were the runners-up in Japan remain strong challengers. Cuba and Argentina too would sure make an impact with the latter being drawn in an All Americas Group!
As thought of , with a ranking of 46 , India would not be part of the 24 Nation Gala Event but a trip to the Finals was not that far off. India did make it to the 3 rd and Final Round of Qualifiers from Asia and narrowly missed a berth in the Championship to Australia and China , who incidentally are the strongest challengers from the continent.
Volleyball does enjoy a popular status in India and is a top recreational sport among the masses , urban as well as rural. Often seen as a good team building exercise the game is well organized at Inter – College level and University events but as with most of other sports in India , it lacks a good structural background for athletes to climb up the ladder. Inspite of the adversity, the Indian Juniors, made up with the likes of Gurinder Singh, Naveen Raja, Navjeet Singh, Surender Kumar, Balwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh are a force to reckon with!
FIVB Men’s Junior World Championships ’09 | Pune , India
Currently, Team India ranks 7th in the Worlds Junior rankings ! That’s way above their senior counterparts and also 8 places above our closest rivals China making the Indian Junior team the best in Asia!
This phenomenal rise was achieved as a result of amazing performances by the M.H.Kumara coached Indian Volleyball team during the FIVB Men’s Junior World Championships at home in the magnificent indoor Volleyball Stadium in Balewadi, Pune a year ago . On the way to the semi-finals of the championships the Indians had managed to gallop USA and Belarus in the First League Stage. In the Second Group Stage matches India pulled of a sensational nail biting win against the mighty Russians and then famously won a thriller against Belgium 18-25 25-19 25-16 22-15 15-11 to register a first ever knock stage berth!
On the semi-final Match Day, Volleyball Fans across Pune made it in huge numbers to the Balewadi Stadia and the atmosphere was electric to say the least with a jam packed stadium with a head count of 4000+ ! With the Indian Flags waving all across on the tunes of ‘Jay Ho’ the organizers made enough efforts to spur on the crowd which included some Brazilian supporters too. India famously went down fighting to the eventual champions Brazil in 5 sets ! The Brazilian Coach Perry Oncken praised Indian VolleyBall by saying “ It was a very very difficult match (against India) as they have raised their standards and given a high level performance ”.
Sadly neither the National Media and nor the National Federation were able to make hay of such upbeat mood for the game and as things stand Volleyball is rarely in the limelight. But in the past, there has been one person who was in the limelight and gave volleyball the much needed following and boost !
Jimmy George …
Being the only Indian player to play professional volleyball for the Italian club Trevisco , being rated amongst the top ten attackers in the world in the 1980′s and winning the bronze medal at the Seoul Asian Games in ’86 this image of a 6’2” human spring leaping high in the air and staying their longer than most could, made Jimmy George a legend in Indian Volleyball.
Born in in a remote and obscure village of North Kerala, Peravoor, on 8th March 1955 the Volleyball player in Jimmy was groomed at his country court at Peravoor. The meteoric rise of the Volleyball wizard started from his Calicut University Team and then onto becoming the captain of the Kerala Volleyball Team. He represented the country in the Asian Games and played for Abudhabi Sports Club and Trevisco Volleyball Club in late 70′s and 80′s.
At age 21, George was the youngest volleyball player to win the Arjuna Award. He was given the G.V. Raja Award in 1975 and won the Manorama Award, for the best sportsman of Kerala, in 1976. Later on Jimmy was honored as the best sports person in Kerala of the 20th Century
Jimmy George might not be known for his heroics in his own country but he had a considerable fan following during his six seasons in the Italian Volleyball league. Jimmy made sure his club was promoted to Serie A top division. Jimmy died on November 30th , 1987 , at the age of 33 in a car accident in Italy, just two months after his son was born. An Indoor stadium in Brescia was named after him. And a street of Colleto club , close to Milan , has been christened Jimmy George! The Great Jimmy George has become immortal…..
Calicut Univ team : 1970
Kerala State Team : 1971 (at the age of 16 !)
Captain of Kerala : 1973
Indian Team debut : 1974
Abu Dhabi Sports Club : 1979 to 1982 (adjudged best player in Gulf)
Trevisco Club Career: 1982 to 1987 (promoted to Serie A)
India Honors : 1974 Tehran Asian Games, 1978 Bangkok Asian Games, 1985 Captain of Indian Team in Saudi Arabia, 1986 Champions at the India International Gold Cup, 1986 Seoul Asian Games Bronze
Died : November 30th , 1987 (at the age of 33)
-Source for data on Jimmy George: Wikipedia and The Indian Express
Latest News : India defeated Pakistan 25-17 25-15 25-22 in the Asian Central Zone Qualifiers and also qualified to The Asian Championships along with Iran!