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21/01/2015 10:25
Act of sportsmanship and fair play by Bulgarian team rounds off highly successful ‘Lokovolley’ youth tournament
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Moscow, Russia, January 21, 2015. The final round of an international tournament open to U16 teams was held last Sunday, January 18, at the Druzhba sports hall in Moscow, which is part of the Luzhniki Olympic Complex. And history repeated itself: back in 1980 the Soviet Union had played Bulgaria in the gold medal match of the Olympic tournament and last Sunday it was again down to a match starring teams from Russia and Bulgaria to determine the eventual winners of this competition organised by the Russian Railways and the Volleyball club Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK. But apart from the final result, it was an act of real fair play by the Bulgarian team – eventual winners of the competition – that put the icing on the cake of a very successful, record-breaking event. 

The concept of this tournament comes from Alexander Tselko, the chairman of the West Siberian Railways, but he could hardly imagine that after only five years since the first edition the organisation of this event would have reached such level in terms of quality both on and off the court.

The first edition was organised back in 2009 for young players across Siberia who could measure up their skills playing against boys from other cities and regions of the Russian Far East. Much credit to the development of this tournament is due to Vladimir Yakunin, the President of the Russian Railways JSC, who has been supporting the action initiated by Mr Tselko. This time teams from all Russian regions got involved in the tournament and all organisation costs were borne by the Russian Railways, right from the first stages of the competition.

The fifth anniversary of the tournament was then celebrated with a special event organised in Moscow where participation was extended to the U17 national teams of Bulgaria, Belarus and Serbia. Asia was also represented by a team from Kazakhstan as well as by squads from the Far East cities of Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk. Even though the ‘Lokovolley’ tournament is still young, it has already reached heights that one could hardly imagine only a couple of years ago. The participants were provided with ideal conditions to perform well and they also joined an extensive cultural programme which included a visit to the Kremlin and the Red Square.

The final eventually opposed the teams from Bulgaria and Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK. Bulgaria lined up their U17 national team, whilst Lokomotiv’s players were from the classes of 1998 and 1999. At this age, such a difference may be crucial and it turned out to be an advantage for the guests from Bulgaria who comfortably claimed the first set by 25-20, hitting the ball much harder than the young ‘Loko’ boys. However, things changed dramatically in the second set where the Russian guys showed their fighting spirit and almost left no chance to their opponents.

A third set was to be played and it was a close and dramatic one, with Bulgaria eventually having the upper hand at 15-13. However, there were no winners or losers in the end and it was friendship to rule the day at Druzhba sports hall, which means ‘friendship’ in Russian. After the final match all players praised the high level of the organisation and also its international flavour. A closing ceremony was then held with participation of officials from the Russian Volleyball Federation and the Russian Railways. The teams of Bulgaria, Lokomotiv and Serbia – first, second and third of the final standings – received medals and cell phones, whilst the Bulgarian boys were presented with the winners’ trophy, made of Charoite, a rare silicate metal from Siberia.

Only after the teams had moved back to the locker rooms, it became known that Bulgaria’s team had handed over the trophy to their opponents from Novosibirsk, in a remarkable act of fair play and sportsmanship. “This trophy belongs to the strongest team from the 1998-1999 age group, and since my boys are one year older, the team from Novosibirsk deserves it,” explained Bulgaria’s head coach Dragan Ivanov. Mr Ivanov therefore presented the cup to the team captain of Lokomotiv, Konstantin Abaev (see picture above). Only two days before the start of the competition the Bulgarian mentor had said to the media: “I just hope that all players participating in this tournament will become good friends and that their friendship will then last for a long time.” His act of fair play literally epitomises the statement he had given shortly before actions got started in Moscow.

The 2015 edition came to an end after six months of preparations, kilowatts of light and sound, tons of decorations and a full house that followed the finals preceded by a light show, a 3D video projected on the court and performances of the best dance groups from Moscow and Novosibirsk. The final stage of the tournament was attended by Vladimir Yakunin, Chairman of the Russian Railways, as well as by his Deputies, by the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Russian Volleyball Federation, Nikolay Patrushev, by Russian Volleyball Federation President Stanislav Shevchenko and Volleyball Federation of Serbia President and CEV Senior Vice-President Aleksandar Boricic. The fans who could not make it to the venue were able to follow a live broadcast of the tournament on the Internet which attracted as many as 27,500 viewers. 

Click here for a comprehensive gallery of the event

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