“The upcoming European Championship is a unique opportunity to raise the popularity of volleyball to unprecedented heights”. This statement is given by Ahmad Masajedi, one of the very first foreign players who played competitive volleyball in the country that in about four weeks will play host to the 2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship – Men.
Masajedi isn’t indeed a family name that sounds Danish at all. Ahmad was born in Iran and is currently the second assistant coach of the national team mentored by Argentinean-born Julio Velasco . He moved to Denmark some 13 years ago and spent three seasons there playing for the likes of the Skovbakken Volleyball club from Aarhus, one of the cities that will be hosting the upcoming Championship.
“I was a member of the Iranian national team at that time and I got to know the manager of this Danish club, Thorkild Andersen, who asked me if I was interested to try out and play there. I thought that Denmark was just the place where to start my career abroad, hoping to move up to more competitive national leagues”.
Ahmad was one of the first foreign players to join the Danish national league and with his addition the team got much stronger.
“When we started out we did not achieve that great results but we improved steadily and eventually became the national champions at the end of the 2003/2004 season. Initially our fans were mainly Volleyball players but then quite many got to know the club. Of course, the fact that somebody from Iran was playing there added the right flavor and so some people were coming to see us just out of curiosity”.
Masajedi was named MVP of the Danish national league for three years in a row and stayed in that country much longer than he had initially planned. He got to know a Japanese handball player, Michiko Yamashita, who was playing in Denmark for the same club, fell in love, married and the two settled down in Aarhus for three years.
Volleyball does not enjoy right now the same popularity of handball in Denmark but the European Championship may change that trend.
“Of course young people watching elite volleyball for the very first time will be fascinated by the sport and this will change their attitude. In the end it’s all about results and quality. Handball is followed by so many people .However, volleyball has a great potential in Denmark and the European Championship can be the perfect boost,” Ahmad Masajedi says and continues:
“In the end handball is popular in only a few countries. As for volleyball, this is much different and we have seen that many countries have been able to set up very competitive. So starting from the boost coming from the European Championship, Denmark may be the next to follow. There are many tall boys and girls there who have got the right potential to turn into good volleyball players. Finland has been able to put together a strong national team that has achieved good results also internationally, so I see Denmark may well follow in their footsteps”.
Ahmad was actually surprised to get to know that the country where he lived for a few years was going to host the European Championship.
“If I only look back at the situation and status of volleyball when I moved to Denmark, it would have been unthinkable to have a European Champs there. So the fact that Denmark is going to turn into Europe’s volleyball capital are very good news for my old friends there and of course for the future perspective of the sport in this country. The EuroVolley will help volleyball stand and possibly win the competition that is brought by football, handball, and basketball”.
Questioned about who is most likely to win a medal come the final weekend in Copenhagen Ahmad picks out three options:
“I would say that Russia, Poland, and Italy have got the best chances to stand on the podium at the end of the Championship even though it is quite difficult to make predictions as the level in Europe is very high. By the way, we just beat Russia twice in friendly matches we played with the Olympic champions as we are also preparing for the Asian Championship coming up in Dubai and that will run on the same days as the EuroVolley will hopefully spread a real Volleyball fever across Denmark,” Ahmad Masajedi concludes.
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