BY ARMSTRONG VAZ
Goa’s Hugo Gonsalves and Arjuna awardee Ravikanth Reddy have no doubts that the first FIVB Beach Pro Tour event being hosted in India is a big boost for the game in the country.
Named as Goa Challenge, the seventh Challenge event on the 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour is taking place from October 19 through 22, and is a first major world-level volleyball tournament held in India.
It is one of the mega events in terms of the many competitions FIVB, the world governing body, conducts worldwide and it is coming to India for the first time. Goa has been handed the opportunity to host it, an honour which went previously to the southern states.
Both Hugo and Ravikanth have been associated with the game for many years in various capacities and also witnessed the infighting within the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI). He knows the importance and value of such a mega volleyball event.
The infighting has led to the suspension of VFI since December 2019. The perpetual 'infighting and proxy voting' also have plagued the game. Volleyball in the country is currently run by an ad-hoc committee, which was formed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) earlier this year.
“This is an event we have been waiting for long, it is not just a big event but a mega one. The infighting in the national federation prevented us from hosting international events,” said former India player, Ravikanth, who is the organizing secretary of the championship.
Asked about the Goa tournament's impact on the game, Reddy said: “It will definitely help Indian volleyball to grow, no doubt about that. If you see the Indian team performance at the recently concluded Asian Games you can see we are improving, so this tournament will help Indian volleyball in a big big way,” he added.
Ravikanth Reddy, Former India player
Reflecting on the impact of the tournament at the local level, Hugo said: “It is really a privilege for the state to host such an event and also an opportunity for the young players and aspiring players to watch the world stars in action and in turn get motivated to learn some lessons from close quarters.”
Apart from the off-the-court dramas of officials, volleyball is surely the winner on the silvery sands of Varca beach and the fans, notwithstanding the heat and the hot sun, know every game will be a treat to watch as the stars battle it out throughout the day.
Apart from hosts India, players from Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, USA, England, France, Lithuania, Finland, Slovenia and Italy are taking part in both the men’s and women’s sections and have been seeded in the main draw, while players from a few countries saw action in the qualifying rounds on Thursday.
Among the many players competing, the Bello twins from England, Javier and Joaquin, said they are playing and visiting the country for the first time.
“It is a beautiful place and a beautiful venue to play and whatever little we saw of Goa is very beautiful,” added the twin brothers who have been playing together at a very young age.
The Brazilian duo of Gabriel Santiago and Alves Pereira were also impressed with the venue and inquired if it was safe to swim in the Arabian sea nearby.
“It is the first time we are here in India and it is a nice feeling to find some people speaking Portuguese. We came to know that just like Brazil, Goa was also a Portuguese colony,” added the Brazilians.
Gabriel Santiago and Alves Pereira, Brazil
A total of 81 teams from 25 different countries and all five continental confederations battle it out for their share of the USD 150,000 prize purse and for valuable Olympic qualification points.
The knockout qualifications determined the eight per gender who made it to the 24-duo main draw line-up.
The main draw teams are split into six pools, with the pool winners, the pool runners-up and the two best-ranked third-placed teams advancing directly to the quarter-finals. The remaining four third-placed teams will move on to a playoff round to fill up the two remaining vacancies in the last 16.