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Prime Volleyball League

India has capability to compete with Asia's top volleyball teams, says KTB's Iranian coach Rahman Mohammadrad

Published at :March 9, 2024 at 3:19 AM
Modified at :March 9, 2024 at 3:19 AM
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(Courtesy : Rupay Prime Volleyball League)

Ankhi Dutta

Rahman Mohammadrad won Asian Games silver with Iran and also served as an assistant coach.

Season 1 champions, Kolkata Thunderbolts (KTB), ended their sojourn at the Prime Volleyball League 2024 with an emphatic win over Mumbai Meteors, their second consecutive win in as many seasons over the Meteors. However, that brought little joy as the Thunderbolts bowed out of the tournament with a seventh-place finish. This is the first time the Kolkata-based franchise won’t be part of the playoffs (Supers 5s), having reached there in the first two seasons—and winning the title in the inaugural edition.

Coached by Iranian Rahman Mohammadrad, the Thunderbolts started their season with four consecutive defeats, two of them coming in straight sets before the former champions somewhat turned it around with three wins in their final four matches.

However, it was too little too late as they finished four points short of the final Super 5s spot. While their performance on the court left a lot to be desired, coach Rahman has seen enough promise to predict bigger things for the franchise going ahead.

Khel Now caught up with the Iranian and club captain Ashwal Rai during the ongoing season. While coach Rahman shared his thoughts on India’s future in international volleyball as well as giving his opinion on the ‘unique rules’ in the Prime Volleyball League, Ashwal opened up on his journey in the sport.

Thoughts on ‘rules’ in Prime Volleyball League?

The PVL has introduced the concept of the “Super Point” which offers teams a chance to earn bonus points. However, if the team that calls for the bonus point fails to win the rally, the opponent is awarded two points instead. Teams must call for the “Super Point” before they reach 11 points in a particular set.

Furthermore, the “Super Serve” adds another twist to the game. When a team executes a “Super Serve,” it results in an ace, which is when the ball lands inside the opponent’s court without being touched by any player, earning the serving team two points instantly.

ALSO READ: Explained: All rules of Prime Volleyball League

Coach Rahman is taken back a little by these set of rules. He pointed out that he hasn’t ‘seen them anywhere else” Instead, he pleads with the organisers to prioritise the sport’s standard in the country.

“I want to respect the rules and the reasons, but volleyball should be important here, then maybe other things. These rules that we have in Prime Volleyball are specific just for Prime Volleyball and I haven’t seen them anywhere else. We as volleyball players and coaches want to play volleyball at high quality, at a high standard that we saw anywhere else.”

Thoughts on preparation for Prime Volleyball League?

This is the Iranian’s first season in the Prime Volleyball League and also his first time coaching in India although he has vast experience as a coach, having been with the Iranian and Pakistan national volleyball teams in the past. Apart from that, the 45-year-old has also coached several clubs back home in Iran.

Asked how he prepared for this new challenge of coaching in a new country and a fairly new league, coach Rahman said he spent hours watching videos of the team’s matches from previous seasons and also studied the opposition teams in the PVL.

“I asked my colleagues to send videos, especially upon arriving in India. We took time to analyze last season’s matches, focusing on teams like Ahmedabad and KTB to understand their players better,” said the Iranian. “During our camp, we used training cameras to record videos for further analysis, discussing players’ strengths and weaknesses.

“We have also recorded all matches and studied every team and players extensively to ensure we’re well-prepared for matchups. The aim was to know each opponent inside out before facing them on the court.”

He also shared his love for taking on new challenges and learning more about the game and various tactics employed by different teams around the world.

“I have watched many volleyball matches, especially at the top level, in good leagues, in other countries like Italy, Poland and Russia, where most top players are playing,” added the Kolkata Thunderbolts coach.

“Secondly, I study and attend seminars and have met many coaches, many famous coaches from around the world. I am interested in watching more volleyball and learning more about the tactics that any team, club or national team employs.”

Indian national volleyball team’s potential

The Indian men’s volleyball team’s remarkable run to the quarterfinals at the Asian Games 2023, where they stunned then Asian No. 4 South Korea to top their pool, has been a subject of much discussion. Rahman, who was part of the Iran team that bagged silver at the 2002 edition of the Asian Games, shared his thoughts on the Indian volleyball team’s potential. Iran had lost to South Korea in the final in 2002.

“The Indian national volleyball team possesses the capability to compete with the premier teams in Asia, including Japan and Iran. Nevertheless, there appears to be a greater emphasis on the organization of training camps rather than engaging in regular competitive play.

“It is imperative to arrange an increased number of friendly encounters with formidable teams to foster a sense of self-assurance among your athletes,” said the former assistant coach of the Iran national team.

“Meticulous pre-season preparation, coupled with steady engagement in tournaments against high-caliber adversaries, is crucial for the Indian team’s development and their prospects of achieving international acclaim.”

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Ashwal Rai’s thoughts on his volleyball journey from obscurity to spotlight

Former India captain and now the skipper of the Kolkata Thunderbolts, Ashwal Rai, also shared his thoughts on his journey in the sport and how the PVL gave a new lease of life to his career.

A seasoned volleyball player, Ashwal, looked back on the lack of opportunities post-college and how the Prime Volleyball League has been instrumental in providing a platform for unseen talent in India.

“After college, I didn’t have enough platform to perform well. But now, I have a chance to play well and I’ve been a part of the team since the first season and looking forward to improving and working under new coaches.

“India has a lot of players who have never been seen, who don’t have a platform to perform. So, for them, Prime Volleyball League is the stage to introduce themselves to the world and to be able to improve and to learn more about the sport.

“Volleyball has given me a life, I have learned a lot and I have a lot more to learn. And, yes, learning is a process. That’s how it is,” cites Ashwal Rai.

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