Author: Sanan SAFIZADA Baku
The volleyball season has come to an end in Azerbaijan. As expected, yet again, for the sixth time in a row, the volleyball players of the "Rabita" team won the gold medals in the new Azerbaijan Super League championship, which was held according to new rules. The superiority of the telecommunications' workers can be explained by their strong team and consistently good performance.
Eldar Yusubov's trainees won against their everlasting rivals from the "Azeryol" club in all three games in the final round. "Azeryol's" volleyball players who were defeated for the second time in a row, and, all in all, for the fourth time, became silver medal winners in the country's championship. The third place in the battle for points against "Azerrail" [Azeryol] went to the volleyball players of the "Iqtisadci" ["Igtisadchi"] club. For the "economists" this was the third bronze medal that they had won in the Azerbaijani championship, besides winning a silver medal as well.
It is interesting that throughout the entire history of the championship of Azerbaijan five teams have been the medal winners. Besides the three prize-winners in this season, "Lokomotiv", which has had its most unsuccessful season ever (two silver and one bronze medal), managed to take a place on the podium, as well as the "Baku" club, which has already ceased to exist and which was once a bronze-medal winner.
Traditionally, the Federation would announce the members of the symbolic team of Azerbaijan ensuing from the results of the 2013/2014 Super League championship. "Rabita's" Aurea Cruz was acknowledged to be the most valuable player in the championship. A league player from Puerto-Rico, she has played an important role in her club's success for the second year in a row now. She has also been pronounced the best catcher and liberos in the championship. On the whole, Eldar Yusubov's trainees have been the best players in six out of nine categories. "Azeryol" provided one and Iqtisadci two volleyball players for the symbolic team.
Immediately after the championship "Rabita's" management started to renew the contracts with volleyball players. The capital's club which had won the silver medals of the League of Champions extended the contract with Aurea Cruz. The Puerto-Rican star, who had defended the colours of the "telecommunications workers" in the 2012/2013 season, will play in that team next year too. The number of players in the team has thus reached 17. The continuous champion of Azerbaijan over the last few years had until then extended the contract with Katarzyna Skowronska (one year) and with Katarzyna Skorupa and Tomkom Nootsara (two years). Brenda Castillo and Foluke Akinradewo will continue to play in the team (for another year). Rosana Giel Ramos, Yoana Palacios Mendoza
Wilma Salas Rosell, Gyselle Franco da Silva (all for five years), Tetori Dixon, Gina Mankuso, Christy Jackson, Kayla Banwarth, Brittnee Cooper, Rachel Rourke and Dora Horvath (all for another two years).
But there are no Azerbaijani volleyball players among Azerbaijan's champions. The main aim of holding the championship is to prepare worthy teams of players. But "Rabita" and the other clubs do not wish to co-operate with the Volleyball Federation of Azerbaijan in actual fact. Taking precisely this fact into consideration, the Federation has decided to apply a limit to the Super League with regard to the league players. In keeping with the change in the rules, each team is obliged to include three local volleyball players on its list. Two of them should be full-time volleyball players.
The vice-president of the Federation, Faiq Qarayev, has said that the limit should have already been enforced in the 2013/2014 season, but its enforcement was delayed owing to the fact that some teams were not sufficiently prepared to comply with the new rules.
The fact that an experienced trainer supports this decision is quite understandable. As the chief coach of the Azerbaijani team, Faiq Qarayev cannot afford to use expensive and well-known league players like those of "Rabita" club. No team needs Azerbaijani volleyball players, who lack practice in playing. After the limit is enforced, young volleyball players will gain the opportunity to acquire experience, which will undoubtedly boost the strength of Azerbaijan's team.
The foreign coaches who only care about the interests of their clubs will be none too happy about the introduction of the new rules. Their only aim is to be among the prize-winners at the national championship. This is precisely why the enforcement of the limit has met with the approval of the experts.
"Volleyball in Azerbaijan is developing. We always support our representatives at the European Cups. The limit has been adopted for the sake of the future of Azerbaijani volleyball. It is clear that the clubs are striving to attain success in the League of champions and in other prestigious competitions. But we should not forget about Azerbaijan's national team, which is taking part in world and European championships. If local volleyball plays gain experience, in the future this will mean that new names will appear in the team. It is likely to be difficult to begin with. At any rate, there few skilled players among Azerbaijan young players. But everything will fall into place in time. Our girls will start to play better when they go out onto the court with strong foreign volleyball players, Faiq Qarayev told Regionplus.
When a limit was introduced in Azerbaijani football 10 years ago, the clubs began to "nationalise" the foreign footballers on a mass scale. It was precisely in this manner that they could use as a local player league players who had acquired an Azerbaijani passport. I hope that the Volleyball Federation of Azerbaijan will not allow its clubs to go down that path.
The final list of women's volleyball clubs that are to represent Azerbaijan in the European cups has been drawn up. So, "Rabita" and "Azeryol", which took top two places in the championship, are to represent the country in the League of champions. But "Igtisadchi" has a chance of joining them. In accordance with the rating system of the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV), Azerbaijan should be represented by two clubs in the most prestigious club tournament of the continent. But as has been the practice for several years now, it is expected that the CEV will present a "wild card" for one more club, which the bronze-prize winner "Igtisadchi" will get. If this happens, Azerbaijan will be represented by three teams in the League of champions.
"Azerrail", which was defeated by "Igtisadchi" in the fight for the bronze medals, is to take part in the tournament for the CEV Cup yet again. It will be joined by the "Lokomotiv" club, which took fifth place in the championship.