Iran’s volleyball national team will be facing a compact schedule in the coming months, head coach Behrouz Ataei said ahead of a training camp in Tehran on Saturday.
The Asian powerhouse began preparation with 20 players for the upcoming Volleyball Nations League (VNL) and September’s Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games.
Five overseas players – Milad Ebadipour, Amirhossein Toukhteh, Morteza Sharifi, Bardia Sa’adat, and Saber Kazemi – are to join the squad after being given a week off by the Iranian head coach.
“A hectic schedule is awaiting us, that’s why we decided to call up 25 players for this camp and an additional 10 to 12 players are expected to join us in the near future,” Ataei said in a press conference.
Iran will kick off its VNL campaign against the Netherlands in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia on June 10, before taking on Australia and Japan on June 12 and 13, respectively, to round off Week 1 of the men’s Pool A contests.
VNL games will come thick and fast for Ataei’s men, who will square off Bulgaria, USA, defending champion Brazil, and Canada in Quezon City, the Philippines, in Week 2, starting June 21.
Iran will then travel to Gdansk, Poland – which replaced the Russian city of Kemerovo in the aftermath of the country’s war with Ukraine – to face the host on July 5, with Serbia, Italy, and Slovenia also coming Iran’s way in Week 3.
Some leading figures of the Iranian volleyball over the years, namely world-class setter Saeed Marouf, who announced his retirement from international duty after the Tokyo Olympics last year, Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi, and Amir Ghafour have not been in the Iranian training camp.
“Iran has been playing with pretty much the same lineup for in all competitions for the past 10 years or so, which led to some key players like Mousavi getting exhausted,” said Ataei, adding: “Some of the experienced players were left out of the current squad but might be added to the team in the future if required.”
Ataei was also full of praise for former Iranian skipper Marouf for his efforts in the Iranian outfit throughout the years.
Asked who will fill in for the retired captain in upcoming events, Ataei said: “Marouf was an exceptional player with unique qualities but I’m confident Milad Ebadipour is capable of doing part of his duties as the new captain as he has also got years of experience in the national team under his belt.”
Speaking of any friendly games before the VNL gets underway, Ataei said: “We have been negotiating with a number of countries. We’re nearing an agreement with Argentina, though the match is yet to be confirmed. We might also play Germany and Canada.”
The world volleyball governing body, FIVB, announced a new format for the 2022 VNL last August, which will see teams compete in two pools of eight during each week of the preliminary round.
Top eight sides of the 16-team table will progress into the quarterfinals.
The VNL Finals will kick off on July 13, with the host city yet to be confirmed by the FIVB.
The latest edition of the competition saw Iran, under ex-Russian head coach Vladimir Alekno, finish 12th in the preliminary round’s 16-team table, failing to qualify for the Finals.
Iran made it to the Final Six of the 2019 event, having finished fourth in the FIVB Volleyball World League in 2014, before the annual tournament was replaced by the VNL in 2018.