Behrouz Ataei, the head coach of Iran’s national volleyball team, said the top priority for his team will be to excel at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Asian powerhouse is getting prepared for the two major events in the coming months, the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) and the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games.
Ataei, who led Iran to a fourth Asian crown on his debut in charge of the seniors team last year, has named a rather young and new-look squad for June’s VNL campaign.
“Our main priority will be to succeed at the 2024 Paris Olympics and not just the Volleyball Nations League,” Ataei told reporters after a training session on Monday, adding: “That’s why we’ve picked some new faces in the squad, as we’re looking for players who could contribute to the team’s success in Paris.”
Veteran middle blocker Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi is one of the leading figures of the Iranian volleyball in recent years who are yet to receive an international call-up under Ataei since he took over after last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Asked if Mousavi’s absence in the team is in line with his rejuvenation plans for the Paris Games, Ataei said: “Exactly. We need to tap into our full potentials if we’re to be successful at the Games. Still, that doesn’t mean he has fallen down the pecking order. Big players need to play in major tournaments, and we can’t afford to exhaust them. He still has the chance to play for the national team in the future competitions.”
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.
The Iranian coach said Javad Karimi, Meysam Salehi, and Ali-Asghar Mojarrad are under treatment for their injuries and could be ruled out of the VNL, while new skipper Milad Ebadipour, Bardia Sa’adat, and Morteza Sharifi are still tied to club duties overseas and will join up with the rest of the squad within next three weeks.
Ataei also confirmed that his team will square off against Serbia, led by ex-Iran head coach Igor Kolakovic, in a couple of friendlies in the European country on June 2 and 3 before heading to Brazil.