A record 16 men’s teams are on the starting line to contest the highest sitting volleyball continental title of all with the 2021 European Championship kicking off here tomorrow at this holiday resort on the eastern Mediterranean.
All eyes are on Russia and Bosnia & Herzegovina in their continuing rivalry for dominance in Europe.
After nine gold medals on the trot, from 1999 in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina supremacy came to an abrupt end in 2017 in Porec, where Russia shot to the top after six unsuccessful tries – including four silver and two bronze medals.
Led by tournament MVP Viktor Milenin and the tournament’s best setter Evgenii Volosnikov, Russia dominated again two years ago in Budapest in an out-of-this-world final, cancelling three match points of Bosnia & Herzegovina for an epic five-set win.
And Russia are on a roll, having just recently their first Paralympic medal – a silver, no less after a four-set defeat to Iran in the final of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games.
Can Bosnia & Herzegovina (who finished third in Tokyo 2020 after losing to Iran 3-0 in the semifinals and then beating Brazil 3-1 in the bronze medal match) reclaim the throne in Europe? This is one of the nagging questions at the start of the 2021 European Championship.
Focus in Kemer will also be on the two ‘rookies’ making their debut in the competition this year: Czech Republic and France coming to measure themselves amongst the continent’s big guns.
The two actually made their first ever international appearances at the 2018 European New Nations Tournament in Tourcoing, where the Czechs prevailed in both their head-to-head encounters.
And then there’s the home side. Under the new guidance of coach Adem Celik who took charge of the team just a few months ago Turkey are making their third ever appearance at a European Championship after finishing tenth in 2017 and ninth in 2019.
After a year and a half of uncertainty and a few changes on the dates while the world was in the turmoil of the pandemic, sitting volleyball in Europe is back with a bang. The 16 participating teams is a new record, after 13 competed in 2013 and 2017. (Thirteen teams also took part in the 1987 edition, but that also included Iran, Egypt and USA).
In fact, the European Championship is the only of the Zonal competitions to happen this year, after ParaVolley Europe and the local organisers took all necessary safety measures to ensure the health and well-being of all participants. All participants are accommodated at the beach-side Daima Biz Hotel, with the actual venue, where the three competition courts are set up, contained within the hotel grounds.
With 56 matches scheduled over the next seven days (for a mind-boggling grand total of 95 including the women’s event which runs in parallel) this is truly a week that will go down in ParaVolley history.
The 16 teams are split into four pools of four teams each. All teams advance to Thursday’s Round of 16, but the pool standings will determine the pairings for this knockout stage. The Round of 16 is followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and the medals matches.
It all kicks off on Saturday evening here in Kemer with the Opening Ceremony, scheduled for 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT) – a spectacular show including the Parade of Nations a performance by the Wheelchair Dance Team and a showcasing of local folk dances.
All matches will be televised live (and also available on demand) on the ParaVolley Europe YouTube channel.
Access all results, full statistics, photos and news on the competition’s official website at ec2021.paravolley.eu.
And follow all the action on the daily blog of the competition, in real time and as it happens through live text commentary available through the website with all that’s going on on the courts and behind the scenes.
Have your say and interact with the competition on the ParaVolley Europe social media networks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtags #eurosittingvolley and #sittingvolleyball.