Bosnia & Herzegovina put up a triple block to try and stop Iran’s Morteza Mehrzad in the semifinals of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Can the Balkan side change their fortunes this time around, when they host the 2022 Worlds?
Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, 3 November 2022 – Defending champions and reigning Paralympic gold medallists Iran begin their quest to confirm their world supremacy as the 2022 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball Men’s World Championship begins here on Friday afternoon with 16 teams vying for the top honours to much fanfare and excited anticipation.
The Sarajevo suburb of very historic Ilidza is the hub of activity this coming week which will see 56 men’s and 49 women’s matches contested over the course of eight days, culminating with the grand finals on Friday 11 November.
Headed by their big star Morteza Mehrzad, at 2.46m the second tallest man on earth and the MVP of the most recent Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Iran are fielding an experienced side that aims for nothing short than their eighth world championship title – more than all other world champions combined in the previous twelve editions of the World ParaVolley flagship event.
As in most occasions during the past few decades, Iran will be up against their archrivals Bosnia & Herzegovina in their quest. But this time around the reigning European champions will have the home advantage.
And Sitting Volleyball is big here in the heart of the Balkans with fans of the home team expected to fill the competition hall at the Ilidza suburb of Sarajevo to the rafters whenever the home team comes on court and all their matches televised live on national television in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
“My players care about bringing back the golden glow, so everyone in the team has put in a lot of work and effort in the past year,” said head coach Ifet Mahmutovic in a recent interview for the World ParaVolley website. “We must motivate ourselves now that we are playing in our country, and we should do our best to please our fans with success.”
The 16 participating teams are divided into four pools for the preliminary phase of the competition and both Iran (up against Kazakhstan, Croatia and Iraq) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (facing USA, Japan and Serbia) are expected to go through to the knockout phase, starting with the Round of 16, without much difficulty.
But then the question remains: Can anyone else come between the two powerhouses of world sitting volleyball and disrupt the balance of power?
World number 4 Brazil last did it in 2014 in Erbil when they wound up with silver and Russian Paralympic Committee (who are not here) did the same at the Tokyo Paralympics. And what will be the role of the world’s third tallest man, Joelison “Ninao” Fernandes at 2.37m in this attempt by Brazil?
Brazil are placed alongside Germany, Canda and Poland for pool play.
Reigning African champions Egypt, led by legendary captain Hesham Elshwikh, head the remaining pool – though alongside the Netherlands and Rwanda they also have to contend with Ukraine and the 2018 Worlds MVP Denys Bytschenko.
The top two teams of each pool advance to the Round of 16 (though all continue to contest all ranking positions).
The men’s competition at Sarajevo 2022 runs in parallel with the women’s World Championship.
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