Having been eliminated from the European Champions League after defeats by Trentino, 26:16 25:17 25:15 and OK Vojvodina Seme Novi Sad 25:21 21:25 23:25 18:25, the seven times champion of England, IBB Polonia London has been forced to suspend training before competing in the CEV Cup for which they are now qualified. Having returned from Italy, Vangelis Koutouleas’ players have been restricted by the government’s Covid 19 regulations to change their training to small groups of six players. These tough measures prevented the team from preparing for the CEV Cup games against Brno, the Czech representatives that are scheduled to take place in the first half of November 2020.
The domestic league has been postponed indefinitely as has been the National Cup. Training in groups of more than six has been banned and the closure of sports halls is the environment in which volleyball currently exists. IBB Polonia London managed to adhere to all of the regulations as well as the hygiene rules and also presented a negative Covid 19 test result for each player and staff member. Despite this, training has been stopped and preparations for the European competition has ceased.
The national champions with huge plans for the future and the evolution of the sport in the UK as well as ambitions for success in Europe did not wish to tread water and have even more restrictions imposed upon them. Immediately upon the return from Italy, work began to prepare for the next competition. The first step was the return of Marcus Nilsson to Sweden, where he currently trains each day with his local club Hylte/Halmstad. This is not a long term solution because the best players help with the development of younger team mates. For this reason the next phase will take place imminently.
“I agree that health and wellbeing is the most important issue and this is the top priority for the club. We take great care that the conditions at training reduce the risk of infection significantly. Every member of the club had the PCR test which came back negative, the vast majority are self-isolating at home. This is only a fragment of our endeavours but despite this, the sports hall was closed and our trainings were stopped. It is well documented that university sports are continuing, and basketball with much greater physical contact is still taking place at multiple levels. It goes without saying that restaurants and bars are still open under certain circumstances. We are playing club volleyball at the highest possible level in the world, we have recruited some of the best players in the world and so we wish to be treated equally with our sports. Building volleyball is not easy in England and neither is staging world class events in London when we are treated so unfairly. I know that this will only encourage us for the future. Now Plan B starts, if it all goes according to plan, we will share the details very soon” said Bartek Luszcz, CEO of IBB Polonia London.
“Following our return from Italy, we could not train normally. The restrictions meant that we had to work in small groups, despite having the entire squad available. We had to split the time up so that each player had some court time. All the players are totally fit and healthy and did everything possible to reduce the risk of infection. It seems that this meant nothing, and we could do nothing to allow us to train normally. I feel that despite the challenging circumstances, the coaching team and the players behaved impeccably and we did everything in our powers to maintain physical condition. Sadly the return of the restrictions in London meant that from Saturday, we have no sports hall at all and training has stopped. We were worried this would happen and that is why we have a plan which is beginning to materialise. Fingers crossed it will work,” added head coach, Vangelis Koutouleas.
“The preparations for the upcoming games against Brno are filled with challenges due to the uprise of Covid cases all around Europe. I’m back in Sweden to practice with my hometown club. Since we don’t have as tough restrictions here as in London we are still able to practice with a full squad and I can go to the gym without any time restrictions and that helps a lot to stay in shape and to do my best to be in the best possible shape when it’s game time. I’m sure all teams have their difficulties in this period so it’s important to be positive and try to find new ways to progress and stay healthy and in good shape and I think that is one of the strong sides of our club, that we have a management who does that really well,” said Marcus Nilsson, the IBB Polonia London opposite.
The matches against Brno are due to take place on 10th and 12th November. Details of the matches and specific times will be published shortly and will be subject to change in the regulations for controlling the virus.
Contributors, Douglas Barr-Hamilton
Source, Katarzyna Strag