Japan’s Suntory Sunbirds claim historic Asian Clubs Championship title

Sunbirds beat Indonesia’s Bhayangkara in final to become the first Japanese club to win the Asian title

The Suntory Sunbirds of Japan were recently crowned the 2023 Asia Volleyball Confederation (AVC) men’s club champions after overcoming Indonesia’s Jakarta Bhayangkara Presisi in the final.

The Suntory Sunbirds beat Indonesia’s Jakarta Bhayangkara Presisi 3-1 (28-26, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17) in a thrilling final played at  the Isa Bin Rashid Hall in Manama, Bahrain to become the first ever Japanese team to win the Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship title.

The gold medal feat was a timely consolation for Sunbirds who took silver last year and has now qualified for the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship set to be held later this year in India.

Russia’s Dmitriy Muserskiy, who was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, emerged as the top scorer in the final with 31 points while Cuban outside hitter Alain Junior de Armas added 26 for the champions. Mohammadjavad Manavinezhad and Ugandan opposite Daudi Okello replied with 22 and 21 points respectively for Bhayangkara.

Bhanyankara’s silver medal performance was also historic, the first by an Indonesian club in the history of the competition. It follows the growing success of the Indonesian Proliga and the huge potential of volleyball in the country.

To qualify for the final, Bhayangkara beat Police Sports Club of Qatar 3-1 (11-25, 29-27, 25-23, 25-23) in the semifinals while the Sunbirds defeated Shahdab Yazd of Iran 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 34-32, 25-17).

Sunbirds coach Kota Yamamura noted that the level of Asian volleyball had greatly improved and vowed to represent the continent well at the global championship. 

“After being second place last year, I really wanted to win it this time and now that we have done it. I am very happy,” said the former Japan international.

“After taking the third set against Shahdab in the semifinals yesterday, I thought that we could win the title. We realised this past week in Bahrain that the level of Asian volley is now very high. Tonight’s final was very difficult. The Indonesians played very well and were tough, but we were able to do it in the end.

“I am really grateful we were able to play in the nice environment Bahrain prepared for us. I am glad we are the first team ever to win this competition from Japan, and that we got our tickets to the Men’s Club World Championship. We will do our best as Team Asia, and show what we can do,” commented Yamamura.

In the third-place playoff, Police rallied from a set down to claim their first ever bronze medal at the continental level after defeating Shahdab Yazd 3-1 (24-26, 25-16, 25-20, 25-19).

Estonian Oliver Venno scored a game-high 25 points for Police while Turkish ace Efe Bayram added 18. Tavana Saeed Javaheri led Shahdab with 15 points, while Malati Mohammad Sadeghi registered 14.