Mohammad Davarzani: To build up a competitive senior national team it is important to start from the junior level

Iran Volleyball Federation President talks about the journey of the senior men’s national team on the road to the top ten in the World Rankings

With the Iran men’s national volleyball team ranked among the top ten in the world as per the FIVB Senior Men’s World Ranking, the FIVB has taken time to talk to Iran Volleyball Federation President and FIVB Board of Administration member, Dr Mohammad Davarzani, to discuss the development and journey of the sport in Iran.

1.      Dr Davarzani, the Iran men’s national volleyball team is among the top ten in the world. Could you please tell us more about the development journey of the team from the beginning?

I have been the President of the Iran Volleyball Federation (IRIVF) since 2006 and have worked in various capacities in sport for the last 41 years. It is an honour and pleasure for me to bring my knowledge, experience and expertise to volleyball to develop and promote my beloved sport in Iran.

Back in 2006, the Iran men’s national team was ranked fifth in the Asian senior rankings with the team’s best result being silver medals at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea. At that time, we were about 26-27 in the World Ranking behind such Asian countries as Japan, China and Korea.

In my role as President, I started by setting four strategic goals to follow that included qualifying for the Olympic Games, winning gold medals at the Asian Championships as well as joining the World League and being one of the top teams in the world in the World Championships. To achieve these, we defined three four-year plans.

On the court, it took us six years of hard work and planning from 2006 to 2012 to be able to join the World League for the first time in history. The role of Julio Velasco, a renowned Argentinian volleyball coach, was essential on this journey to success. Not only did he help us gain a place in the World League, but he also improved the mentality of our players and helped us to become pioneers in Asia. Since then, we have continued to hire world-class and experienced volleyball coaches to join our team, including Kovac, Lozano, Kolakovic and Alekno.

I believe that 2012 was the turning year for volleyball in Iran as this is when our growth was boosted. Although we failed to qualify for the Olympic Games London 2012, we earnt a spot at the Rio 2016, our first Olympic volleyball appearance in 52 years! We were patient and moved forward gradually in our vision for volleyball in the country according to our strategic plan, and we succeeded.

Off the court, we have also worked hard to improve on various fronts. Before 2006, all the budget for volleyball came from the government. Therefore, we focused on good content to be able to attract more sponsors and I am pleased that today we are not dependent on the state budget. And of course, with the national team getting stronger and winning some matches against world-class opponents and some of the top teams in the world – like Brazil, Poland, France and Russia – we increased the interest and expectations of our fans! Volleyball grew in Iran and our fanbase also increased.

And following this growth, many private organisations and stakeholders became interested in forming their volleyball clubs and participating in our local league. They can clearly see how many people are interested in volleyball in Iran and would like to watch the games. Most of the clubs currently have sponsorship deals with private organisations and the interest and quality of our league has also grown.

 

2.      Iran regularly hosts age group volleyball events. What is the rationale behind this?

It is clear that there is a connection between having a strong senior national team and good age group teams. To build up a competitive senior national team it is important to start from the junior level both in event hosting and participation.