I Campioni Siamo Noi

I Campioni Siamo Noi.


polish crisis

It probably hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that there was a bit of a problem last week in Poland with the death in a plane crash of the president and a whole bunch of his government.  It has been the biggest topic of conversation in the media and on the street this week.  But one interesting note that may have escaped the western press is that the wives of some of the dead government ministers are requiring public financial contributions to be able to support their families.  It seems that as wives they have no access to the bank accounts of their husbands.

I don’t really know how to respond to that.


Tough Season

It was a tough season in Bamberg.  On the court we started slowly, which is tough enough.  Then came the news that our president was quitting, quickly followed by stories of missing money (a review of his actions is here).  At least twice during the season we were literally a day away from the club folding (check the articles from 17th-18th February).  Our salaries weren’t always forthcoming and our travel arrangements to away games were minimal.  Through it all we kept working and practicing and improving… and winning.  We ended the season 6th.  Good enough for a playoff position against a team we felt like we had a chance of beating.  And then rug was pulled out by the league (original article here); no playoffs, the season is finished.  That was pretty tough.  Actually it was devastating, or it would have been if I had had any energy left.

We won a protest against being kicked out of the league, but obviously the playoffs were not an issue.  Just when I thought that was the end, the General Manager of the league was quoted in a press release as saying in relation to our expulsion, that he understands we are disappointed but “…fairness and right must be protected, and the sporting success of VC Franken was based on a budget that they obviously couldn’t achieve.”  In other words, we cheated.  It was an argument that was voiced when the issues first came to light.  It follows that we bought players we couldn’t afford (and knew we couldn’t afford) and therefore had an unfair advantage over the teams that worked within an achievable budget.  Despite criminal proceedings being ongoing against our ex President (of which there is no mention), we cheated.

It is now two days later and my anger has not abated.  The club replied officially, and below is my reply.  It’s in German for the German press but the google translate version is reasonable.

Enttäuschung ist zu erfahren dass dein 1. Vorsitzender von dein Verein Geld ‘ausgeliehen’ hat (daß immer wieder ignoriert ist).
Enttäuschung ist zu arbeiten ohne dein Gehalt zu bekommen.
Große enttäuschung ist über Monaten mit alle dieser Probleme zu arbeiten, dich nie ablenken zu lassen, und dann nicht in Playoffs spielen zu dürfen. Was wir verdient haben.
Was Ich mich jetzt fühle ist weit über Enttäuschung weil Ich gestern gelesen habe daß diese Arbeit irgendwie ‘unfair’ Basis habe und zahlt deswegen nicht.  Daß es mit eine Aussage versucht worden ist, die Arbeit von mir und meiner Mannschaft einfach abzuerkennen, ist der bitterste Schlag von alle.  Alle die die Erfahrung in Leistungssport haben, wissen daß es nur eine Rezept zum Erfolg gibt: Arbeit.  Unsere sportliche Erfolg ist NUR durch Arbeit und Leistung ermöglicht.
Zusammen mit damals Sportdirektor Jochen Hauke habe Ich Monate lang günstige, talentierte, ehrgeizige Spieler gesucht in ein relativ kleine Budget zu passen.  Daß ist uns gelungen.  In vergleich zu andere Vereine haben wir viel weniger bezahlt für unsere beste Spieler.  Außerdem haben wir bewußt eine MANNSCHAFT gebaut.  Wir haben dann Monate lang konzentriert und zielorientiert gearbeitet (durch und trotz alle Probleme) um die beste Leistung herauszubringen.  Daß ist uns am Spielfeld gelungen.  Andere Vereine mit Geldprobleme ist es nicht gelungen.  Andere Vereine OHNE Geldprobleme ist es nicht gelungen.  Wie gesagt, unsere sportliche Erfolg ist NUR durch Arbeit und Leistung ermöglicht.
Außer unsere Arbeit und Erfolg herabzusetzen, die Entscheidung selbst stellt sich naturlich viele Fragen (zB Werden alle Vereine die ihre Gehälte während der Saison verkürzen auch so bestraft werden?  Oder die die schwarz Geld zahlen?  Beide Fälle verhinderen genauso eines “fairen und gleichberechtigten Spielbetriebes”.)  Aber sie sind Frage die andere Leute beschäftigen sollen.


local festivals

In this region there is an important festival to celebrate the end of winter called Fasching.  Most things were shut here and there was a parade and party in the town square for most of the day.  As with the bank robbery, it seems that paying attention to what is happening in my town is not my best skill.  This was slightly further away than the bank but not much and I didn’t notice it all.


the secret’s out…

If you’ve really been paying attention you would already know that about 6 weeks ago I left Jastrzebie in Poland and joined a new club in Germany, SG Eschenbacher Eltmann.  As the head coach, I’ve had a little less time on my hands for such things as blog posting.  Add to that moving in and getting settled and that leaves even less time.  But those are just excuses.

The town of Eltmann is a tiny village near Bamberg in south Germany.  The region is Bavaria and the normal greeting here isn’t ‘good day’ but ‘greet god’. I don’t really know what they say after that because the accent is quite distinct.  The town is really nice and every day I feel guilty about driving my car to practice despite it being only about 1 kilometre from my apartment.  I have mostly used snow and rain and cold as an excuse but the one day I did walk it made my knee sore for the next week (it is slightly uphill).  So that has been the excuse for the rest of the time.

The team had been struggling and has continued to struggle.  We’ve had strong positions in nearly all of the matches we’ve played but anyone who says luck doesn’t play a part in sport is kidding themselves.  In one match we had an incorrect referee overrule on one decisive point AND a decisive service series that turned out to be ALL foot faults.  But we’ve kept working because, well, that’s the only thing you can do when things aren’t going well.

There are probably a hundred details I could relate but I haven’t the time.  Or the security clearance.   But to make up for it a few videos.

Here is the interview I did in the VIP room after the first match.

Here is a video of an interview I did before my first home game.

Here is a fan montage of our most recent match against the current German champions.

And to prove that Eltmann is a really important place, a news clip about a bank holdup that happened less than 100m from my apartment… without me noticing it until the police knocked on my door.


the games i missed…

20th dec – bydgoszcz
After the great relief of breaking our losing streak, followed by the easy win and pleasant time in the middle of the atlantic ocean we were supremely, or at least quietly, confident of finishing the year with a win in Bydgoszcz. Bydgoszcz were bottom of the league and had just changed their coach. We knew of course that teams that change coaches often have at least a short term burst of energy and optimism and can be dangerous at that moment. But we beat them easily earlier in the season and now we were in form and confident so nothing could go wrong. In the first two sets nothing did. Essentially we put the ball in play and let them lose, which they were kind enough to do. But then the opposing coach made the decisive move. He brought on a young player to replace an old player. The young player didn’t understand that everyone was supposed to just quietly play out the game, let the good team will win, let the bad team will lose and let everyone go on holidays. He actually trying to win. Unfortunately after the travel that we had gone through the previous couple of days we had no response. For the last three sets we kind of kept with them for a while in each, but just had no energy. It was excruciating and seemed to go on forever, although in reality it was really only about an hour and a half before it mercifully ended. The good news was that as a final Christmas present, the point we won for the first two sets was enough to actually move us up to fourth in the league. And of course the crisis was over. Probably.

Some photos here.

3rd jan – radom
We returned from our 8 free days remarkably full of energy and happy to be back, the loss in bydgoszcz seemingly forgotten. Even the prospect of training on new years eve AND new years day didn’t affect the mood and we had some of the best sessions we have had this season. So when the other bottom team ventured to our gym, also dragging along a new coach, we were definitely not perturbed. And this time, it worked out the way it was supposed to. The new coach ‘miraculous turnaround’ that we had experienced in Bydgoszcz was apparently a local phenomenon. This guy certainly tried everything, but he had no chance. With the extra energy that can only be brought by a few days break from training, and each other, we dominated the match from the beginning. It was the easiest 3 points we have won this season and was a wonderful relaxing evening in the gym. Why can’t they all be like this?

Some photos are here.

7th jan – polish cup
Due to our streak of losses before Christmas, we finished the first half of the season in fifth place. In some leagues, ours included, that actually has a practical outcome. And the practical outcome is to do with the Cup. The ‘Cup’ in volleyball isn’t quite like the ‘Cup’ in football other than it is a knockout tournament. Every country has a different format, often radically different. In Italy for example, only the first 8 placed teams after the first round play in the ‘Cup’. In Poland, the ‘Cup’ is a long tournament with many rounds beginning at regional levels, with the top division teams joining in at either the last 16 stage or last 8 stage. And by not being in the top 4 after the first round, we got to join in at the last 16, giving us two extra matches on top of our European Cup commitments, giving us two matches a week for all of January.
Clubs get nervous about the extra games because by this time of the season they are not as optimistic as the beginning and an extra round of games is an extra obstacle in the fulfilment of the season’s objectives. Coaches hate the extra games because they stuff up the schedule and reduce the training possibilities. Players on the other hand, quite like the extra games because if they are playing they are not training. It might surprise you to realise that coaches always want to train more and players always want to train less. That is the eternal struggle. But I digress…
We were drawn with a team from Bielsko Biala, a city not far from us and the top team in 2nd league. The format is like European Cup in that it is played over two legs, home and away and we played the first leg at home. The only thing I can say about this match is that if you got through the preamble and description of how the ‘Cup’ works, you probably had about as much enjoyment as the few of our most rabid fans who actually came to the match. And just as you ploughed on hoping for a punchline of some kind as payoff for your efforts, they ventured out in the snow to see a victory, any victory. They got theirs…
By the way, our 3-0 victory all but guarantees us a place in the next round. All but…

Some photos are here.


portuguese adventure – part 2 (it only seems like i forgot)

As I implied in part 1, in many ways this trip was a pleasant respite from the slog of the season as we got to spend some actual quality time in a single place that was also interesting.  When you get quality time somewhere you have the rare chance to actually learn something, and on this trip I learnt about Portuguese bullfighting.  The bus driver who drove us the kilometre to the gym and back had a video in the bus that enthralled us with images of bulls, on the ends of long ropes, wandering through village streets being taunted by drunken idiots who then quickly climbed back over the protective fences before gouged.  Sometimes the bulls were quick enough to make contact but much to my disappointment there never seemed to be any permanent damage to the aforementioned idiots, who were then greeted with high fives from their friends.  Presumably for being so cool.

Now I can understand to some degree the theatre of classical bullfighting with toreadors and red capes.  And I have even thought, albeit briefly, that running with the bulls could be something I might like to do myself.  But this particular brand of bull ‘sport’ seemed to be just taunting them and then seeing if you could get away in time.  Speaking to a local in the evening I learnt that all villages on the island of Terceira, where we were staying (and perhaps other places too), have their own festival each of which lasts for about a week during summer.  In ‘our’ village, it takes place on the beach in front of the hotel.  The local went on to say how noble and strong the bulls are and how exciting it is to get out there and test yourself.  And I further learnt that one person from the village was so seriously injured that he had to spend a month in hospital.  I guess they don’t include those highlights in the video package that they sell to tourists, but I was secretly the pleased the bulls got one back.

Once the educational part of the journey was done, it was time for the return journey.  And what a journey.  As I mentioned, the Azores isn’t the easiest place to get to and it proved to be even harder to leave and our planned itinerary had us going straight to Bydgoszcz for our last match before Christmas.  The first leg was straightforward and actually quite pleasant.  The 10.30 departure was very civilised and the flight to the main island of Sao Miguel was just a short hop.  Even the nine hour wait was welcome as it was more than enough time to venture to the capital of Azores, Ponta Delgado, and have a really rather excellent lunch at a very nice restaurant and still get back to the airport in time to settle in and actually do some preparation for that match.  Those hours in the airport were however the last part of the journey that was okay.  From that moment on, none of the journeys or transits were long enough to sleep.  A two hour flight had us landing in Lisbon at 1am, for our 6am flight to Munich.  That three hour flight connected perfectly with our 1.5 hour flight to Poznan where the bus met us to take us the last two hours to Bydgoszcz where we arrived at about 4pm after about 30 hours of travel, including 4 separate flights and 1 bus trip.  And no sleep.  And a game tomorrow. And a training in 2 hours.  But there was one small touch of home when I opened the hotel room to find a huge picture of the 12 Apostles hanging over the bed.  But I was asleep too soon to look at…

portuguese adventure – part 2

March 2019
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