FOR THE second straight year, the Philippines once again will serve as the mecca of world volleyball.
Eight of the world’s best teams gather in the country on July 4 to 9 as the prestigious Volleyball Nations League (VNL) stages the third week of the men’s competition at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.
Reigning world champion Italy, current world No. 1 Poland and crowd favorite Japan, also world No. 8, banner the eight-team cast in the VNL’s Philippine return after a successful staging here last year.
Completing the field are powerhouse Brazil, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Canada and China as Anaheim, California in the United States host the women’s division at the same period. The first two legs in both divisions were held simultaneously in Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and France.
The Philippines hosted a leg for both the women’s and men’s competitions last year. This time, part of the country’s hosting is a pair of friendly games featuring the national team against China and the Netherlands in between the tournament.
“Hosting world-class volleyball events helps not only the Filipino fans but also encourages our national team to play better and get more ideas. This is a reward to the Filipinos as one of the best fans in the world. It’s the fan experience that makes the difference,” said Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) President Ramon “Tats” Suzara.
“Do know that in every dig, every set and every spike, Pasay City will always be cheering and rooting for you, with the rest of the world watching us,” said Mayor Imelda Calixto-Rubiano of host Pasay City.
Also gracing the event yesterday at the Diamond Hotel, which will serve as VNL’s official hotel, were Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Richard Bachmann, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Guevara, MOA Arena General Manager Arnel Gonzales and Diamond Hotel Rooms Division Manager George Reynoso.
Mr. Guevara said that First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos will attend the opener on July 4, featuring Brazil versus Italy and Japan against China, and will lead the ceremonial serve.
The Philippine leg will serve as the last and crucial stage of the VNL preliminary phase to determine the Top 8 teams advancing to the final phase on July 19 to 24 in Poland. — John Bryan Ulanday