Volleyball mania took hold of Poland. Hadhrafa: A different world and ten times more money now

And on Sunday, the Poles attacked for their third consecutive title of world volleyball champions. They failed, losing to the Italians 1:3 at home in Katowice. However, their medal collection from the past decade is respectable. The best Czech volleyball player, Jan Hadrava, who defeated the vice-champion of Poland from the town of Jastrzype, describes the charm of the local “siatkówka” and tries to compare the Polish volleyball obsession with the environment in the Czech Republic.

What do you think of the World Cup that ended on Sunday?

I mainly watched the playoffs, not the groups. We train a lot with Jastrzebie, you don’t have a lot of energy for that. Other than that, I expected the Poles to be in the top four, the Italians stunned like last year in the European Championships. For example, I trusted the French more. On the other hand, it turns out that the Italian and Polish championships are currently the best in the world.

You’re training in Jastrzepi, so it’s not far from Katowice, where the championship was crowned. Did you visit it yourself?

I was not. I was looking for tickets but they sold out hopelessly. When tickets were already available, they either went to the top, which I did not like very much, or for terrible sums in the order of tens of thousands of crowns.

You, as a Polish League vice-champion player, did not get a ticket. This only speaks to the huge fan interest.

it is. But it is also related to the fact that the bots bought many tickets at the original price, and then dealers resold them for exorbitant amounts. This was a big problem in Poland.

However, the Poles were finally able to count on the halls filled with noisy fans. What about the atmosphere they create over and over again?

It’s amazing, but it doesn’t surprise me anymore. I might have expected more atmosphere. It was great, it was always sold to the Poles. They are able to go to other matches too, they consider it a volleyball holiday with everything.

Jan Hadrava (2) at WC 2021 Volleyball.

Jan Hadrava (2) at WC Domestic Volleyball 2021. | Photo: CTK

How big a role does spectator support play in volleyball? The Poles won the 2014 World Cup on home soil, were third on home soil in the European Union last year, and this year took home a silver from the World Cup.

It certainly has an effect. Players definitely feel this support, even if it might hook someone up. I would just like to point out that the bronze medal from the European Commission last year was a disappointment for the Poles. As for how strong a team they have, only gold would be an achievement.

Will the Poles be disappointed with this year’s world silver?

I don’t believe in that. They have won the World Cup twice in a row, and now they are in second place. With a renewed ensemble, substantially new. Their hearts will warm in a week. On Sunday, the Polish commentator said the 10 of them took the silver in 2006. He must remember that it could be worse.

This year it was because the tournament was moved from Russia, but the Poles have already staged two World Cups and two European Championships in the past eight years. Soon there will be a ladies’ restroom. And it seems that Polish fans still can’t get enough of volleyball.

The Poles are able to create conditions in half a year. I can’t imagine it, for example, here. In Poland, sports are generally supported much more. In a short time, they were able to find out everything from an organizational point of view, in the Czech Republic I don’t think we know yet where the matches will be held. This support is much greater in Poland, even among young people.

So, even if it’s alluring because of geographical proximity, Polish and Czech volleyball can’t be compared, see? Depending on the background or money.

In my opinion, it’s not just volleyball. In our country, the money goes mainly to football, but in Poland it seems to me more extensive. Of course, the Czech team did not achieve results like the Poles in volleyball, which is probably why this sport is not so attractive. This, of course, is an important reason.

Some of the best players in the world have been playing in the Polish league in recent years. How will the financial comparison with the Czech Republic end? How much do they earn there?

It’s a different world. In Poland, salaries are nine or even ten times higher than in the Czech League.

And the captain of the Italian national team and the most important player in the tournament, Simone Giannilli himself, claimed after the final that “Poland breathes for volleyball.” What does everyday life look like in a country hosting such a tournament?

I would say that those who don’t care about it won’t be affected much. So I wasn’t in the cities where the World Cup was held live, but I didn’t see people with flags drawn in the streets. No mad mob. But those who love volleyball give it a try and constantly talk about matches and results.

But above all, television in Poland is fueling this interest, right?

At the Polsat station you can find all the matches of the league, all the matches of the national team. The viewer does not miss anything. Polsat broadcasts the broadcast, and it happens in the season that there are three consecutive live matches on TV. She has a large number of followers. With us, you have a live broadcast once a week or two. In addition, Polsat is not a public terminal, so there is much more money in advertising. In Poland, a vortex around volleyball is winding up.

The national team matches in the World Cup have now also been broadcast on public TVP1.

As you can see, it works even on two channels at once. Not real.

Where did the volleyball boom in Poland come from? The biggest successes have really come in the past decade, and it hasn’t been this way before.

They grew up with a hugely successful generation and the domestic league rose a lot. Thirty years ago, he was probably on the same level as the Czech. Until then, all Poles went to France, Italy and Germany. Now it is the other way around. The league educates young players and goes hand in hand with the national team. In Poland, there are rules on the minimum number of domestic volleyball players on the field, and this is missing here. Young volleyball players are given space as they run.

Spodek Hall in Katowice during the semi-final between Poland and Brazil.

Spodek Hall in Katowice during the semi-final between Poland and Brazil. | Photo: Reuters

A look at past history suggests that Czechoslovakia were more successful in volleyball than the Poles. But now they’re running away, right?

What they do for volleyball and how they have set up the entire system makes sense in the long run. We can only learn and try to apply something to the Czech environment. It would be great if we could fight our way to the World Cup, and maybe even the Olympics someday, after so long.

I’ve played in the Polish league with only one break since 2016, so you can judge by it. Is volleyball a national sport for the Poles? Although they also love football, they have international superstar Robert Lewandowski.

Football is a phenomenon all over the world, but I think volleyball is the national sport. I always compare it to what hockey means to the Czechs, however, I think volleyball is something bigger for the Poles.

How do the league matches look in terms of atmosphere and fans?

During covid, I had the opportunity to compare it to an empty hall, also in Italy, and that’s an amazing difference. Emotions often play a big role, there are teams that were half as good without spectators. In some cities not many people go, but in Zawiercie, for example, you have spectators a few meters from the stadium. When you throw the ball to serve, people can slowly take it away from you. They are close and yell at you. It can really excite a person.

How do they chant? Do spectators create a hostile atmosphere towards the opponent?

I only experienced an outright hostile atmosphere once. The spectators booed, but that was related to one player’s gestures. However, I’ve never tried anything before, for example in Greece, when they sometimes had to take players out of the side entrance. Cups and other things flew onto the field. The culture in Poland is different, even fan clubs congratulate each other after the match. They don’t curse, they don’t fight. It’s okay, you can go to volleyball with your family.

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