Bahrain’s head coach Yusuf Khalifa has urged volleyball fans to help inspire the kingdom’s junior team in the 19th Asian Men’s U20 Volleyball Championship, which starts tomorrow at Isa Sports City in Riffa.
Bahrain are one of 24 nations taking part in the biennial event, and all indications point towards a very high level of competition amongst the continent’s best rising talents.
“We definitely need the full support of the spectators for us to do well in this championship,” Khalifa said today.
“We need everybody – from the families of our players to their friends and to all who love volleyball in Bahrain – we need your backing and it would really be of big help to us.”
Bahrain are in Pool D1 of Division One for the preliminary round along with Iraq and Qatar. The hosts open their campaign against their Iraqi counterparts tomorrow night, and Khalifa is expecting tough matches.
“Iraq are a very strong team,” Khalifa explained. “They have very good players with experience and I hope we can come up with a good plan against them. Qatar are also very strong; so we need to play our best in order to beat them both.”
Bahrain’s best finish in the Asian U20 championship was fourth in the tournament’s 2014 edition, which was also hosted by the kingdom. Khalifa said that the team’s ultimate goal this year is to at least match that result or do better, but acknowledged that the circumstances have changed since then.
“That is our target, we will try our best to reach fourth again – that is our goal,” Khalifa said. “It will not be easy though and we are following a new system in this championship. The rules are different and it makes things more difficult for everybody.”
Bahrain head into this year’s tournament with a squad that has many players returning from the team that competed last year in the FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship. The nationals managed a respectable 13th-place finish amongst 20 of the world’s best teams.
“Almost 80 per cent of our team that competed last year is back,” Khalifa explained. “We have at least a couple of new players who will make a good impact on our team this year, but overall our boys are ready. We just have a couple of points to work on, and we will take things game by game.”
From tomorrow, all matches will be played at two arenas in Isa Sports City in Riffa. All are welcome to attend. Entry is free.
The prestigious biennial championship has been organised by Asian Volleyball Confederation in co-operation with Bahrain Volleyball Association (BVA).
Teams continued to arrive in Bahrain yesterday.
For the Preliminary Round, aside from Pool D1, Division One also includes China, Iran and South Korea in Pool A1; Japan, Thailand and Turkmenistan in Pool B1; and Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and Australia in Pool C1. In Division Two, Chinese Taipei, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia make up Pool A2; Hong Kong, Jordan and the UAE are in Pool B2; India, New Zealand and Uzbekistan are in Pool C2; and Macau, Maldives and Malaysia are in Pool D2.
Bahrain’s opening match on Day One against Iraq is scheduled to start not earlier than 7pm. Other games on the day begin at 11.30am.
The Preliminaries continue until Monday, and those results will determine the matches for the remaining few days. The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will be held from July 26 to 28.
Aside from being the Asian championship, this year’s tournament acts a qualifier for the FIVB Men’s U21 World Championship, which takes place next year. The gold and silver medallists will earn the right to represent Asia in the worlds.