JAPAN’S Suntory Sunbirds were last night crowned champions of the 2023 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship, which came to a spectacular close in the kingdom.
The Sunbirds secured their maiden continental crown – and the first-ever title for any Japanese team in the tournament – with a resounding 3-1 (28-26, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17) victory against Jakarta Bhayangkara Presisi of Indonesia in an exciting final, played in front of a large crowd at Isa Sports City in Riffa.
Police Sports Team from Qatar claimed the bronze after defeating Shahdab Yazd of Iran 3-1 (24-26, 25-16, 25-20, 25-19) in the game for third place.
Bahrain Olympic Committee (BOC) board member and Bahrain Table Tennis Association president Shaikha Hayat bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa and Bahrain Volleyball Association (BVA) president Shaikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, along with officials from the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC), BVA and other regional volleyball leagues, attended the finale.
Shaikh Ali and the tournament’s control committee chairman Emile Jabbour were among those who presented the awards, along with special trophies for individual performers.
Sunbirds star Dmitriy Muserskiy was named the Most Valuable Player. Fahreza Rakha Abhinaya of Bhayangkara was the Best Libero, while Makasi Oya, also from the Sunbirds, was the Best Setter.
Police’s Belal Nabel Abunabot and Bhayangkara’s Hendra Kurniawan were the Best Middle Blockers, while Amir Ghafour of Shahdab was the Best Opposite Spiker. Cuban Alain Junior de Armas of the Sunbirds and Mohammadjavad Manavinezhad of Bhayangkara rounded out the top players as the Best Outside Hitters.
In the gold medal match, Muserskiy was a force to be reckoned with, finishing with a game-high 31 points while making some crucial plays that helped decide each set. De Armas added 26 for the Japanese, while Manavinezhad scored 22 to pace the Indonesians, with Ugandan Daudi Okello scoring 21.
The result earned the Sunbirds their first Asian clubs title, and in doing so claimed the lone place from the event to the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship, happening later this year in India.
The Sunbirds had finished as the silver-medallists twice in the past, including in last year’s edition and earlier in 2001. Furthermore, the Sunbirds became the first Japanese club to win this prestigious championship.
Finishing fifth were Kuwait Sports Club. They battled past South Gas Sports Club of Iraq 3-2 (23-25, 29-27, 15-25, 25-18, 15-11).
Iranian star Saber Kazemi had a 34-point performance for the Kuwaitis while teammate Mohammad Salem Alsuwaid finished with 11. For the Iraqis, Muntadher Yasir scored 19 while Bulgarian Todor Skrimov finished with 13 in defeat.
Korean Air Jumbos Pro-Volleyball Club claimed seventh place overall after defeating Bayankhongor Crownd Geo VC of Mongolia 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-18).
Clinching ninth place amongst the 16 teams were Bahrain’s Al Ahli, who needed to dig deep to overcome Atyrau VC of Kazakhstan 3-2 (25-17, 21-25, 25-15, 21-25, 15-11). Brazilian Gabriel Candido had a game-high 28 points for the home side, while Bahraini star Mohammed Yaqoob scored 23. Vitaliy Vorivodin top scored with 14 for the Kazakhs, while Belarusian Artur Udrys finished with 12.
Gold: Suntory Sunbirds (Japan)
Silver: Jakarta Bhayangkara Presisi (Indonesia)
Bronze: Police Sports Team (Qatar)
4-8: Shahdab Yazd (Iran), Kuwait Sports Club (Kuwait), South Gas Sports Club (Iraq), Korean Air Jumbos Pro-Volleyball Club (Korea), Bayankhongor Crownd Geo VC (Mongolia)
9-12: Al Ahli (Bahrain), Atyrau VC (Kazakhstan), Taichung Bank (Chinese Taipei), Canberra Heat (Australia)
13-16: Diamond Food Fine Chef-Air Force (Thailand), Kam Air (Afghanistan), Khaypil Sports Club (Yemen), Aspiring Volleyball Team (Hong Kong, China).