The future of the Russian national volleyball team is in doubt, Alexey Verbov – for the legionnaires, the coach of the team and the impressive bronze

Kazan “Zenith” was 100% favorite of the Russian men’s volleyball championship, but it stumbled. In the semifinals of the tournament, Kazan lost to Lokomotiv Novosibirsk and was left with only the bronze.

Zenit’s coach Alexei Verbov could not sleep for two nights after that unfortunate defeat. But now the emotions have been released and he said directly to the “Championship” about the unfortunate semifinals and the rumors about the appointment of the coach of the national team of Russia to the vacant position and the future of our national team of men outside world volleyball.

“We have become hostages of this hysteria”

– Alexey Igorevich, almost a month has passed since the Final Six. Let fall?
– Now it’s easier. Emotions were released, a rational analysis of what had happened began.


Photo: RIA Novosti

Do you make wrong decisions in your mind?
– I did not sleep for a few nights, I woke up for 10 days and a shiver really caught me. I still scroll in my head: what, how and why. First of all, always, even as a player, I experienced difficult defeats and for a coach of course this is many times more difficult. In this group, no one was indifferent – we lived with one goal, so everyone was in a lot of pain. Everyone experiences defeat in their own way: someone cries, someone holds on.

– It seems that Zenit’s base is big enough and experienced players enough to not withstand the excitement and pressure. What happened?
– I have been thinking about this for a long time. As much as we would like to remove the shackles of the favorites, unfortunately, this did not work. And, of course, I do not absolve myself of responsibility for what happened. Mentally, we were not ready for these games, but to my understanding, that was the main task of the coaching staff. In the modern world, it is impossible to get into the void and give up everything. We have become hostages to this hysteria that Zenit is invincible. During this year we encountered practically no resistance. So, having conceded a great opponent in the semi-finals, who had nothing to lose, who took risks and succeeded, and instead, everything fell apart for us – the worst game of the season in terms of numbers – we just stopped playing volleyball: we started thinking things are not compatible with this. When you are a super-favorite on paper, and everything that day is against you, it makes you lethargic. Even experienced craftsmen are not invulnerable to it.

– Can we say that the form of Final Six just does not fit Zenit, but is it successful for Dynamo?
– Each “Final Six” is a separate event that has nothing to do with each other. Zenit has won such finals more than once.

– The network creates requests for the resumption of the playoffs. Will you register?
– Of course, I’m for the playoffs. This is the difference between a league and a cup: in volleyball, a ball can change everything. When the game is lost 25-23, this is only one goal difference. Globally, it can turn everything upside down. We won a ball in every game with Dynamo in the group. He also talks about luck. But, of course, when you play the playoffs with three wins, the luck factor is minimized. For the past 10 years, we have been able to count the playoffs on the fingers of one hand. Kazan this year – after the news of the cancellation of the World Cup in Russia – fought for a change of regulations. Although we had a “Final Six” house.

See how the Italian playoffs went from the semifinals: these are 14 top level matches with the stands full. In the Russian “Final Six” there were four such fights – and then by stretching. See what happened in the Russian basketball championship. In hockey, what a hack! Definitely this form is better and more attractive.

“We won 50 finals and lost only two”

– Despite the bronze, do you think that Zenit Kazan is the strongest team in the Superleague?
– We were just crazy this year, objectively the best until May 9 in all respects. As a coach I am completely satisfied with the way we spent this season. For me, absolutely every match is the final: whether it is the qualifying phase of the Cup or the final of the Champions League. And I try to pass that on to the children. As a result, we have won 50 finals and lost only two, in my philosophy. Also last year, Dynamo is the best team for me, even though they lost the third game to Fakel and did not make it into the top four. Failures happen, this is the reality of sports.

Alexei Verbov

Alexei Verbov

Photo: RIA Novosti

There are also positive moments in the whole situation: only this semifinal helped me get to know the kids and myself, in a stressful situation. Before this game, everything was very smooth for us and, of course, a certain veil was formed. Only such defeats help us to become better. We will draw conclusions and we will be even stronger.

– You admitted that you watched the women’s playoff series. Out of curiosity or does female volleyball have its own nuances and coaching decisions that you can borrow?

– I try to watch all the sports when it comes to relegation matches. But, of course, for volleyball – specifically: whether it is a man or a woman. Evaluate the work of the coaches, breaks, substitutions or just follow the gestures and emotions.

– Do you want, like Carpol at 84, to be one step away from the title?
– He is unique. His achievement, I think, is simply impossible to replicate in modern reality.

“Nobody discussed the national team issue with me”

– Maxim Mikhailov said that the hardest approach of the coach is familiar and effective for the Russian team. Do you know how to “inspire terror”?
“You have to be yourself first and foremost. You do not need to play any role, it will not bring results. I choose a team based on my philosophy – I do not need to intimidate anyone. Cheerfulness or rest, for example, is sometimes necessary, but the key here is “sometimes”. The coach must be an authority and how to win it – each specialist chooses for himself.

Did Tuomas Sammelvuo leave his post unexpectedly for you? Did you manage to say goodbye?
– This decision was proposed on its own. The team does not participate in matches and no one knows when it will participate again. The question is how appropriate is it for the national team to come together in the summer? Youth can be led. They, as far as I know, will do it. And recently I met Tuomas in Kazan, he came to our team for three days. So it’s time to chat.

Tuomas Sammelvuo

Tuomas Sammelvuo

Photo: RIA Novosti

– Did you agree with all his positions as a coach?
– It is impossible to agree with all the decisions of another person just because they are his decisions. After a while, you disagree with your decisions. Evaluating the work of colleagues is definitely not in my rules, so there is a specially created committee of coaches.

-You avoided answering for the appointment in the national team. And now? If it comes before the event, do you agree?
The very wording of the question – “what if” – is already trivial. There will be a day, there will be food, as they say.

Regardless of the decision, you already have a symbolic group in your head – who is in which position?
– This season it is not at all clear what will happen to the national team, if it will be collected. Apart from the press, no one discussed the issue of the national team with me. Now I am on vacation and in July we start preparing for the season with Zenit.

– Do you think it is easier or more difficult for a new coach to join a new team under ban? Does it seem like there is time to get used to it and find fresh solutions? On the other hand, keeping the collections in good condition will not work.
“It simply came to our notice then. The question would be best asked to the future coach of the national team.

“All places are in danger: both clubs and athletes”

– How did you react to the arrival of Zoran Terzic in the women’s national team? Is this a league transfer?
– To be honest, I reacted with great surprise, since the chances of seeing him at work in the near future are very small. May friendly games be organized.

– How will the transfer policy be structured in the next two years: foreign volleyball players are still being examined by Russian clubs and they in turn want to accept invitations?
– While it is difficult to predict what will happen tomorrow, not to mention next season. It is very difficult to make predictions. Budgets have not yet been approved in many places, the exchange rate is soaring, money transfers abroad have become much more complicated, many foreigners refuse to come, but, nevertheless, there are those who want to play here even without European cups. To some extent, now all parties are in danger of signing contracts: both clubs and athletes.

Russian team

Russian team

Photo: RIA Novosti

– Due to lack of European competitions and, therefore, incentives, will the amount of contracts for the legionnaires increase?
– I think there will be a certain growth rate. To be honest, this is not my jurisdiction. I’m more like a volleyball court.

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