Only last year, Philippine volleyball was in disarray.
Two factions were bickering, players were in a crossfire and officials were slinging mud, turning the sport more into a war zone where only the strongest, the most influential, will survive.
Then, a small miracle happened.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) gave its blessing to the new federation, Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI), followed by the recognition from the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) and Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) in record time.
In the middle of the discussion was Ramon Suzara, the president of the Philippine Superliga (PSL), marketing and development committee chairman of the AVC and a prominent member of the FIVB.
He stood at the forefront of negotiations with top FIVB officials in a serious bid to put the Philippines back to world map of volleyball.
It wasn’t an easy task.
He turned gloom into sunshine, darkness into day.
Few months later, the Philippines is here, ready to host probably the biggest, the most glamorous, volleyball tournament in the world: The FIVB Women’s World Club Championship.
The dream has finally turned into reality.
Philippines rolls out red carpet
In the official press release, the FIVB and Eventcourt announced that the Philippines will be hosting this year’s FIVB World Women’s Club Championship from Oct. 18 to 23 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
South American heavyweight Rexona Ades Rio de Janeiro will see action as it tries to give Brazil its fourth world crown against a very tough field that features CEV Denizbank Champions League heavyweight Pomi Casalmaggiore of Italy, Asian supremo Bangkok Glass of Thailand, the Philippines, and two other wildcard entries.
The Philippines will be represented by a squad that will feature six of the best players from the PSL together with six guest players.
The host country’s reinforcements have yet to be identified, but sources say the chief sponsor is willing to break the bank just to acquire the services of the world’s best players from Turkey, Italy, Brazil, United States and Russia.
The Turkish side of Exzacibasi Vitra took home the crown when the tourney was staged last year in Zurich, Switzerland.
Suzara and Jacobi met in Manila last Sunday for the formal signing of the memorandum of agreement.
Good for Philippine volleyball
More than treating the fans to exciting volleyball action, the tournament will also serve as a world-class training ground for local players.
Suzara said the six PSL players will be given a visit to their respective home provinces where they will be handed with a golden ticket signifying the invitation to the tournament.
Once the challenge of joining the tournament has been accepted, the PSL stars will be ranged with the foreign players in an intense training before marching to war against the world’s best spikers — a once in a lifetime experience which will surely boost the level of play in the country.
The last time the Philippines hosted a world volleyball meet was in 2000 when it hosted a leg of the FIVB World Grand Prix. No local team saw action, but the tournament still took the entire country by storm with Brazilian beauty Leila Barros winning the hearts of volleyball-crazy Filipinos.
“But our players are experiencing international level of competitions only lately. The 2016 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship will be one — if not the biggest — of the major international tournaments we will be hosting.”
Suzara is absolutely right, Philippine volleyball is experiencing a rebirth.
Sure, there will be some hiccups, some birth pains, some turbulence, along the way.
Nothing will come easy.
It’s going to be a brutal process.
But with its hosting of the 2016 FIVB World Women’s Club Championship, the Philippines is sending a very strong message to the superpowers in volleyball: Watch out. We’re slowly getting there.