After its Europe trip not pushing through, the Philippine Men’s National Volleyball Team will instead head to Qatar this Sunday to continue its preparations for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam
The development was confirmed by Philippine National Volleyball Federation president Tats Suzara during PNVF and Rebisco’s virtual send-off for the national teams on Tuesday morning.
“Men’s volleyball of course again they’re supposed to go to Europe but again, Italy refused to accept them because of the COVID situation. Again, it’s not a good time to go to Italy at the moment, and at the same time their club [tournament] is ongoing,” said Suzara.
Qatar, one of the Philippines’ closest friends in Asian volleyball according to Suzara, welcomed the men’s team with open arms. Aside from the Qatar Volleyball Association, the Filipino community in the country also expressed great interest in the possibility of hosting the national team there.
“So, finally Qatar Volleyball Association is one of our closest friends in volleyball in Asia, accepted them and I see also the energetic reception of our Filipino community in Qatar.
“There’s a lot of following in Qatar and the level of play of Qatar men’s club are also high, as you know they qualified na sa world championships and they got a bronze medal in beach volleyball during the Tokyo Olympics. So the level of Qatar is really going high,” he added.
For their part, men’s head coach Dante Alinsunurin said that the team already bounced back from the challenges that were brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the team has already shown great strides during the team’s practices and the training camp in Qatar will only do nothing but good to the program in its bid to surpass its silver medal finish in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
According to Alinsunurin, they will hold trainings twice a day in Qatar. The morning session will be for team trainings while they will play friendlies against Qatar-based teams at night.
“Siyempre kung ano ‘man yung nangyari sa amin nung silver pinanghahawakan namin yun. Medyo nagkaproblema lang tayo nung pandemic pero last year naman nakahabol na kami then ngayong taon mas nakapagpahinga kami, naibalik na namin kung ano yung mga nawala sa amin then ‘pag dating ngayon sa Qatar mas madadagdagan pa ‘pag dating dito sa magiging exposure namin sa Qatar,” said Alinsunurin.
“Tapos siguro mas madedevelop pa namin yung pagkukulang namin nung SEA Games like yung service [at] receive namin kailangan mataas pa namin yung efficiency ng service and receive namin. Mostly doon lang naman kami nag kulang pero ayun, na-address na namin kung ano yung mga pagkakamali namin nung SEA Games pero ayun, laban pa rin kami ‘pag dating ngayong SEA Games,” he added.
Composing the men’s team that will fly to Qatar are holdovers from the 2019 SEA Games team such as Mark Alfafara, Johnvic De Guzman, Rex Intal, Jack Kalingking, Jessie Lopez, Kim Malabunga, Ish Polvorosa, Joshua Retamar, Francis Saura, and Joshua Umandal.
Also part of the group are Nico Almendras of National University, JP Bugaoan, Ysay Marasigan, and Manuel Sumaguid of Cignal; Navy’s Joeven Dela Vega; and University of the East’s Lloyd Josafat.
Meanwhile, the men’s team’s prized hitters in Marck Espejo of Tokyo FC and Bryan Bagunas of Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler are set to miss the training camp due to their respective commitments in the V.League.
Alinsunurin, though, assured that the two will be available for the national team this May.
“Hindi pa po sila makakasama kasi ongoing pa po yung tournament nila sa Japan,” said Alinsunurin.
“Nag-usap na kami na by last week of April or first week of May, darating na po sila para makasabay sa training namin,” he assured.
Curiously left out of the squad is former National University standout Ricky Marcos, who also played a role in the Philippines’ silver medal bid in 2019.