A milestone found in Bahrain
- on May 28, 2023
Korean Air, who won the 2022-2023 V-League men’s combined championship, will start a full-fledged vacation just 50 days after confirming their victory in the championship match.
Korean Air started training again after taking a break for about two weeks right after winning the championship on April 3rd. After that, I spent a little over three weeks building my body and refining my tactics. And on May 11th, I left for Manama, Bahrain. It was for the 2023 AVC (Asian Volleyball Confederation) Men’s Club Championship. This is the first time a professional men’s team has participated in this event.
In Korea, during the unemployment volleyball season in 1999, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance in the men’s division participated for three consecutive years and won twice. After that, in 2015, the last appearance of the men’s division was when the Armed Forces Sports Unit participated in 14 years and finished 6th.
In the women’s division, LG Refinery (now GS Caltex) participated for the first time in 1999 and won the championship, and in the following year, in 2000, Hyundai Engineering & Construction (4th place) also participated in the competition. Later, in 2005, Korea Expressway Corporation, which turned professional, participated and took 3rd place, and in 2010, KT&G (now KGC Ginseng Corporation) finished 9th in the competition.안전놀이터
Korean Air’s participation in the Asia Club Championship is meaningful. Unlike the previous season, which ended with the V-League schedule, it was a courageous choice in that we tried to look back on our current status through matches with various Asian clubs.
The cost of participating in this tournament was borne by KOVO (Korea Volleyball Federation). Early on, the federation declared support for the men’s and women’s teams to compete. In the men’s division, the 2021-2022 champion Korean Air responded right away, while in the women’s division, all seven teams, from first place team Hyundai Engineering & Construction to the new team Pepper Savings Bank, were reviewed and declined. There were many reasons, but I’m sorry.
Korean Air had to revise its plan several times after deciding to participate in this competition. Initially, all domestic players except for foreign player Lincoln were planned to play, but power loss was inevitable as setter Han and middle blocker Kim Gyu-min, who needed rehabilitation, were excluded from the entry. Libero Jung Sung-min couldn’t even get on the plane to Manama.
Also, outside hitter Kwak Seung-seok, who was in charge of captaining the field, was almost in the warm-up zone or replaced at the back except for the last game. Jung Ji-seok, the axis of power, also had limited appearances, and the main middle blocker, Cho Jae-young, only played in some games.
In the end, Korean Air was in a situation where the 1.5 group came out in this competition. During team training, the operation was centered on players who were mainly in the B court. It is true that I was hopeful. Korean Air went into the early game with a decent starting lineup, including opposite striker Lim Dong-hyuk, outside hitters Jeong Han-yong and Lee Joon, middle blocker Kim Min-jae and Jin Ji-wi, setter Yoo Kwang-woo, and libero Oh Eun-yeol.
However, the schedule to play 7 matches in 8 days from 3 consecutive matches in the group stage and 4 consecutive matches after a day break was tough. Setter Yoo Kwang-woo needed physical strength, so Jeong Jin-hyeok took the opportunity to play in many games, and Oh Eun-ryeol’s libero injury forced Song Min-geun and Kang Seung-il to play on the court. To arrange Lim Dong-hyuk’s stamina, Son Hyeon-jong also stepped up as an apogee spiker.
Even before the first game, I was very curious about how well Korean Air would perform in this tournament. The result was 4 wins, 3 losses and 7th place in the final. It’s clear that it’s a bit disappointing.
After two consecutive wins in the group stage, Korean Air advanced to the quarterfinals as second place in the group, losing to Indonesia’s Bayankara Fresh. After that, they lost to Suntory Sunbird of Japan and failed to advance to the semifinals, and lost to Kuwait Sporting Club and were pushed back to 7th and 8th place. In their last game, they won 3-0 against Bayanghongor, Mongolia. Starting Kwak Seung-seok added a great sense of stability to the team.
Japan’s Suntory and Indonesia’s Bayankara, which Korean Air had lost, advanced to the finals to win and runner-up respectively. Suntory put the 218cm Mushal Skis ahead and prepared for this competition without power loss. Daudi, who played in the V-League called Bayankara, was alive and well, and the performance of outside hitter Farhan, who submitted an application to the Asian Quarter last year due to the national team schedule, but withdrew, was impressive. Farhan was under Steenbin, but he was a player recruited into the team for this tournament. Iranian outside hitter Manabi Rezard was also a short-term recruit.
As such, most of the teams in this tournament have organized their lineup into two types, either playing at their best or strengthening their strength with outside recruits. On the other hand, only Korean Air entered the tournament without a foreign player in a situation where a large number of key players were missing.
Next year’s event will probably be sharpened by Korean Air as they try to win. Player Han and Kyu-min Kim, who watched the game from the spectators, were thinking a lot, and the captain of the tournament, Seung-seok Kwak, also expressed his desire to play at full capacity. Head coach Tommy Tilikhainen also mentioned that this is not a competition to be taken lightly.
There are two things that Korean Air clearly gained from participating in this competition. First of all, it can be pointed out that the backup players were clearly motivated prior to off-season training through their participation experience. I realized what I lacked and how to train. Another thing is that all players have been able to recognize and prepare for this competition next year. We realized that the end of the season is not the end, but the beginning of preparation for this competition. I found out that it is also necessary to extend the ITC (International Transfer Agreement) period for foreign players.
Since its inception in 2005, the V-League has evolved a lot. In particular, if player salaries and welfare have reached a world-class level, now it has become a challenge to maintain performance through player development. In particular, it is a big challenge for men to keep in line with the world stage. In that respect, Korean Air’s participation in the Asia Club Championship was a good opportunity to escape from ‘frogs in the well’.
Korean Air learned a lot from Bahrain, an island nation smaller than Jeju Island. I realized that only by surviving on the international stage can I become a true powerhouse on the domestic stage. The milestones found in Bahrain suggest the direction and goals for Korean Air in the future. This is a point that not only Korean Air, but all domestic clubs should feel keenly.