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13/08/2015 13:00
Estonia’s detour in quest for European League glory
2015 CEV Volleyball European League - Men

Walbrzych, Poland, August 13, 2015.  Sometimes the road to success may take longer than expected.  When the ball starts flying in the Polish city of Walbrzych and the participating teams in the Final Four of the 2015 CEV Volleyball European League – Men put their hopes of glory into play, one of the contesting squads will try to make a statement in their quest for gold: Persistence pays off.

Click here for more information, including statistics, a comprehensive picture gallery and competition programme.   

The Estonian players representing their country in the Final Four see the opportunity to claim the title in CEV European League as a long time coming. Nine years to be exact. It has taken three appearances and a nine-year hiatus in the tournament for the Baltic team to finally have the opportunity to fight for the crown of the competition, in an outstanding and historic comeback. Now, the eyes of the Baltic nation are set on the group of players competing in Walbrzych.  

“For a little country like Estonia, it is a very big thing to play for the medals in a competition like this. Right now, we are very focussed on trying to win the title, it is our main goal and dream. For Estonian Volleyball, this tournament is extremely important,” declared Tarvi Pürn, General Secretary of the Estonian Volleyball Federation.

The ride to Walbrzych hasn’t been easy for Estonia, but all the stakes are high now for Gheorghe Cretu’s men.  “Each step that we have taken is important for the moment that we are at now. Estonians are very proud about their nation and for such a small country, it is remarkable the level of support that we receive, with many journalists coming to this event and about a hundred fans traveling to Poland to see their team. The current of Volleyball in Estonia is going higher and higher. If we win here, the support is going to be much stronger, and that’s very important for Volleyball in the country,” declared the Romanian-born coach of Estonia, Gheorghe Cretu. 

The first steps are the hardest

It was on June 4, 2005 when Estonia made their debut in the CEV European League. On that historic weekend, the Baltic side was close to sign a surprising premiere in the tournament, as Estonia went on the brink of achieving a shocking victory against the eventual winners of the 2005 edition – Russia - in two matches that had to be decided in the tie-break (2:3 and 2:3). The rest of the competition was not as cheerful for the Estonians, as the team from Tallinn finished in the last position of pool 1, with a balance of two victories in 12 games and only 13 sets won. The following year Estonia returned to the CEV European League, with similar bitter results: one triumph in 12 matches and a skimp tally of seven sets won.

“We have to consider that the teams participating in CEV European League back then are different that the ones taking part in the tournament now. It was logical that back then we could only have a couple of victories. But, for sure, our team is better now and in good growing process,” stated Mr. Pürn. After that letdown, Estonia took the long way around to glory.

It was a difficult decision, with many setbacks, the representative of the Estonian Volleyball Federation reckons. “There are several reasons why we didn’t participate in the tournament for nine years. One, for financial reasons; we are a small federation and we have to use our resources efficiently. Also, it was about priorities. Our goal was to qualify for the CEV European Championship and we decided to build our team in other ways. But the worst part is that if you don’t compete in tournaments like the CEV European League, you are not visible, and you cannot promote our sport,” commented Mr. Pürn.

Joyful comeback

However, Gheorghe Cretu’s men have returned to the competition with a vengeance. Nine years after their farewell to the tournament, the Estonians have starred in a sensational comeback, producing a remarkable run of ten victories in ten matches, with only seven sets lost and a convincing domination of the Pool A of the League Round. “The important thing is that we have worked with a group formed by many young players. We have brought them to the team and this tournament has given them the possibility to get more experience. The combination of young and experienced players is what gives us the power,” stated coach Gheorghe Cretu.

The efficiency demonstrated in the first stage of the competition has placed Estonia as the front-runners of the Final Four being held this week in Walbrzych. “The work that I have continued here with Estonia is not a novelty and stared many years ago; the proof is the qualification for the CEV European Championship. But for us it is very important to succeed here, in order to continue having the support we receive and to increase the promotion of Volleyball in the country,” stated Cretu.

Now, the goal of Estonia is to prove with a golden finishing touch that perseverance may also be a successful route to the top. Even if waiting a decade is what it takes. 

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