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17/04/2016 17:20
Volleyball is a family affair in Slovenia – The ‘Urnaut case’
2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Men

Krakow, Poland, April 17, 2016. Only a couple of days ago Tine Urnaut had shared his excitement (click here) for the Slovenian outside spiker was just about to make his first appearance in the final stage of the elite CEV Volleyball Champions League. Urnaut had a real shot at the gold medal on Sunday but he eventually had to be content with silver and with the award for the second best outside spiker of the competition, which makes him a member of the Final Four ‘Dream Team’. Urnaut was closely followed in Krakow by mom Anita and dad Adi, and a short chat with Tine’s parents make you easily understand that Volleyball is really in the genes of this family.

On Sunday Tine became the third of the Urnauts to contest the final match of the most prestigious club competition in Europe. His father Adolf, aka Adi, was indeed a member of Yugoslavia’s Mladost ZAGREB when this team played and eventually lost the final match of the 1964 Champions Cup to SC LEIPZIG of the German Democratic Republic. Adi acknowledges that it was a totally different era for the sport: “You know, there was no Final Four at the time and the final stage of the competition consisted of two matches, one at home and the other one away. The venues of these matches were nothing to be compared to this huge and modern arena we have seen here in Krakow; we could not count on such massive crowd and enthusiastic support and even the attention we got from the media was not that impressive whereas now dozens of reporters are here to follow the competition,” he says.

33 years later Tine Urnaut’s elder brother, Andrej, followed in the footsteps of his dad and played the final match of the 1997 Champions Cup as well when wearing the shirt of Belgium’s Noliko MAASEIK. “Back then the Final Four was held in Vienna and Andrej’s team lost the gold medal match to the Italian team of MODENA,” mom Anita recounts, “so we are very much hoping that Tine can finally break this negative trend and become the first member of our family to win the Champions League.” In the end this wish was not fulfilled but mom Anita and dad Adi can be very proud of what Tine did in Krakow.

Though the Urnauts are a Volleyball family, Anita says that none ‘obliged’ Tine to pursue a career in the sport. “Apart from my husband, I was myself a member of the Slovenian national team but after an injury I suffered when skiing, I switched to Sitting Volleyball as I developed a minimal disability on my knee,” she recounts. “I played for the national Sitting Volleyball team for 20 years, starting in 1992 and retiring in 2012 after competing in the London Paralympics. However, we did not force Tine in any way to play Volleyball. He started swimming when he was only eight months old and as a child he did a little bit of everything – soccer, handball, basketball, alpine skiing. At some point, when he was about 10, he decided he would focus on Volleyball and admitted he had always known this would be his preferred choice.”

Tine has progressed slowly but surely from the younger age groups up until paying for his home country’s Volleyball heavyweight, ACH Volley, which was previously based in Bled before moving to Ljubljana. “He initially combined school with Volleyball and spent a few days a week at home and the others with the team, travelling for about 200 km to get there,” Anita recounts. “He eventually decided Volleyball would be his profession and in order to improve his skills, he moved abroad. It is not always that easy for young players to do that, but luckily while spending his first year in Italy he fell in love with a girl and they have been together ever since. She has been supporting him very much in every step of his career so far and this is very important when you are away from your family and home country.”

The Urnauts were amazed, yet not completely surprised by the electrifying ambiance they got to experience at TAURON Arena: “We do think this is something truly unique and that you would only find in Poland at the moment. Of course, the fans are turning out in huge numbers but what really impresses us is the fact that they stay on even when the home team is not playing. This means that they really love Volleyball, that they are passionate about the sport and they do not only come to root for their favourite team. However, we were quite familiar with that even before travelling to Krakow because Tine spent one season in Poland playing for Zaksa and the arena in Kedzierzyn-Kozle was always too small to accommodate all fans willing to follow their home matches,” they recount.

Mom and dad are understandably proud of their son but also of how much Volleyball has developed in Slovenia lately: “This is a dream that has come true,” dad Adi reveals. “I have been waiting for years, or I should say for decades for this to happen. We have always had a group of good players but for one reason or the other they never made it to the very top and as a result they never made the headlines on the media.”

This trend has changed following the historic results claimed last year by the men’s national team captained by Tine and coached by Andrea Giani: their triumphal march in the 2015 European League was followed only three months later by a sensational silver medal at the EuroVolley in Sofia.

“I am really proud that two players of our national team, my son and Klemen Cebulj, have been playing in the finals of the Champions League and for two different elite teams from Italy,” Adi Urnaut says without hiding his pride. “This is some kind of a dream that has come true and it really shows how much Volleyball has developed in our country and how competitive our players are.” They have become so competitive that they now return home with a silver – Urnaut – and bronze – Cebulj – medal from the event held in Krakow, hoping one day they will be standing on top of the podium…   

Click here for further information and visit the official website

Click here for a live gallery of the competition; on social media please use the official competition hashtags #CEVChampionsLeagueM and #CLF4Krakow

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