By Marie Louise Principe

Chiba, Japan, September 19, 2021 – Iran successfully defended their title at the 21st Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship, after a thrilling 3-0 (27-25, 25-22, 31-29) match against hosts Japan on Sunday evening at the Chiba Port Arena.

Iran’s gold medal achievement gives them the direct qualification toward the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship to be held in Russia in 2022.

But for Iran captain Milad Ebadipour, the gold medal now worn around his neck weighs much, much more.

“The significance of this gold medal is our effort. After the (Tokyo2021) Olympic Games , we’ve had really bad days because we didn’t qualify after the group stage. After that, we’ve had a really amazing training, even under this bad situation in all of the world,” said Ebadipour in an interview after Sunday’s Awarding Ceremony.

“I’m really happy for this golden squad. They showed and gave everything for the Iranian people,” Ebadipour added, referring to the younger generation of players in the team including the top scorer in the championship match.

Awarded as the competition’s Most Valuable Player, Kazemi exploded with 21 points, and delivered in clutch moments despite bearing slight difficulty, limping his way in the closing plays.

The champions swept all their matches, dropping merely one set (in the 3-1 semifinal against China) throughout their 2021 run.

As vice-champions of the competition, hosts Japan will also participate in the World Championship in 2022. The home team confirmed their slot as early as Saturday, after they won in their semifinal encounter against Chinese Taipei.

China bagged the bronze medal with their 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17) defeat of Chinese Taipei. Captain Jiang Chuan scored 16 points, as China’s tall, powerful line-up dominated in both block (12 points), and serve (7 aces).

Qatar completed their bid with a 5th place finish as they took straight sets, 3-0 (25-21, 25-11, 25-23) against Australia. Youssef Oughlaf and Nikola Vasic combined for 32 points in the victory.

Pakistan placed 7th with straight sets, 3-0 (23-25, 25-15, 28-26) on Korea. The Pakistan side imposed strong block defense on their opponents, completing a total of 12 points off deflections.

Over at Funabashi Arena, India finished 9th in the competition with their tie-break win, 3-2 (25-16, 25-23, 20-25, 23-25, 16-14) on Bahrain. Ashwal Rai scored 24 points (19 attacks and 5 blocks). Subham Chaudhary added another 19 markers in the win.

Kazakhstan completed the competition in 11th place with straight sets, 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-23)
against Saudi Arabia. The Kazakh side led on all scoring fronts, connecting with 42 attacks, 11 stuff blocks and 4 service winners.

Uzbekistan took 13th place after winning 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-21) against Hong Kong, China.
Mukhamm Kobuljonov and Azizbek Kuchkorov scored 13 points each for the winning team, while Cheung Ngai Yiu posted 14 points in the defeat.

Thailand finished in 15th place after their 3-1 victory (25-16, 21-25, 25-23, 25-20) against Kuwait.
Jirapat Bunka led all scorers with 20 points, scored purely on attack.

The Championship marked the return of the sport to Asia, as it banners the first official competition amidst the global Covid-19 situation. The Chiba Port Arena welcomed back spectators to enjoy the matches live, but under much different settings to ensure health and safety for all.

The competition likewise marked its return to Japan 38 years after the third edition hosting in Tokyo in 1983.

1. Iran
2. Japan
3. China
4. Chinese Taipei
5. Qatar
6. Australia
7. Pakistan
8. Korea
9. India
10. Bahrain
11. Kazakhstan
12. Saudi Arabia
13. Uzbekistan
14. Hong Kong, China
15. Thailand
16. Kuwait

1st Best Outside Hitter – Milad Ebadipour Ghara (IRI)
2nd Best Outside Hitter – Yuki Ishikawa (JPN)
1st Best Middle Blocker – Aliasghar Mojarad (IRI)
2nd Best Middle Blocker – Li Yongzhen (CHN)
Best Libero – Mohammadreza Hazratpourtalatappeh (IRI)
Best Setter – Javad Karimisouchelmaei (IRI)
Best Opposite – Kento Miyaura (JPN)
Most Valuable Player – Saber Kazemi (IRI)

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