By Maryam Hessaby

Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, October 10, 2021 – Sirjan Foulad Iranian and Al-Arabi Sports Club became the only two unbeaten teams after three days of action-packed pool matches in the 2021 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at Terminal 21 Hall, while home-crowd favourites Nakhon Ratchasima QminC VC suffered first defeat on Sunday.

Kazakhstan’s Burevestnik Almaty went down 2-3 in their opening clash of the one-week competition against South Gas Club of Iraq, but shrugged off their rust and clawed their way back to beat Nakhon Ratchasima with an exceptional straight-set 25-18, 25-21, 25-22 victory, ceasing the remarkable unbeaten run of the reigning and six-time Thailand League champions.

Nakhon Ratchasima head coach Padejsuk Vannachot said, “Actually, we wanted to win this match to guarantee our presence in the next round. I admit that I’m a bit disappointed with the result. The Kazakh players take their height and strength advantage and fight with powerful games. My player Thanat Bamrungpakdee could not score and lost his confidence in this game. However, I do not want to blame him or anyone in the team for the disappointing loss in this match because it was a very tough game for us. We need to win the next match.”

Nakhon Ratchasima’s left-hander Amorntep Konhan said, “It was not our day. We have some fatigue from the last two games and we did not perform well in service reception and block. For myself, I am in 70% of my utmost attempt. I should have performed better. In the last match in the preliminary round, we must win and I can guarantee that.”

The formidable Kazakhs will next go up against CEB Sports Club of Sri Lanka on Monday, while Nakhon Ratchasima will have a rest day and play their last Pool A clash against the Sri Lankan side the following day.

Meanwhile, the Iran’s Premier League champions Sirjan Foulad Iranian held off stiff challenge from AGMK to demolish the Uzbekistan Premier League winners in dramatic four-setter 26-24, 25-14, 24-26, 25-10 for their second win in Pool B.

Prolific Saber Kazemi, who performed brilliantly at the last month’s 21st Asian Senior Men’s Championship in Chiba to steer Iran to straight-set victory against hosts Japan for the eventual title and land the MVP award, scored a match-high 17 points including 15 spikes for Sirjan Foulad Iranian.

Saeid Rezaei, head coach of Sirjan Foulad Iranian, said, “Today we lost the third set to our individual errors. Against Al-Arabi tomorrow, we will have to field a strong line-up. Al-Arabi are benefitting from two powerful foreign players from Serbia and Brazil. Juan Cichello, head coach of Al-Arabi, used to take over coaching the Iran national team and he knows Iranian volleyball very well. We will try our best.”

AGMK head coach Aziz Teshsbaev said, “Despite the fact that after a long break, the Uzbek team again returned to participate in the Asian Club Championship, we hope to become a worthy rival to any team and show a beautiful game regardless of victories or defeats. Our team consist of young players, six of them are part of the national team of Uzbekistan who took part in the recent Asian Senior Men’s Championship.

“There are many experienced players in the Iranian team. Today’s game was quite productive and interesting, but as a result of insufficient experience, we lost 1-3. I am happy that we are given this chance to play against strong teams like Iran. We are gaining experience for further participation in future Asian Championships,” he added.

The other Pool B match saw formidable Al-Arabi Sports Club prove their superiority over Rebisco Philippines to pull off the unfancied rivals in a comfortable 25-19, 25-15, 25-19 win.

With the sensational victory over Rebisco Philippines, Al-Arabi made it two for two in Pool B. The Qataris and their closest rivals Sirjan Foulad Iranian, both of whom remained undefeated, will battle it out on Monday for the pole position in Pool B.

Rebisco head coach Dante Alinsunurin said after the loss to Al-Arabi Sports Club, “Joshua [Retamar] normally starts as our setter but as you can see I called up Ish [Polvorosa] today to do the playmaking. I commend his court sense and I think you could see how veteran he is when it comes to ball distribution”.

Despite the loss, Rebisco showed improvement in their match against Al-Arabi Sports Club and could seriously challenge them in some moments.

Rebisco’s libero Manuel Sumanguid III said, “Honestly, everyone is hungry to play for win and we are doing our very best. We are doing a lot of sacrifices with our time and our families. You can really see our hunger to excel.”

“Every time Coach Dante [Alinsunurin] brings us in, he reminds us to do our best, to grab that opportunity. The atmosphere and conditions inside the team are very healthy. We’re like a family, we’re like brothers. I am really happy that our bench is full of players who can step up and are willing to work harder,” he added.

Rebisco, whose nine players competed in the 2019 South East Asian Games on home soil where they picked up silver, are due to face Thailand’s Diamond Food, many of them also took part in the Games, in their last Pool B match on Monday, seeking their first win in this top-tier Championship.

Earlier, in-form South Gas Club, which narrowly beat Burevestnik Almaty from Kazakhstan 3-2 in their opening match before going down 1-3 to Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima QminC VC on Saturday, proved a class above CEB Sports Club to record their second win and keep their semifinals hopes alive.

South Gas Club will go up against Kazma Sport Club of Kuwait in an all-Arabs duel on Monday, while CEB Sports Club with two losses in succession will face off against Burevestnik Almaty.

South Gas Club head coach Alaa Khalaf Abdulsattar said, “My players feel exhausted and I gave rest to some of my players. We are playing four days in succession. The tomorrow’s match will be a do-or-die match for us. If we win, we will go to the top four and if we lose, we will fight in the next round.” 



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