IBB Polonia put on brilliant Champions League spectacle
31st October 2019
There was no fairytale comeback for IBB Polonia but the club put on a brilliant show as they brought Champions League volleyball to England for the first time.
Trailing from the first leg, Polonia exited the competition in straight sets to the excellent Mladost Zagreb but that didn’t detract from a historic moment for English volleyball.
Around 1,000 people were at the iconic Copper Box arena to cheer Polonia on and it was a real spectacle. If you missed the game, you can relive the action by watching the official match coverage and read the full match report on the CEV website, including the match stats.
Zagreb came out the blocks in blistering fashion and underlined their extra quality by storming to the first two sets 25-9 and 25-12 respectively. Despite that meaning Polonia were out, the home side dug deep to give Zagreb a real battle in the third. They went down 25-22 but had gone toe-to-toe with the professionals from Croatia and entertained the crowd, who were noisy and passionate throughout.
Fans were also treated to seeing Brazilian volleyball legend Giba don the Polonia shirt. The former World and Olympic champion said it was a great moment and urged English volleyball to keep growing. He said:
“The atmosphere was just like in Brazil; they party hard and don’t stop until the end.
“The team from Croatia played unbelievable volleyball, but we will keep going. We need to train more, find more sponsors and keep promoting this beautiful sport. It is super important that IBB Polonia London are doing this.”
Polonia’s head coach Evangelos Koutouleas echoed the need to use this moment to keep driving the club to new heights. He said:
“We have to realise that we are at the transition from amateurs to professionals. We played against a super professional team and we can see the result. During training today, only half of the team were available, as they were working. I am very happy for the great third set that we played. It was not that the other team gave us points. Believe me this was amazing: listen to my voice!”
They were plenty of highlights for Polonia on the night, particularly the form of Mihail Stoev who was in superb scoring form. In the end though, the plaudits had to be handed to Mladost who showed the class of the teams at this level.
Head coach Radovan Malevic was delighted to progress and said he supported Polonia’s vision to have an English team on the biggest stage. He said:
“The first two sets were good for us, because technically we are a better team. The third set gave us some technical problems and I had to make some changes; but finally, we won the match 3-0 and we enjoyed the atmosphere in the hall. The organisation was very, very good from the home team. I want everything good for this club. I think England must have a good team in the Champions League because England is a big country. I think they have the possibility to do so.”
Main pic credit: CEV.