An emotional moment for Teodor Salparov in front of the Bulgarian fans in Varna
Sofia, Bulgaria, May 3, 2018 – Bulgaria coach Plamen Konstantinov has announced an impressive roster of 26 players for the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
The Lions recently finished sixth at the 2017 CEV European Championship. One change to the team concerns experienced former captain Todor Aleksiev, who does not feature in Konstantinov's list of players for the VNL.
The names of some other well-seasoned volleyballers, however, are back on the roster for the all-important 2018 season, when Bulgaria will also co-host the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship in September, together with Italy. Along with left-handed striker Boyan Yordanov, 2006 World Championship bronze medallist, outside hitter Valentin Bratoev and opposite Nikolay Uchikov are among the noteworthy returnees.
Plamen Konstantinov has also included a number of young players and even national team rookies from clubs in the Bulgarian Superliga. According to the coach, the domestic championship has just had what was probably the most competitive season in the last 20 years.
“We have to find the right balance between young and old to be able to play at a high level,” said 35-year-old libero Teodor Salparov, whose club team, Neftochimik 2010 Burgas, triumphed with the national title last week.
“It is going to be an exciting summer. The new VNL is almost like a world championship – the best 16 teams in the world will take part and we will play against each of them. As far as the World Championship itself is concerned, the last time it was held in Bulgaria was way back in 1970. Who knows if it will happen again in the next 100 years? To have a full house of thousands of spectators singing the national anthem together is a unique emotion and every athlete’s dream.”
May 7 has been announced as the official start of the team's preparations, but several players from the roster, for whom the club season has finished, are already training in Sofia. The team will travel to Russia for a couple of friendly matches with their national team. On May 25, Bulgaria will start their VNL campaign in China, before hosting Australia, Russia and Serbia for a second-week tournament in Sofia. The Lions will then travel to Japan for the third week and to Iran for the fifth, entertaining Brazil, Canada and France at home in Varna in between.
“We have very little time to work as a team before the matches get underway,” Plamen Konstantinov added. “Because of various injury problems and recovery programmes, some of the players will have to miss different parts of the Volleyball Nations League. On the positive side, more of the boys on the roster will get a chance to play. Our minimum goal for the VNL is to preserve our spot in it for the next season. How far above that goal we are going to aim will depend on the physical condition of our main players. With the World Championship taking place on home ground, we all have to maximize the positive effect, both for Bulgarian volleyball and for the country as a whole.”
Bulgaria’s extended roster for the 2018 season:
Setters: Dobromir Dimitrov, Georgi Bratoev, Georgi Seganov, Vladimir Stankov
Opposites: Boyan Yordanov, Nikolay Uchikov, Tsvetan Sokolov, Velizar Chernokozhev, Ventsislav Georgiev
Outside hitters: Branimir Grozdanov, Dimitar Marinkov, Nikolay Penchev, Plamen Shekerdzhiev, Rozalin Penchev, Todor Skrimov, Valentin Bratoev
Middle blockers: Aleks Grozdanov, Iliya Petkov, Krasimir Georgiev, Nikolay Nikolov, Svetoslav Gotsev, Teodor Todorov, Viktor Yosifov
Liberos: Petar Karakashev, Teodor Salparov, Vladislav Ivanov