Nikola Kažić, who is responsible for the national teams run by the Volleyball Federation of Montenegro (OSCG), knows that the spring and summer ahead imply a lot of hard work, preparation, planning and much more. Therefore, everyone at the OSCG is working to create the best conditions to allow progress and ultimately achieve the best possible results.
“We have many actions this year, from senior national teams to all other categories. It is necessary to provide the right conditions because the obligations of the national teams overlap in terms of dates. We have managed to do so and now we are slowly moving towards the final preparations,” said Kažić.
The first national team to take to the court will be the women’s senior squad, which will play the CEV Silver League this year in May and June. “We did not want the national team not to play in any competitions this year, because we have a very young, promising team, significantly rejuvenated this year, and we simply wanted them to have strong competition, and a greater number of games through the European League. Young players who are now developing and playing in serious clubs can thus gain as much experience as possible in games in the national jersey. Of course, the result is not imperative, but I think that a place in the Final Four tournament would be something with which all of us in the Federation could be satisfied and that it would be the real start of something big that awaits us, which is the qualification for the European Championship and that we finally succeed to qualify for the next EuroVolley,” Kažić commented.
The U17 men’s national team will debut at the U17 European Championship, which will be hosted in Podgorica from July 19 to 30. Kažić emphasises the experience of the Volleyball Federation of Montenegro in the organisation of important competitions: “The U17 European Championship will be the second European Championship organised by the OSCG and given that we have a phenomenal team of operational people, who have successfully implemented every possible organisation of qualifying tournaments for different age groups as well as the previous U17 European Volleyball Championship, I am sure there will not be any problems because so far we have always received the highest possible marks for the organisation from the European Volleyball Confederation,” he continued.
“As for our younger boys, I think it will be a valuable experience for them. We changed the system, and this year we started to gather children much more often, especially in the younger categories. They already had several weekend gatherings, they had preparations, they took part in the ‘May Tournament’ in Belgrade, and they are also expected to prepare and participate in the Balkan Championship, ahead of the preparations and the actual participation in the European Championship. We carefully selected promising boys, head coach Darko Prebiračević and me visited all the clubs, watched training sessions, many friendly tournaments, as well as the first round of qualifications for the U17 Montenegrin championship, which ended a few days ago. Certainly, we made the choice based on the perspective of Montenegrin Volleyball. We have very young boys in that selection. Some are even two or three years younger than the age limit, and they will play in the first line-up, which in itself says that next to all the other biggest European national teams, we will not be someone who will lead the way. Nevertheless, a large number, at least seven strong matches, will mean these boys can compete with the rest of Europe, and it will show us what we need to do in the future so that both men’s and women’s Volleyball will be at the highest possible level,” Kažić pointed out and added that in the upcoming period even more attention will be paid to the younger categories.
“What is certain is that all the younger selections will go to a large number of international tournaments, and we hope that through a large fund of matches, they will come and knock on the doors of the senior national teams. We will follow very carefully every new child who appears in each club and include him in the work of our national teams. From next season, we definitely plan to play pioneer leagues, both men’s and women’s, through which, by playing more games, the children will progress significantly.”
The men’s senior national team at the beginning of a new era with head coach Ivan Joksimović fulfilled the hopes, which were not the primary goal – they qualified for the European Championship already in the first cycle with a rejuvenated team. Great success was brought by the third consecutive appearance at EuroVolley, which confirms good work and consistency.
“We ‘survived’ a very challenging last year in which we were practically without four players who were starters at the previous European Championship. Many were sceptical about how it would look like, because simply without Vojin Ćaćić, as the captain of the national team and other important members of the selection, many things were unknown. With head coach Joksimović, we decided to rejuvenate the national team, that process started last year and will continue this year. Somewhere we set the goal that the next year would be the one in which we would chase a place in the European Championship, however, last year with phenomenal games, especially against Portugal in Kolašin, against an extremely strong national team, we came into a situation to exceed the goal and claim a place in the European Championship. However, this will not change our plans to rejuvenate the national team. That will continue, as I said this year, and in addition, my wish is that this year, regardless of the young team and the process, we attack the second phase of the European Championship. I think we have the quality for that, I think we have a group in which we can play equally with everyone, except for the very high-quality Poland. So, with hard work in the lead-up and if everyone is healthy, we will certainly have the opportunity to go to the second phase of the tournament,” Kažić is optimistic.
The right to be optimistic is also given to him by the efforts that the OSCG invests in improving the conditions for the work of all national teams. “For the preparations of the senior national team, we have provided excellent conditions in Kolašin, in the hotel Bianca, as well as a large hall where, from the first moment, a special volleyball surface, will be installed, which is very important. We also invested significant funds in the training infrastructure – we ordered a special machine for serving, serving reception and defence, as well as two pairs of devices for the block and two baskets with multiple hoops, which will significantly raise the level of training quality of the men’s senior national team,” Kažić concluded.
Moreover, the U22 men’s national team, after last year’s debut at the U22 European Championship, will play in this year’s qualifications for the continental event coming up in 2024, and numerous younger national teams will play at their respective Balkan Championships.