The FIVB Executive Committee is meeting this week in Marrakesh, Morocco, with major news and announcements are expected – including a rumored proposal to change the organization’s name altogether.
The first information to come out is that of 13 approved requests for players to change nationalities – 11 indoors and 2 on the beach.
These players will have the same rights and obligations as other players in their new federation, with the exception that if they have previously represented their former country internationally, they will have to wait two years before being eligible for selection by their new federations. That two-year clock starts when an athlete files a request with the FIVB.
These changes of federations have varying degrees of significance. In some cases, they are bona fied internationals. In others, it offers attempts for pros to alleviate the home-nation rules of the domestic leagues in which they play. For beach players, these changes can often come in order to pair with new partners from a different nation – typically difficult to do in the FIVB system.
The most significant movement is that of 28-year old Cuban Yoandry Leal, who since June 1, 2015 has been a naturalized citizen of Brazil. Leal played on Cuba’s national Team at the 2010 World Championships (where the team earned silver), 2009 NORCECA Championships (where they earned gold), and several other international tournaments.
Since beginning his naturalization process in 2013, former Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende already expressed interest in having him on the 2016 Olympic Team, although he did not gain permission to change his citizenship soon enough. The 6’7″ (201 cm) outside hitter plays for Brazil’s best pro team, Sada Cruzeiro, professionally.
He was named the MVP of the 2015 FIVB Men’s Club World Championship Tournament, of the 2016 Men’s South American Volleyball Club Championship, and the best server of the 2009 FIVB World League.
As significant as his approval was, the omission from the list of another Cuban defector, Wilfredo Leon, is equally significant. Leon has gained Polish citizenship and asked for permission to change his sporting citizenship, but Cuba isn’t cooperating on their part for giving him permission to do so.
The 23-year old Leon, who was on Cuba’s National Team from the time he was 14 in 2007 until 2012, also played at the 2010 World Championships. Leon is considered one of the best spikers in the world, a title he has earned with 3 consecutive best outside hitter awards in the European Champions League. He was also named that tournament’s MVP in 2016 while representing Zenit Kazan – the tournament’s champion each of the last three seasons.
Other highlights from the list:
- Opposite Sonja Percan has been approved to transfer from Croatia to Italian sporting citizenship. The former University of Louisville standout has played in Italy for most of her 13 year professional career, including most recently with VolAlto Caserta in the second-tier A2 league. She has in the past been called up to play for the Croatian National Team, though now 4 days shy of her 36th birthday, her days of international volleyball are passed. Having lived so long in Italy, this is a natural transition, and one that could help her club sign other foreign players while complying with league quotas.
- 16-year old Athina Dimitriadis, who is of Greek descent, is already in the German Junior National Team system. She was submitted to play at this summer’s U18 European Championships, but didn’t get permission for the switch in time.
- Nikola Raznatovic, who played for Montenegro’s National Team at the 2013 European Championships, is now Serbian. The two countries were a combined political entity from 1992-2006, with the last decade of that being primarily a nominal arrangement. the teams competed together at the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
- 27-year old beach player Fabiane Aires Boogaerdt, who has represented Brazil internationally on multiple occasions (including at the U-21 World Championships, where she took bronze in 2010), has jumped to Chile. After a long hiatus from the sport, she played a tournament with Chris Vorpahl in Chile. Vorpahl, who used to play for Chile’s Indoor National Team, is 26 and had been retired as well until earliier this year.