THE quest for volleyball glory begins for the Philippines after finally determining its grouping in the 2014 PLDT Home Fibr Asian men’s club volleyball championship in April in Manila.
In the biggest staging yet of the prestigious continental tournament with 18 teams competing, the host country has been automatically placed in Group A along with seventh-ranked Iraq, before being drawn with Kuwait and Mongolia.
Defending champion Iran is drawn in Group B together with Japan, Lebanon, and Vietnam, while Group C is composed of runner-up Qatar, Kazakhstan, Oman, Hong Kong, and Turkemenistan.
Chinese Taipei, China, United Arab Emirates, India, and Papa New Guinea comprise Group D.
The meet is set April 8-16.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to the quarterfinals, with the last team standing representing Asia in the World Cup in May in Brazil.
National team coach Francis Vicente is upbeat about the country’s chances following the draw on Friday at the New World Hotel in Makati.
“I’m very confident that Filipinos are one of the best sa volleyball. Tiwala lang,” said Vicente, whose team faces Mongolia first on opening day, Iraq on April 10, before finishing the group stage by taking on Kuwait a day later.
“Hindi naman mag-champion agad (ang goal), but we want a good result na ang mga Pilipino papalakpak.”
But Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) vice president Shanrit Wongprasert, guest of honor during the official draw, warned of the level of play in the tournament where teams are allowed two imports each.
“Most of them (clubs) are better than national teams,” he said.
Vicente said more than 25 players are currently in the national training pool, which will be pruned to the 18-man squad the coach will name by the last week of March for the competition.
AVC development and marketing committee chairman Ramon Suzara said the country is also holding talks with players from Korea, Japan, Russia, and Brazil as possible imports for the squad.
Wongprasert inspected the possible venues, confirming Ninoy Aquino Stadium and Cuneta Astrodome as the two competition halls, while the training sites are in Army, Marines, Makati Coliseum, and Rizal Memorial.
The hosting, alone, is a milestone for the sport in the country.
“This marks the start of the renaissance of Philippine volleyball,” local organizing committee chairman Philip Ella Juico said.