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16/01/2014 20:00
Getting to know: Aleh Akhrem, “the heart” of Asseco Resovia RZESZOW
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Rzeszow, Poland, January 16, 2014. The captain of Asseco Resovia RZESZOW, Aleh Akhrem, played a superb game on Tuesday anchoring Poland’s champions to a 3:1 home victory over Belgium’s sensation Knack ROESELARE in the first round of the Playoffs 12 of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Men.
Akhrem scored 21 points as Resovia stopped the winning streak of Knack in the competition after Belgium’s champions had swept six matches in a row in the prelims. “I do not think that much about my individual performance because in the end everyone played just great on Tuesday” Akhrem says. “We are very happy with the result of this game. We did not start that good losing the first set but then we got back on track, found our rhythm and played as a team, thereby enduring some difficult moments. Every player contributed to this victory and we delivered a very good performance” continues the 30-year old Akhrem. “However, though we won this game, we do not take anything for granted. Knack ROESELARE is a very strong team and they can beat anyone. Next week we have to play better than we did here. They will be at home and enjoy the support of their fans, so we have to do everything we can to win again and make the Playoffs 6.”

The city of Rzeszow is some kind of Volleyball “Mecca” there in Poland. How would you describe and explain the Volleyball “fever” that is always spreading around there whenever Resovia plays? Is it something you got to experience in any other city or place you have been to?

“Yes, the city of Rzeszow lives for Volleyball and the fans also. I do not know why, but they simply love our sport. We are of course very happy to get that much support from the fans. They are our seventh player on the court. We always want to make the fans happy so that after every game they can go home satisfied and with a good feeling. In Poland it is normal to have many fans in attendance at every Volleyball match. Before coming here, I played in Greece and there we also had many fans, but they were not as interested in our sport as those that we have here in Rzeszow. Here the nicest moment comes at the end of the season when you step onto a stage in the city centre and you get to see thousands of people that have come to celebrate and are happy because of you and your team. To get to experience such moments it is really worth to work hard, play and win.”

You have got dual citizenship (Belarus and Poland). How do you combine these two “souls”?
“I am 50% Belarusian and 50% Polish. I was born in Belarus and have a house there, but also have my home here in Poland. I feel good in Belarus and in Poland too, I can’t say that I have any preference or the one is better than the other. Polish and Belarusian people are very similar. We share the same mentality. When I played in Greece I realized that down there they have a totally different culture and mentality. After I came here, I got to feel like at home in Belarus.”  

Even though rumours were spreading around some time ago that you would switch allegiance and start playing for the Polish national team, you stayed loyal to your home country and played for Belarus at last year’s European Championship and also at the World Champs qualifier in Paris in early January. How do you evaluate the current status and potential of the Belarusian national team? Which results can this group reasonably achieve in the near future? Is it important for the young guys there in Belarus to have a role model and a leader to look at like you?
“It is not that easy to say something about the status and potential of the Belarusian national team. We played at the European Championship and it was quite a big thing for us, but in the end we were not that successful and could not make it through the prelims. However, for most of the players it was the first time they played an international competition of that level. They got to play some of the best teams in Europe and this will help us for the future. We still have a lot of work to do. There are a lot of young players with good potential in Belarus but I can only say that we still have to work hard. I do not know if I am a leader or a role model for the younger players, but I think it is important to keep on working so as to reduce the gap from the strongest teams.” 

Four years ago Belarus hosted the final round of the Junior European Championship in Bobruisk and Mogilev. Is Volleyball getting more popular in your home country or does it suffer from the competition of other team sports, like for instance ice hockey? How would you try to raise the popularity of Volleyball to higher levels?
“Unfortunately Volleyball still suffers from the competition of other team sports like ice hockey, soccer or basketball. Volleyball is not really getting more popular there especially because our national team did not achieve any major success lately. I think that for any sport you first need to achieve good results in order to get more visibility among the people and in the media.”

Can you recall something about the early days when you started playing Volleyball? How did you take up this sport? Did you try out any other sport before you finally opted for Volleyball?

“Yes, I remember that day very well. I was attending classes at my school and two girls came searching for some people to play Volleyball. They were playing Volleyball for the team of our school and they wanted also some boys to join it. I was 10 years old and was straight away admitted to join the team. I got my first diploma and I remember that moment as if it was today. It was April 25, 1993. So this is going to be 21 years since I started playing Volleyball. I started, trained and participated in some tournaments. By the time I was 15, I understood that Volleyball was and would be my life. I wanted to play as a professional and be successful in this sport. Igor Kolodinsky, who is now playing for Dinamo MOSCOW, was with me and we played in the same team with Alexander Butko, who in 2012 won Olympic gold with Russia. The three of us are all from the city of Grodno.”

You have two sons. As a father, would you wish your kids one day will also take up Volleyball or any other professional sport? Would you like them to follow in your footsteps or go their own way? Why?

“Yes, I wish my sons one day will take up Volleyball but this is no obligation. My dream is that one day they will be playing Volleyball at a good level and I would like to support them because I know that it is really important when you have someone behind who is supporting you in everything you do. Now they are still very young (3 and 5 years of age) but they come to see my matches. If they will ever say they want to be like their dad, I will help them.”

If you had the chance to talk to some young guys, how would you motivate them to choose Volleyball? Is it a sport only for tall and physically gifted people or is it a sport for everyone?

“I think Volleyball is a great sport but you have to work hard to be able to play good. I do not think you have to be that tall or physically strong, the most important thing is that you love what you are doing. Starting from this pre-condition, you can achieve everything. So for this reason I would encourage everyone to try out our wonderful sport.”

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