Every player or coach who has been involved with international volleyball has some kind of travel story / nightmare. There are many, many things that go wrong while attempting to move groups of human beings large distances. And sometimes several of those things can go wrong at the same time. Those occasions are the ones that make the best stories. The best story was probably the one that involved negotiating a bribe to be allowed to leave Uzbekistan.
The second best story involved travelling from Slovakia to Argentina. Due to the lack of appropriate international competition, it was decided that we had to accept an invitation to participate in a tournament in Argentina right after a tour of Europe. The only small problem was that the first game in Argentina was less than three days after the last game in Europe. What happens next is an epic travel story.
Leaving in the middle of the night from the Olympic training centre in somewhere I no longer remember in Slovakia, our first leg was a trip to Vienna where we caught a flight to Heathrow. From Heathrow, we had the relative comfort of a longish haul flight to New York, JFK (or was it Newark). There we went through customs and baggage control and climbed into mini buses for the ride to Newark (or was it JFK) for the next leg to Buenos Aires. Sadly Buenos Aires was not final destination. But we did get to wander into the city to a sport school for lunch (breakfast? / dinner?) and sit around for a few hours waiting for a domestic flight to a small place with the same name as the training centre in Slovakia. Once we got off that plane and collected our luggage we were nearly there. Just a one hour bus ride to Tucumán left.
So if you are counting at home, that is four flights (three international, one domestic) and three bus trips (not counting airport – Buenos Aires – airport) and a total travelling time of 48 hours. Luckily we had nearly 24 hours to recover from the travel before playing pre defection Cuba. Remarkably, we hung with them for a set and even had a set point in the first. Strangely, we ran out of steam after that and lost in three sets. You can watch the match below.
We played two other matches in that tournament before travelling on to other, ever more remote, parts of Argentina to play against the hosts. Before that relatively easy travel we had one more training session booked in the same gym as the tournament. As you can see the gym looked okay on TV but it was pretty dumpy (eg the toilets in the changerooms didn’t function). But as bad as it was we weren’t quite prepared for what awaited us in the gym we had played in twelve hours earlier and which the organisers had assured us was prepared for our practice.
Nobody was there. The Sport Court had already been taken away. Two centimetres of dust everywhere. No net. No lights. No wall. Nothing. We didn’t practice. Click on the picture to enlarge, and yes, that is a bird next the lone net post that they hadn’t bothered to do anything with.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.