12 September 2018

The programme designed for the opening day of the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Men’s Volleyball World Championship 2018 in Rome on 9 September included much more than ‘just’ the matchup featuring Italy and Japan. A couple of hours before Ivan Zaytsev and the other ‘Azzurri’ took to the court where they celebrated a 3-0 victory over Japan, a very good share of Italy’s golden generation came together at Foro Italico as well.

The President of the Italian National Olympic Committee, Giovanni Malagò, and the President of the Italian Volleyball Federation, Pietro Bruno Cattaneo, hosted members of the Italian national team that made history back in the 90s by sweeping three World Championship titles in a row (1990, 1994 and 1998). Also President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella attended the event supporting his national team.

Lorenzo Bernardi, Marco Bracci, Luca Cantagalli, Ferdinando De Giorgi, Alessandro Fei, Andrea Gardini, Giacomo Giretto, Pasquale Gravina, Andrea Lucchetta, Marco Martinelli, Marco Meoni, Samuele Papi, Michele Pasinato, Damiano Pippi, Simone Rosalba, Andrea Sartoretti, Paolo Tofoli and Andrea Zorzi were welcomed by 11,170 fans at Foro Italico in Rome. Shortly afterwards, they moved to the scenic tennis stadium of the Foro Italico to follow the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship 2018 opening game, with the audience spontaneously paying tribute to these legendary players with a standing ovation.

Italy claimed World Championship gold in 1990, 1994 and 1998 – a feat that only Brazil could equal with their three straight titles from the 2002, 2006 and 2010 editions.

Earlier in the evening, the players of the Italian women’s Sitting Volleyball national team enjoyed the opportunity to stand on the very same stage and to receive the right tribute to their efforts following the historic fourth place they claimed at the World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships held earlier this summer in the Netherlands.

The Men’s World Championship is also an opportunity to spread a message of hope and tolerance and with this in mind, the captains and coaches of the six teams – due to compete in Florence today, 12 September – received indeed special t-shirts produced to commemorate 100 years since Mandela’s birth while a media meeting on the eve of the match.

The stadium hosting Pool A matches of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship 2018 in Florence bears the name of former South African leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, who – If still alive – Mandela would have turned 100 this year.

At the end of their training session at Mandela Forum, the full Italian national team paid a visit to a replica of the prison cell where Mandela spent 27 years of his life. The Azzurri took a special photo to commemorate this moment and pay tribute to such an outstanding leader and personality as the former President of South Africa.

The 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship is the 19th tournament featuring world senior best men’s national teams. For the first time the tournament is jointly-hosted by more than one country – Italy and Bulgaria – from 9 to 30 September 2018.  The final six will be hosted by Italy at the Pala Alpitour in Turin.