Volleyball: Ahmedabad Defenders set to face world's best in FIVB Club World Championships

Wilfredo Leon (R) is the main threat for his club (Perugia) and Poland (no. 1 ranked national team) Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The FIVB Men's Volleyball Club World Championship (CWC) is happening in India in 2023 and here's everything you need to about it... and why you ought to watch it:

So, what's the CWC?

The best that club volleyball has to offer. It's an everchanging format - but essentially involves calling up the best club teams from different continents (winners and runners-up of the respective continental competitions) for a week(ish)-long tournament to decide which is the best club volleyball team on the planet. It was started in 1989 and held for four years before a long break. It resumed in 2009 and has been held every year since.

Oh, so it'll be a good watch?

'The best that club volleyball has to offer' was no exaggeration. And you don't even need to be a die-hard volleyball fan to appreciate the quality on offer.

Think of it like this: if Lionel Messi's Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid came to India to play each other in their prime - and also Wayne Rooney's Manchester United and Arjen Robben's Bayern Munich - wouldn't you have made a beeline for the ticket counter? This is just that, in volleyball terms. These are the best players in the world doing what they do day-in day-out at the highest levels in their domestic (and continental) leagues; and they'll be doing it in India.

Unlike the FIFA Club World Cup, where games can be heavily skewed to favour the lone European side, the talent spread is much more even across teams here. Which should make for a fun watch, to say the least.

Who's playing in it?

From Europe we have defending champions Sir Sicoma Perugia of Italy and Halkbank Spor Kulubu of Turkey. From South America we have Brazilian clubs Itambe Minas and Sada Cruzeiro Volei. From Asia we have Suntory Sunbirds of Japan and Ahmedabad Defenders of India (both of whom will become the first clubs from their respective countries to play in the CWC).

An Indian team qualified?

Well, they did, but by virtue of being hosts. Since India are hosting the tournament, and the Defenders won the national league, the Prime Volleyball League. Ergo, presto... The Defenders are a strong volleyball team, coached by one of India's most experienced volleyball coaches (Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan). They finished runners-up in the inaugural season and won the second (and latest) edition and are a well-honed machine.

Practical expectations for them, though, would be to be competitive in their two matches (against Minas and Perugia): the gulf in class and experience ought to be too much to bridge at the moment.

Any stars to watch out for?

Well, we promised Messi-Ronaldo, and some of volleyball's best are here.

  • Wilfredo Leon: name-checked by some of the Defenders' players as the one they were all looking forward to seeing/playing against, the Cuban-Polish outside hitter is the main threat for both Perugia (his club) and Poland (the world's no.1 ranked national team)

  • Simone Gianelli: the Perugia setter is the first person ever to be crowned MVP of both the club world championship and the national team worlds MVP (Perugia and Italy won their respective Worlds in 2022) and that says everything you need to know about his quality.

  • Wallace de Souza: the Brazilian Olympic champion (and silver medalist) is one of the greatest spikers in the game's history. 36, but still going strong, he'll lead Cruzeiro's charge for a fifth title. Also watch out for teammate (national and club) and middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp

  • Dmitry Muserskiy: He's an Olympic champion, he's a world champion, he's 7'2" and one of the best opposite spikers ever. The Russian is a key cog of the Sunbirds - also look out for their core of middle blocker Taishi Onodera, setter Masaki Oya and outside hitter Kenya Fujinaka. Japan are, after all, the fourth ranked team in the world.

  • Earvin N'Gapeth: The Olympic champion outside hitter from France played youth football for PSG but turned to volleyball and became one of the best in the world.

When is this, again?

So, the matches start on December 6, Wednesday, with the final (and third place match) on the 10th, Sunday. There will be two matches a day on each of these days. The first starting at 5 PM, the second at 8.30 PM.

Where can we watch this, by the by?

If you're in Bengaluru, you can trundle on over to the Koramangala Indoor stadium -- you ain't seen a volleyball spike till you've heard it smash off a volleyball court -- but if you're not in the city, or don't want to brave Koramangala evening rush hour, FanCode will be broadcasting the event on OTT while Sony Sports Network will show it on TV.

Can we see a schedule?

Sure thing:

Dec 6

Halkbank SK vs Suntory Sunbirds

Ahmedabad Defenders vs Itambe Minas

Dec 7

Sada Cruzeiro Volei vs Suntory Sunbirds

Sir Sicoma Perugia vs Itambe Minas

Dec 8

Halkbank SK vs Sada Cruzeiro Volei

Ahmedabad Defenders vs Sir Sicoma Perugia

Dec 9

Semifinal 1

Semifinal 2

Dec 12

3rd place match