RuPay PVL a Revolution: Naveen Raja Jacob
In 2006, a young boy led the Vijayawada colts to a memorable National Junior Championship win. Looking at the way the boy marshaled his team, it was clear that he had arrived with a bagful of dreams.<br><br>SundanKottai is a sleepy village nestled close to the south-eastern banks of the Coromandel Coast in Tamil Nadu. If you talk to the men there, they will delightfully turn back the clock and tell you about a time in their early twenties when a little boy, hardly 10-12 years of age, insisted on and subsequently regularly played volleyball with them, the ‘big boys’. And boy, did he play like a champion in the making.<br><br>The ‘little boy’ was none other than Manidurai Naveen Raja Jacob, the man who rose to become the man with the golden arm for Chennai Spartans and helped them lift the title in season 1 of RuPay Pro Volleyball League. <br><br>Here he opens up about the beginnings, the idols and of course, Chennai Spartans.<br><br>The Beginnings:<br><br>It all started with playing with the big boys in our village. My grandfather also seemed very interested in me (I did not know why back then) and he sent me to a lot of summer volleyball camps. It was only in class 8th that I was enrolled in the state-owned Tirunelveli Sports School that I seriously started practicing volleyball.<br><br>Role of elder brother in career:<br><br>Yes, my elder brother did play a huge role in shaping me into the player and person I am today. My grandfather too, as I mentioned, was very interested in me. I would also credit my coach at the sports school, Mr. Sendur Pandiyan, he molded me in those four years till class 12th. He had also remained the coach of the Indian team earlier, so he knew what he was doing. I even played the sub-junior National championship during the time. In simple words, he changed my life.<br><br>About his time with Chennai Spartans:<br><br>The thing I like about Chennai Spartans is that there is no junior-senior hierarchy and this helps in better dissemination of guidance from Rudy (Verhoeff) and Ruslans (Sorokins). There is a lot of unity in that sense.<br><br>About the impact of RuPay Pro Volleyball League:<br><br>The Rupay Pro Volleyball League has made me more disciplined. The next season starts in October, and I have already started preparing for it. Not just me, a lot of players. But what is more important is that life has also changed for aspiring players in rural areas. The VFI is doing a lot, people across the world are starting to hear about Indian volleyball because of the PVL, and youngsters in rural areas come to me and ask me about the game, about the league etc. I have also seen players in villages practicing alone, trying to take admission in sports schools. The state associations are also doing their best. It is almost a revolution.<br><br>On India’s chances on the global stage post RuPay Pro Volleyball League:<br><br>Look, it has only been one year of the RuPay Pro Volleyball league. This is the first time we are watching and learning from higher-ranked players and countries. So, we need to wait and see how the next 2-3 years pan out. Everything takes time. Maybe in the next 3-4 years, we will see India winning an Asian medal. There is also a need for a fixed setup, for a core team, which also leads to more understanding. The changes are here, we have to make the most of it.<br><br>On what can strengthen the team in the future:<br><br>I think we need to improve on two areas- service and exposure. Regarding exposure, we need a little more of it. We need to play more against countries like Iran, Japan and South Korea in Asia. I am very confident our players have all the ingredients, and a little more experience and practice will enable us to do better at Asian championships. We even defeated 6th-ranked Iran in 2011, so there is no question of ability. But recently, the VFI has been doing a lot, let’s see how it goes.<br><br>On idols growing up:<br><br>I admired Giba (Gilberto Amarui de Godoy Filho) of Brazil a lot. I also liked many seniors of mine, always tried to learn from them. I never got to watch Indian greats like Jimmy George or Abdul Basith because they played in a much earlier time and there wasn’t much footage or TV.
RuPay Pro Volleyball League
An initiative of Baseline Ventures India Pvt. Ltd and Volleyball Federation of India, RuPay Pro Volleyball League aims to transform the sporting landscape of the country by elevating the world’s fifth most popular sport to the league of the most followed sports in the coming times. The first season of the league will see 6 teams playing a total of 18 matches in Chennai and Kochi, and will be broadcasted on Sony Six, Sony Ten 3 and online platform Sony Liv.
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