Albania is one of 10 nations that made their debut this year in the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup after missing the inaugural edition leading up to the 2012 London Olympics. Though their pairs were not promoted to the third stage of the competition, which is coming up next year, still there are many positives that the local volleyball family can take from this first-time experience.
“We have been organising our national Beach Volleyball Championship for many years already and last year our young boys and girls participated in the CEV Youth Beach Volleyball Continental Cup,” recalls Leonard Tase, Secretary General of the Albanian Volleyball Federation. “We realised that it was time to go for something more and we achieved this goal with our participation in the 2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup. Last week, we were among the countries that joined the second round tournament organised in Belgrade and apart from getting international experience, it was also good to be a part of the qualification process for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.”
Two pairs per gender competed last Sunday and Monday at Ada Ciganlija Lake in Serbia’s capital city and even though they lost all of their matches and had to be content with fourth place, it was a great experience. Esmeralda Tuci and Erblira Bici carried Albania’s hopes in the women’s competition. This is something they are quite used to since they are also members of the volleyball national team, but this was the first time they got to perform on such a prestigious stage in beach volleyball. “It was something very different and very positive for all of us,” said Tuci who, like Bici, is a member of Albania’s national champions UMB Volley. “We had a great time at this event in Belgrade even though it lasted only for a couple of days. We tried to do our best and in the end I think that we played some good matches. We received loud applause from the fans before the start and I think that this made us feel better and get rid of the tension.”
“We felt very good during this competition and made many new friends,” Bici adds. “I hope that we will have a similar opportunity in the future as well. We went to Serbia just to play beach volleyball and I think we did our best also to please the spectators who had come to see us.”
Although Albania’s teams lost all of their matches and did not win a set in Belgrade, this does not matter, at least at this stage. “The key thing is the experience that they all got from their participation in the Continental Cup and we hope that this is something that they will be able to use to their advantage in the future,” Leonard Tase concludes.