Players and Coaches of the Year headline annual #VolleyGala

Europe’s Volleyball family paid tribute to the very best players and coaches of the year 2019 at the glittering gala held this past Friday in Sofia, Bulgaria. Serbia’s superstars Tijana Bošković and Uroš Kovačević were the recipients of the awards for the Female and Male Volleyball Player of the Year, respectively, after they claimed EuroVolley top honours with their national teams. Slobodan Kovač and Massimo Barbolini, on the other hand, were the Coaches of the Year honoured in the Bulgarian capital.

“Finally, after missing the previous editions of the European Gala, I have the pleasure of sharing such a wonderful moment with the whole Volleyball family,” a visibly emotional Bošković said, as she received the trophy for the Female Player of the Year for the third straight time. “I am obviously happy and proud and would like to thank my family, my teams, National Federation and coaches for all of their support,” added the two-time European champion, 2018 World champion and 2016 Olympic silver medallist, who, at the age of 22, has a resume many much more experienced players can only dream about. “Despite achieving so much success these last few years, I still want to continue to work hard to give my all to this beautiful sport.”

Just like Bošković, Uroš Kovačević was not only a EuroVolley gold medal winner this year, but the Most Valuable Player of the continental prime competition as well. He achieved further success with his Italian club TRENTINO Itas, securing two more titles from the CEV Cup and FIVB Club World Championship. “I would like to thank my coaches because they make me enjoy what I love the most – playing Volleyball,” said the outside hitter, who hails from a Volleyball family, since elder brother Nikola was a long-time member of the Serbian national team as well.

What a trio! The Coach and Male Player of the Year, Slobodan Kovač (left) and Uros Kovačević (right) portrayed together with Bulgarian Volleyball legend Dimitar Zlatanov

It was a truly successful year for Serbia, whose national teams claimed both EuroVolley crowns; this meant they repeated a feat that they had achieved in 2011 already. The men’s triumph in Paris was possibly more of a surprise than the women’s victory in Ankara, especially after a change at the helm of the team following a heavy loss to Italy in an Olympic qualifying event back in August. This is when Slobodan Kovač stepped in to replace Nikola Grbić and lead Serbia to their third EuroVolley title in history. 

“I am obviously proud of our achievement but most of the credit should go to my players,” Kovač said, “since they executed the game plans I prepared together with my staff in a perfect and impeccable way. There was a perfect understanding between us and we always did the right thing at the right moment,” added the 2000 Olympic champion with the former Yugoslavia. Under his guidance, Serbia did not drop a single game at EuroVolley and among their opponents, only Ukraine and France were able to take the match to a fifth set in the quarterfinals and semis, respectively. It was a truly remarkable year for Kovač, who celebrated further success with Belogorie BELGOROD of Russia in the 2019 edition of the CEV Challenge Cup.

The Players and Men’s Team Coach of the Year on stage in Sofia together with all other awardees from the European Volleyball Gala 2019

Massimo Barbolini was not able to attend the gala in Sofia but sent a video message to share his pride for receiving the award designed for the Women’s Team Coach of the Year. This was a well-deserved recognition, especially after he helped Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA claim their maiden CEV Champions League title at the historic Super Finals in Berlin. This accounted for Barbolini’s fourth triumph in the competition – with as many teams.

Pictured above: CEV President Aleksandar Boričić together with the Male and Female Players of the Year, Uros Kovačević and Tijana Bošković

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