“Project Warsaw” confidently reached the final of the Challenge Cup. In the promotional series, Petr Graban’s team defeated the Finnish Akaa-Volley. The former player of AZS Olsztyn is responsible for the results of the opponents. Olli Kunnari spent a year in the capital of Warmia and Mazury. Despite this, he still remembers the best volleyball players of that period, apologizing for one thing.
Volleyball players of the “Warsaw Project” storm the European Cup. They have only one last obstacle ahead – Vero Volley Monza. The CEV Cup winners from two years ago were placed alongside the Poles as favorites to lift the trophy. At the end of February we will find out which one is better.
Stars on one side of Torvar
The rivalry between the Warsaw team and the Finnish Akaa-Volley was quite one-sided. However, it is worth recognizing that in the rematch at Torvar, the opponents were able to threaten Petr Graban’s team. They played bravely and defensively well enough to make life difficult for Bartłomiej Bolondzi and the other scorers.
There were no big stars on the opposing team. They either stood on the other side of the goal or sat in the stands. Saturday evening in the volleyball hall was spent by the former captain of the Polish national team, Michal Kubiak, and another former player of the national team, Zbigniew Bartman.
Interview with Olli Kunnari, Akaa Volleyball coach
Akaa-Volley couldn’t match the competitive potential, but there were professionals on both benches. PlusLiga fans got to know Petr Graban well last season. In turn, they may remember Olle Kunnari from history. Years ago, the former Finnish wide receiver was a national representative with a rich career abroad. He played for Cannes, Olympiacos and… AZS Olsztyn. After the match, a member of the famous 2007 team (fourth place at the European Championship) recalled the old times for Vprost, and also assessed the current situation related to domestic volleyball and his former teammate Tuomas Sammelvuo.
Michal Winiarczyk: For a moment you managed to resist the Project and think about fighting to win the match.
Ollie Kunnari: We had to take more risks in attack. Already before the first match with Project, and even after the home match, we knew what class of opponent we were dealing with. Getting points or sets was a big problem. I’m even more pleased with the second set, in which we played well. In this case, the big risk paid off, because we achieved a lot.
What was your biggest flaw back then?
I don’t know if we can look at our shortcomings in a match with such a strong opponent (laughter).
So, the rival class did its job?
Of course, you always have an opponent on the other side of the net. And if we are talking about a world-class opponent who has medals at the World Championships or the Olympic Games, then in every position you are faced with an extremely difficult task. I don’t think we made many mistakes. We just found a great team.
Are you happy with finishing in the top four in the Challenge Cup?
In general, yes. We beat teams that had a chance to beat. We handled pressure and difficult situations well. I’m happy with our game. If we had to lose, it would only be after playing against a top team.
As a player, you were part of a strong Finnish team that played an important role on the international stage in the first decade of the 21st century. Today it is difficult to see this team among the European leaders. Why weren’t these successes followed by others?
I agree that Finnish volleyball today is not at the same level as it was ten years ago. There has been a generational change. The elders who used to be the strength have retired and no one seems to have replaced them one by one. There is a gap, a gap, because I see that the next generation is already developing well. I hope that in a few years the Finnish national team will again be among the European leaders.
Until recently, Finland had a representative on the coaching bench in Poland. Tuomas Sammelvuo recently lost his job at Grupa Azoty ZAKSIE Kędzierzyn-Koźle.
I don’t know the background of Tuomas’ work at ZAKS, so I can’t say much about it. When assessing his actions, one should pay attention to the injuries suffered by his team. However, the coaching role is most often assessed through the lens of results. If you don’t have them, your job is at risk. However, I don’t know what exactly happened in this case.
In the 2008/2009 season you performed in Poland.
Yes, in Olsztyn.
How do you remember that period?
I have many interesting memories associated with him. I had the opportunity to play with many great Polish players such as Paweł Zagumny, Grzegorz Szymanski and Wojciech Grzyb under the guidance of Mariusz Sordil. I also remember this season for the fact that I was the only foreigner on the team… and, despite this, I did not learn Polish. I’m really sorry (laughter).
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I have worked in the news industry for over 10 years. I have been an author at Daily News Hack for the past 1 year. I mostly cover sports news, but I also have a keen interest in current affairs and politics. In my spare time, I enjoy playing tennis and spending time with my family.