"Going to the national team cost me money; When you have a status, it does not come out profitable, "laments Víctor Viciana, the veteran setter of the leader of the Superliga de volleyball, the Unicaja Almería. "To me the showcase of the national team does not compensate me because I have no expectations or desire to go abroad," confesses Alejandro Fernández, one of the best liberos in the competition, according to official statistics. "If I go with Spain, I must sacrifice the studies. But the years go by and you realize that this does not take you anywhere, neither financially nor personally, "reflects Ignacio Sánchez, from the Duero Soria River. These are the testimonies of three players who have recently renounced the men's volleyball team, a problem that helps explain the collapse of this sport and that nobody denies, not even its top rectors.
"We understand that circumstances can occur to avoid going," accepts the technical director of the Federation, Luis Muchaga. The leader recognizes that they are not "satisfied" with what they pay and that "lack of motivation" is one of the reasons for dropouts, along with "studies, family or the need to rest", due to a calendar that does not offer truce with summer concentrations of up to four months.
Lots of licenses, volleyball bleeds into the elite. Without television, outside the big national media and with a little more than 500 spectators on average in the pavilions, the two Superliga survive in the backroom of Spanish sport. The men's tournament is a metaphor for the state of things. The winner of the triplet last season was the Teruel, the great symbol of that empty and forgotten Spain with Soria, who also enjoys a club with tradition and titles. And in that cusp of only 12 groups they find hollow, in addition, a locality of less than 3,000 inhabitants (San Sadurniño) and another one of 8,300 (Cabezón de la Sal). All, models of work well done and, at the same time, examples of how the championship has been dwarfed.
"The Superliga is a minor competition", says one of its referents, Andrés Villena, whose continuity in Teruel was announced last summer through an original campaign and which, however, is already preparing the goodbye. "My goal is to leave. I'm comfortable and I can not say anything bad about the club, but I have a level for more. " In France, the international Alejandro Vigil plays, who abounds in the same idea after five seasons abroad: "I came because there is a stronger tournament with more economic power. For now I do not plan to return. " The diagnosis is even worse in the women's championship, exuberant before the crisis and now rickety, with less public and worse economic conditions. At the head of grassroots practitioners – "we do not want it to become a girl's sport", warns the president of the Federation, Agustín Martín-, that abundance is diluted later by the absence of a professional horizon.
Although nothing represents the crisis better than the renunciation of the selection. In the case of men, a phrase repeats itself constantly: "It does not compensate". Jorge Almansa, 27-year-old Unicaja Almería receiver, made the decision in the fall of 2017 and sent a letter to the Spanish volleyball team. "We still have the luck of being professionals during the season, but we only charge from our club the eight months that the Super League lasts and with that we do not get to spend the rest of the year. So I suggested if I could train children while I was concentrated to earn extra money. I do not intend to receive 2,000 euros a month with the selection, I am satisfied with 600-700 to pay for the car and the house, "he argues. "They replied that this was not the time to talk about these matters. In the spring they asked me again if I wanted to go to Spain and I had to remind them that I had resigned, "complains Almansa, one of the most prominent in his position, according to the statistical table.
"We understand that circumstances can occur to not go with the selection," admits the technical director of the Federation
"That they call you now is a putada in quotes because, if you reject, it reverberates. We are quite alone on this issue, they do not listen to us ", denounces his partner Viciana, 35, another one of the leaders of this sport, who confesses that he has never told his motives to the leaders with this clarity. The Federation admits ten cases between 2012 and 2018 of "significant players who did not give their availability to integrate the selection", a phrase that leaves the door open to have also occurred dropouts of players less relevant to the technicians. In fact, Ignacio Sánchez, who appears in this report, and at least three other names that EL PAÍS has known and who have declined to make statements, are not included in that list. The organism negates, yes, any reprisal. In 2010, she sanctioned the player Sara González with three months without a license and admits that "it was a mistake". This phenomenon of resignations also affects the combined women, although for different reasons in many cases.
Those summoned are divided into three categories, according to the coach's criteria. "Group A, made up of the most expert and habitual holders, is paid 150 euros per week. Al B, where the majority comes, 120 euros. And to the C, the nucleus of the youngest, 100 ", explains Luis Muchaga. These amounts, however, have recently improved because during the crisis they collapsed to 150 euros per month, small change compared to up to 4,000 euros of the golden age of Rafa Pascual.
"The Superliga is a minor competition", says Andrés Villena, one of its stars, who is already preparing the goodbye
The coach, Fernando Muñoz, in office since 2011, replies generically that money is just an excuse. "They know that their chances of entering the final list are low and therefore prefer to say before they do not go. They do demagogy, "he says energetically. "If they have a contract of only eight months in their clubs, the problem is not the national team," adds the technician. Yes, he is more sympathetic to absences for family, personal or academic reasons. "Volleyball does not stop all year. The concentrations last three and four months, the league period is linked with the selections and we can hardly give 10 or 15 days of rest ". Ignacio Sánchez, 27, left due to monetary and educational issues. "I only have one subject left to finish Physiotherapy. I spoke with the delegate and told him that I had a career and that I did not think it was worth playing for Spain, "said the Rio Duero Soria setter, who only played in friendly matches with the national team. Fear of injury does not help either and it becomes another obstacle. "Our president already warned us that if something happened to us, the contract could be canceled," reveals Jorge Almansa, of Unicaja Almería.
Without entering into concrete cases, Agustín Martín, president of the Federation for 18 years, does not hide the situation and, even, is tolerant. "There have always been resignations. That the concentrations are so long without paying so much money influences. We can not offer more or give more facilities, "says the head of the volleyball, which warns that the grants are at the level of 1986 and that the budget has fallen by half (3-4 million) over the past decade .
"I do not intend to receive 2,000 euros a month with Spain, I am satisfied with 600-700, we only charge eight months for the club," says Jorge Almansa, who resigned from the national team.
Rafa Pascual, the second Spanish athlete with more internationalities behind Manel Estiarte, is also not a money problem, although its culprits are others. "These kids would go to a free Games? Yes. So it's not an economic issue. They are lost, they lack motivation, objectives, ideas. They do not value where they are, they do not care, and the Federation also ", analyzes the best national player in history, who lost the last presidential election to Martin. "I could also resign, in my team they asked me why I was going. It was as if one of Madrid left to play with Kenya. But I left my life for the selection. When it started, there were the Paco Sánchez Jover and company, who had nothing and struggled. Now they have nothing and they abandon, "he continues. "Before, your legs were shaking when they called you," recalls Sánchez Jover, Spanish captain at the Barcelona Games and current president-coach of the neighborhood. "You have to give prestige to the selection. There is potential, but some do not and others are substitutes in their teams ". The national coach admits that the list includes players who are not holders in the Superliga. "Yeah sure. I value the technical capacity, the physics and the commitment ", underlines Fernando Muñoz. The male team is ranked sixteenth in the ranking European and twenty-second in the world. The feminine, the twentieth and the 52nd, respectively. The two dispute this January two final matches each to qualify for the Europeans.
In fact, volleyball, except for exceptional and even unexpected successes, has always been vulnerable and volatile. Only two women's teams have won a continental title and many of the most successful squads no longer exist, including the Madrid and Atlético, who dominated in the seventies and whose disappearance was a lost opportunity to capture the attention of the millionaire soccer hobby. But still, ahead of this sport today ignored also passed a train, and not so long ago. On September 16, 2007, the same night that the basketball team lost the Eurobasket final in Madrid against Russia, the team led by Rafa Pascual the European Championship in Moscow surprised the hosts. "It was not a member of the Government or of the Superior Council of Sports, not even the ambassador of Spain," says Agustín Martín. "Then everyone called us, also the King. We feel very disappointed. " But nevertheless, the greatest triumph of all time went like wine, leaving no trace. Nobody was able to build something solid and shortly after the crisis swept away what there was, especially a female competition raised without big structures, with real estate hits. Today, the club that won all the titles last season in the Men's Superliga, the Teruel, works without any worker on the payroll beyond players and coaches.
The women's volleyball team is not free of resignations either. Like in the masculine equipment, the technical director of the Federation, Luis Muchaga, recognizes four cases of "players of interest" that have rejected the call in the last years, although THE COUNTRY has confirmed two names more. Four have agreed to speak, but on condition of anonymity because they fear reprisals. The reasons for three of them, however, are more delicate than those exposed by men. "The method was constant crushing and mockery, they took you to the physical and mental limit. It was all the girls' fault. There was a psychological torture. This was done by coaches and veterans, who participated in this dictatorship. The majors accused us of being lazy and of not taking anything, "says one player. "Actually, I never said I was leaving, I made up an excuse," he admits.
Another one expresses itself in a similar tone. "I felt afraid to be myself. They pointed us out as guilty for not qualifying for the European and there were also reproaches from classmates. The responsibility always had the people of the bench, was all negative, "he says. And the third, although with a few words less thick, abounds in the bottom of the message: "The way of working did not work, I thought that in the end I would stop liking volleyball. It was the whole summer of concentration with a level of stress that did not compensate me. I decided to get serious with my future because I saw that this sport was not going to eat, "he says. After a concentration that meant losing a year of studies, he told the coach his goodbye.
The coach, Pascual Saurin, in the position five years ago, recognizes that the "requirement is high" to enter the European, but denies that there has been "lack of respect." "I do not take anything to the personal terrain. The players have to perform with pressure at the high level, leave their comfort zone, and some are not used to it. Older girls wear it better because they know what it takes to be there, "he argues. The coach assumes that "he had a strong and passionate character on the court, which he has moderated"; and warns that if these accusations were true, he could not take several years as technician of the permanent concentration of Soria, where they train and study minors.
The fourth who wanted to give his testimony discharges responsibility to Saurin in his decision and points to causes similar to those of men. "The selection stopped being my priority. The pace of training is very high and you end up taking bill. What gives me the money is the contract with my club. Our generation also values mental rest and being with the family, "he says.