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2017-02-06 13:57:00 CEST

More Than Sports: Israeli aims at #FTLMajor

FIVB World Tour Players Faiga/Hilman are a part of a big project in their home country

Sean Faiga and Ariel Hilman are no strangers to the FIVB World Tour and the Swatch Beach Volleyball Majors Series.

They have entered a total of three times, but the two Israeli beach volleyball players have unfortunately never made it past the qualification rounds. This Tuesday, they want to change that and take their game to the next level, as they attempt to qualify to compete in the Fort Lauderdale Major.

“We want to improve and bring more quality,” said the 31-year-old Ariel. With their new coach, they have somebody on their side who knows what it means to climb to the top - Brazil’s Paulao (Paulo Moreira). Paulao won the World Championships in Los Angeles in 1997 as a player and coached the Italian players to extraordinary success over the last few years. “We can practice at a high level with him because he knows where he can take us,” explained Ariel. Paulao was looking for something new, a new source of motivation; “I like new projects.”

Paulao coaching Ariel and Sean in Florida. Credit: André BritoPaulao coaching Ariel and Sean in Florida. Credit: André Brito

A year ago the Israel Volleyball Association founded a beach volleyball academy which is connected to a boarding school. “The Windgate institute is a national sport center that has become a group practice area for a men's senior team, a few younger players, eight boys and girls all in all,” Ariel explains. There are two assistant coaches working for the academy aside from Paulao. That is huge progress, because when Sean, 28, and Ariel started playing professional beach volleyball four years ago, “there was basically nothing” explained Ariel. Israel had a small series of national tournaments, but no one took it seriously.

Sean and Ariel are working hard to become Israel’s first ever Olympic qualifying beach volleyball team. Last year, they missed out the competition in Rio de Janeiro. “Tokyo 2020 is our main goal now,” said Ariel. Faiga/Hilman have the Association as well as the Olympic Committee behind them. “They really want beach volleyball to be better represented, so we are pretty much covered explained Ariel tell. Ariel and Sean don't have to worry about paying for coaches, flights and food. “We are quite aware that we have a better situation than a lot of other players in the world,” commented Ariel.

Legend Ricardo practicing with Ariel and Sean in Florida, Credit: André BritoLegend Ricardo practicing with Ariel and Sean in Florida, Credit: André Brito

Israel is a small country, so it does not have as many beach volleyball players when compared to the USA, Brazil, Italy or Germany. It is not easy to find young players within the 8.4 million inhabitants. “The project is growing, but we still need more players,” Ariel says. Hopefully after a successful World Tour, the Israeli duo will raise attention and ultimately lift Israel’s awareness of the sport. “We want to climb up the World Ranking and reach the top 25,” Ariel says, but after a side glance to his coach, he adds with a smile: “It's not about the results, it’s about playing quality beach volleyball.”

That's what Paulao is trying to teach his team at the moment.

Success will come afterwards, step by step.

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