Zagreb, Croatia. Together with their neighbours from Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, Croatia will co-host the 2021 edition of CEV EuroVolley Women, with the premier competition for women’s national teams due to take place from August 18 to September 4.
The captain of the Croatian national team, Samanta Fabris, from the distant and cold Kazan, Russia, can hardly wait to gather with her teammates for a truly exciting 2021 season. “I am looking forward to the summer and the preparations in Zadar. I just hope that everything will run as planned and we will not have to deal with any organisational problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, all members of the team and myself wish that the stands in Zadar be full of our fans, whose support would mean a lot to us. The fans are our extra player, they give us extra wind in the back, so to speak, and with their help, we will certainly deliver unforgettable games,” says Samanta, who turned 29 on February 8.
The summer of 2021 is full of competitions, starting with two tournaments of the European Golden League, from May 28 to June 6, in the Czech Republic and Belarus, followed by the eventual Final Four from June 18 to 20 in Bulgaria. Moreover, the FIVB Challenger Cup will be taking place in Zadar from June 30 to July 4, with the eventual climax of the season following from 19 to 26 August with the CEV EuroVolley 2021 pool stage in Zadar as well.
“We have many matches and competitions in 2021, but I think we are all longing for this since the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the whole world in 2020. The last time we gathered was in January 2020 in the Netherlands at the CEV qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics but we did not perform well there. Our schedule is ideal, since the European Golden League will be a preparation for the Challenger Cup where qualification for the VNL will be at stake and finally there will be the European Championship, from which we expect a lot. In the past, we showed that we are a young team with a great future ahead. We will miss consistency because we did not meet at all last year, but so did the others, so we will not complain,” Fabris explains.
Fabris is not a person looking for excuses and she finds a way to deal with everything, even with the cold temperatures of the Russian winter. “I have been here for two years, and there will be another one according to the contract, so I got used to it, even though it was not easy at first. These days it is around -28°C and the lowest I have experienced this far is, if I am not mistaken, -35. It may sound and look difficult how life can continue with these temperatures. I drive an SUV, my parking lot is in the building, so it is not terrible, and the cars here have a great application. About 15 minutes before I plan to go anywhere, I turn on the heating in the car and the engine via the application, which then warms up while I sit inside,” Samanta recounts.
She has no problems with the Russian language either and she has already given interviews in Russian. “That is right. I gave some interviews in Russian, although I am not completely satisfied yet. None complains about my Russian. How could they complain when we have taken four titles since my arrival in Kazan?” she continues. “Two Super Cups, plus one national cup and a national championship. We are currently second in the national league, but we still have to play Dinamo MOSCOW for first place. We did not really perform in the CEV Champions League though. We have a mix of young and more experienced players and I believe this can help us win the Russian national league again.”
Her view of the coronavirus pandemic is also interesting. “After I decided to leave Italy, I think that Russia was a complete success in many ways, including the treatment of the pandemic. Namely, everything is normal in Russia, the halls are full of fans, except for water polo, everything works as before, restaurants are open, almost none wears masks and vaccination is not something people speak about so much.”
Finally, let us briefly speak of the humanitarian action that Samanta started at the end of last year, while she was on New Year’s holidays in Croatia. “When I saw the scale of the earthquake in Banovina, I immediately wondered how I could help. I connected with our national team member Ivan Rai?, who plays in Greece, and some of our other players, such as Katarina Pavi?i? and Fran Peterlin, and we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help those affected by the earthquake. At first, we thought to act immediately, but we saw that much help was already coming in terms of food and clothes, so we decided to invest in prefabricated houses, which seemed more important to us. The action is still in progress, until we collect enough and deliver it to someone who will need it the most,” Fabris concludes.