For the first time in its history, OK Merkur MARIBOR is playing in the elite CEV Champions League, where it competes with the best European clubs. Maribor truly is a Volleyball city, because in addition to the men’s team OK Merkur, the women’s Volleyball club Nova KBM Branik has also achieved much success. Maribor’s women Volleyball players have already played in the elite Champions League, but the second-largest city in Slovenia is not only famous for Volleyball, but also for football and skiing. The city hosts the annual Golden Fox World Cup ski race, and it is home to the oldest grapevine in the world as well.
OK Merkur MARIBOR qualified for the 2022 edition of the CEV Champions League by winning the national championship title, which returned to the city by the Drava River for the first time since 1993. The draw was not very favourable though, with the Slovenian team consigned to a ‘group of death’, as all the other three clubs – Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA, Grupa Azoty KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE and Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK – featuring in the pool have already won this elite competition.
Sebastijan Škorc, a long-time Slovenian national team player who played three times in the elite Champions League during his career, is at the helm of the Maribor team and this year he has entered the Volleyball elite for the first time as a coach. During his rich career, he played for some of Europe’s top clubs and was even the best libero in Europe.
The club with probably the smallest budget among all the participants in the Champions League won the national title with a team made up of mostly home-grown players, with 20-year-old Rok Možic probably the most notable of them all. A ‘son’ of OK Merkur MARIBOR and a Slovenian national team player, Rok was a member of the club from his first Volleyball steps until last year’s national championship title, after which he left Slovenia and moved to Italy, where he currently plays in Verona. Rok was the youngest member of the team, but he was one of the key players and one of the main contributors to bringing the national title back to Maribor after almost 30 years. He proved that Maribor is a great place to develop a young athlete and a steppingstone for a move abroad. He is currently impressing with his performances in the strongest Volleyball league in the world.
The oldest member of last year’s winning team was Alen Šket, an experienced Slovenian national team player. A child of the Maribor Volleyball club as well, he continued his rich career abroad, but last year he returned home and with his experience contributed greatly to winning the national title.
A member of the Maribor team is Libyan opposite Ahmed Abulubaba Ikhbayri, who arrived in Maribor in the summer of 2020 and proved himself in his first season, in which he and Rok Možic formed one of the best attacking pairs in the Slovenian league. A hand injury stopped him at the end of the 2020-2021 season, but he is now very motivated to prove himself even further in his second year in Maribor.