Fans across the country are in for a treat as the Kingdom of Bahrain hosts, from Saturday (July 21), the 19th Asian Men's U20 Volleyball Championship.
This prestigious biennial competition has been organised by the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) in cooperation with the Bahrain Volleyball Association (BVA), and many of the sport's rising stars from all over Asia will be showcasing their talents.
Matches will be taking place at Isa Sports City in Riffa from opening day until July 28.
This year's event marks the second time that the Asian men's U19 championship is being held on the island. It previously also took place in Bahrain in 2014, when Iran went on to claim the gold medals after beating China in the final.
Heading into this year's event, the Chinese are the defending champions after they beat Iran in the title match of the 2016 tournament, held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Bahrain were classified 15th then.
Both China and Iran will once again be vying for the crown this time around. They are among 24 nations that will be competing in the championship, which will be played in an all-new format for the first time, following a change made by the AVC.
The new AVC competition format will see teams being drawn into three or four pools up to the total amount of the participating teams. Each team as well as the host side will be assigned into a pool according to their previous ranking.
As the three or four best-ranked teams from the previous tournament will be drawn in the same Pool A, the next best three (or four teams) will contest Pool B. Pool C will comprise teams finishing next best three or four teams, with Pool D featuring teams which did not participate in the previous tournament.
If there are 16 teams or more, the Championship will be split to Division 1 and Division 2, to be held at the same time in the same Championship. Each Division will comprise teams to be drawn according to their rankings in the previous edition. However, at the end of the Championship, only two teams with the worst performances in Division 1 will be relegated to Division 2 in the next edition of the Championship, while top two teams in Division 2 will be promoted to compete in Division 1 instead.
In this year's championship, Division 1 includes China, Iran and South Korea in Pool A1; Japan, Thailand and Turkmenistan in Pool B1; Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and Australia in Pool C1; and Qatar, Iraq and hosts Bahrain in Pool D1.
In Division 2, Chinese Taipei, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia make up Pool A2; Hong Kong, Jordan and the UAE are in Pool B2; India, New Zealand and Uzbekistan are in Pool C2; and Macau, Maldives and Malaysia are in Pool D2.
The knockout rounds follow the opening round-robin stage of the competition.
Aside from being the Asian championship, this year's tournament acts a qualifier for the FIVB Men's U21 World Championship, which is scheduled to take place next year.
Preparations for the event are complete, and Bahrain's junior national volleyball team are in the final days of their training leading up to the event. Supreme Council for Youth and Sports Assistant General Secretary and Bahrain Olympic Committee (BOC) General Secretary Abdulrahman Askar visited the team during one of their evening practices at the BVA courts in Riffa earlier this week.
Askar was accompanied on his visit by BVA General Secretary Feras Halwachi. Askar relayed the greetings of Supreme Council for Youth and Sports Chairman and BOC President Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and wished them all the best in the tournament.
Earlier, the Bahrain team, who are coached by Bahraini tactician Yusuf Khalifa, were also visited during training by the tournament's Higher Organising Committee Head and BVA President Shaikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa.
Many of the participating teams are scheduled to arrive from Wednesday onwards from all across the continent.
All are welcome to attend the matches at Isa Sports City, where two halls will be utilised daily. Entrance for spectators is free of charge.
Source: Bahrain News Agency